Praying While Sick

What have you learned about praying while you are yourself ill?  Temporarily, or in a chronic way?  How has your prayer transfigured itself in response to new awarenesses about your body–of its capacity for not working right, or for pain or discomfort?  What have you learned about prayer during the times of uncertainty about knowing the cause of those not-good changes?

I am about to go out of town for a week, and wanted to share this time more questions than reflections of my own this time.

One thing I’ve discovered about praying while suffering in some way in the body:  I feel grounded by the knowledge of a woman my age, from my hometown, who struggles with a spinal tumor and with perpetual feeling of pins and needles in her legs, and the knowledge that she chose to live with this–and its potential regrowth–instead of seeking to have the entire tumor removed and being unable to walk.  I feel as if she’s gone the way a little ahead of me, this woman I’ve known since I was four (not a friend, just part of my texture of my hometown years).

I’ve noticed too that a certain sort of closeness to God can open up more readily when you’re in the raw of pain, discomfort, or uncertainty.

Sometimes, at least.

I welcome hearing what others have learned about–or in–praying while ill.

6 thoughts on “Praying While Sick

  1. For another perspective, Sister Sheila McGrath reflected on the spirituality of illness in this 1-minute video last summer:


  2. What a blessing! The Lord has really sat me down again, you would think that at my age that I would have learned this lesson once and for all, but….
    The mass is gone! The power of prayer !!!!!


  3. I liked your word “closeness” in describing our relationship to God while battling pain or illness. I’ve never been what I would call seriously ill, but did injure my ankle a few years ago. As I hobbled around, I became aware of a dependence on God and on the kindness of other people. I had to depend on their patience because I was so slow. It made me at least a little more sensitive to people with infirmities for which I can be patient. This dependence on God DID result in closeness as I found him to be utterly dependable.


  4. I can offer my experience of praying when I was going through cancer treatment (8 mos. of chemo and 5 wks of radiation) as, perhaps, the most powerful prayer of my life. And yet, formal prayer and meditation was very difficult during those months. As well, community prayer was rich – so rich that usually I was teary through it!!! Times of illness put us in touch with the very harsh reality that we are not in control of anything. I found, in my life, I believed in the let God, let God stance – that I have no control over life. However, those words came to have meaning in my illness. There I experienced the lack of control over my daily physical strength and endurance. One of the things I learned, besides the lack of control, was how to let go and turn even the smallest part of my day over to God. That experience has shifted my prayer to a new level..deeper and most trusting. I totally agree with Amy that a new level of closeness can develop during times of physical illness. I also agree with Cynthia that a new awareness of dependence on God may surface. At least it did in my experience. I can honestly say i am grateful for my illness – as it was a gift to know myself differently, know God more deeply and have a shift in my life that has powerfully impacted me.


  5. Cynthia: your words reminded me of a friend from Germany who broke her foot there this past summer, and instead of helping her own Alzheimer’s-struggling mother with her household, found herself helpful only with tasks like shredding lettuce (I liked her cheerfulness in relating this). But here is a big fat Q for you! In what way did you discover God to be utterly dependable? Did you mean in showing your spirit how to be with the truth of the pain and immobility (as well as the healing)? Or–something else?


  6. Sr. Bobbi: I was hoping you in particular would reply, for I recall you’d struggled with cancer, and I trusted you had new perceptions amid it. The idea of turning “even the smallest part of the day” over to God makes sense to me. One thing I can do much better now than I could in my 20’s (being so mature of course now that I’m in my 40s! 🙂 is to watch my immediate observations to something hard for me to hear or feel, and instead of feeling driven to find someone to listen to me express that hard feeling (with the hopes the other can help drive it away), I open to it, watch it, and turn it towards prayer in some way (sometimes just be reminding myself that an inner response is one I should counter rather than enflame–e.g., when I’m feeling jealous, inadequate, etc.). But physical illness or pain is hard in a more “visceral” way, reminding me of how often I’ve taken health for granted. –I wonder how you relate the sense of a lack of control (in your own body) to an awareness of all the global crises that can overwhelm us–but to which we are somehow called to respond? Are there parallels here that you’ve found in prayer?


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