Deborah Grassman offers an array of different prayers that can be used for various events and settings.
by Deborah Grassman
I’m often asked to provide prayer for public functions. When I pray, I include the principles of abiding and reckoning with Soul Injuries as outlined in The Hero Within because at the core of authentic healing is prayer. Anytime I am abiding with my feelings, reckoning with life situations, I am living a prayer; I am bringing conscious intention to my thoughts, words, and actions. I am also embracing the Opus Peace Prayer: Cultivate in me the willingness to re-own, re-home, and revitalize scattered pieces of myself so that I might be restored to wholeness. Grow in me the honesty, courage, and humility to release my fears of who I am and who I am not. Fuel me with your grace. Amen
These are some of the public prayers that I have used. The first is a prayer I provide at workshops for clinicians. The subsequent prayers were provided respectively at a Women’s Day Conference, a Nurse Week Ceremony, a Martin Luther King Day celebration, a Community Prayer Breakfast, and my Commissioning Ceremony.
A Prayer for Clinicians
“I ask that we close our eyes and go into that deeper part of ourselves… that place that connects with peace… that place that connects with Love… that place beyond our material selves… to that place that generates vitality…into our souls…our souls might be carrying pain…sometimes we might get separated from our soul and lose our sense of self. For these few moments, let yourself abide in this place within your deep self.
Take a minute now to think about all the patients and families you’ve cared for in your career… Think about all the patients and families you are caring for now… Take a minute to acknowledge the difficulty of caring for some patients. Silently acknowledge the struggle it sometimes requires to bring kindness to some people who may not be so kindly themselves. Acknowledge how lonely it sometimes feels; how tiring it can be.
Now take a deep breath and let your breath take you to that deeper place within you… that place where there is energy to love the unlovable… energy to touch the untouchable… to heal the unhealable. Acknowledge your need for this energy and your willingness to receive the vitalizing energy from within your soul.
Now, think about all the patients and families that you have yet to care for at some point on their future journey… Thank them in advance for the privilege of serving them. In your heart, ask them to let you abide with them… to abide their heartaches and hope… to abide their suffering. Acknowledge the ways in which you might let them down… Be willing to own that (not in a blaming way, but simply letting it be instructive)… Acknowledge the ways in which you, too, are a wounded healer… In your heart, seek to be re-formed by the wisdom of your patients and their families as they redeem their suffering.
As you prepare to leave this interior space, may you go forth with a blessing. You can respond “Yes” after each blessing if you’d like:
May each of you leave here today with a deeper sense of who you really are.
May you gain a deeper sense of your connection with each other, your patients, and with your own soul.
May you have a deeper sense of purpose and greater understanding of your mission in life and in the agency where you provide care.
May you have a profound sense of how important you are to your patients, their families, to each other, to me, to your own families, and to the Timeless Source of Energy who created all of us together.
Mainly, I thank each of you here for having a heart that is willing to suffer the brokenness of this world. Your footprints touch my soul, and I am healed.”
Prayer for a Women’s Day Conference
We are grateful we can join together this day – as women, as men, as people who work together – as people who pray together as we are now. Dear God, we are truly grateful that this country and this institution know the value of acknowledging and honoring the spiritual nature of each one of us, and that we can have this opportunity to gather as we are this moment.
Dear God, as women, we sometimes struggle with our roles in society. Sometimes we feel pulled in many different directions at the same time. Sometimes we strive to adopt a male-like image that may not exactly fit us. Sometimes we try to conform to a male-dominated culture that has not yet completely come to understand the gifts we, as women, offer. Sometimes God, we, ourselves, use sexuality in our dress or subtle ways we act to gain power in the world; we get fooled into believing the gifts valued by society are the molds we should try to become rather than the mold You would have us become.
God, help each of us guard against trying to be like men – just for the sake of being like men. Help us be able to discern between “equality” and “mimicking” lest we betray the very gifts of womanhood you have given us – the very gifts you need in this world – the very gifts you created to fulfill our soulful natures. God, help us accept those gifts and give us the courage to resist being anything other than the unique woman you have created each of us to be. Help us know and understand our inner beauty – to know and understand our soulfulness – to know and understand You. Amen.”
A Prayer for Nurse Week Ceremonies
“Dear Heavenly Father,
We come before you this day as your sons and daughters, united in the spirit of God. We come before you recognizing the suffering from the Soul Injuries in our world. We ask you this day to open us to our deeper selves so that we might learn the lessons you would have for us in our earthly strife.
We come before you this day recognizing the many gifts that you have provided this Medical Center that allows us to do your healing work. Sometimes, though, we struggle with our humanness. Sometimes, God, we feel so alone as we tend your ill and lame. Sometimes, God, we feel burdened when we are needed to carry the load for someone else or face the tragedies we see each day.
Dear God, it is so hard to see your light in some of our patients. We get frustrated. Sometimes we feel unappreciated or even mistreated by them. Sometimes we feel at odds with our coworkers, and we don’t get along with each other. Sometimes, God, it is just so darn hard to love one another. Forgive us when we fail to do that. At these times when we cannot see you clearly, guide us into love. For it is your love that heals the unhealable. It is your love that touches the untouchable. It is your love that comforts the uncomforted.
We are often called to be your angels of mercy. Open our hearts to answer that call. Fill us with your presence so that we may know you are with us on the journey. We come before you this day as a health-care community. We ask your forgiveness when we forget that we are not the true healer. We ask your forgiveness when we forget our paychecks are not our true reward.
We ask that you break us open, God. Break our hearts of stone that keep us from feeling you in one another. Break our senses that keep us from seeing and hearing you in each other. Break our spirits open when they fail to yield to your will in our lives.
Dear God, we ask you this day to re-form us into the healing ministers you call each of us to be. We ask you to re-form us into a community of healers. Re-form the ministry this Medical Center is called to offer. Broken as we are God, bring us together as we are this day. Wounded healers that we are, help us bring you to all those in our midst. Amen.”
A Prayer for Martin Luther King Day Celebration
“Dear Heavenly Father,
We gather here today to remember. We gather here today to celebrate and to act.
We pause to remember that each of us here is a person of prejudice. Sometimes we don’t like to admit that, God, even to ourselves. But we know that healing is not ours until we can come before you, confess our humanness, and give you the filters of prejudice in each of our minds that keep us from each other and from you.
We pause to remember Martin Luther King, Jr., – a man of courage and vision – a man who responded to your call to help us confront those dark places in our souls where injustice lurks. These dark places in our souls seduce us into thinking that the color of our skin or the characteristics of our bodies are what are important to you.
Also, we remember Martin Luther King, Sr. – a man who calls us into holiness by his example of love for you. A man who had every reason to hate and be bitter with the murders of his wife and two sons, yet he refused to hate and be bitter. He chose to love you and your people instead. We remember the healing image of him sitting with George Wallace and George Wallace asking him to pray for him and we remember Martin, Sr. saying lovingly that he would.
And we celebrate, dear God. We celebrate that in the midst of a broken world, you are here. We celebrate that in the midst of injustice, hatred, and violence is justice, love, and peace if we but choose to turn our face from those shadows of our souls into the Light that is you. We celebrate today the gift of Martin Luther King Jr. and his Dad – men who had the courage to be you in our world – men who have been beacons calling us home to you.
Dear God, our prayer to you today is that these gifts you have given us, will call us into action. We pray the sufferings of our past as a people and as individuals are not in vain, but experiences that draw us closer to your love, your peace, your healing. You tell us we are to pray for our enemies, to pray for those that persecute us, to pray for those who hurt us. Those prayers are so hard for us to do, yet that is our prayer today. Each of us here suffer the scars of pain and injustice in our lives. Help us recognize that our pain and our anger are calling us into the action of drawing nearer to you. Our action today is prayer for all the George Wallaces in our homes, work places, and communities. We pray they might experience your healing love. And we pray for the George Wallaces in ourselves God. Those places inside us that lure us into thinking that our view is the right one and that others are not worthy, those places inside us that deceive us into thinking we are better than others because they are different and not worthy of our respect. We give our prejudices to you, God. We give you the injustice of our arrogance and self-righteousness that separate us from others and ask that you transform them with your love and forgiveness into acts of kindness and mercy that we may be lights in the midst of the darkness of a broken world. Amen.
A Prayer for a Community Prayer Breakfast
I feel honored to be here especially when I read the history and mission of this prayer breakfast, and for the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about my role today in offering prayer, and the conclusion that I’ve come to is to offer a prayer ABOUT prayer itself. To provide a context, however, I need to tell you that two days ago, I returned from 3 weeks in Guatemala. I had planned to go there with a friend to visit her brother who lived in a small village. BUT then we heard that the best place in the world to celebrate holy week is Antigua because they take it very seriously there. So, my vacation changed into a pilgrimage. Now for the past year, I had made a commitment to take prayer more seriously and to do it twice each day, using quotes from the Bible as the springboard for my reflections. So, Antigua fit right into my prayer commitment.
One day, my friends were going to explore Antigua, but I stayed behind to pray. Then, I realized that I wasn’t praying. I was just going through the motions because my heart was with my friends and my desire to be with them. So, I prayed: “Dear God, Help me stop being a hypocrite during my time with You.” And then I left to be with my friends. An hour later, I realized that I had left my paper with the quotes and all my notes on the chair of the hotel balcony. So, I raced back to retrieve it, and it was gone! Nowhere to be found: “All right God. I get it. You’re showing me my hypocrisy.” But, it didn’t stop there.
That night I had a dream: In the dream, my house was flooded. I went to see if my neighbors could help. They weren’t home, but I could see that their house had NOT flooded. So I thought, “I’m going to need their help as my house gets renovated but I didn’t even get them a Christmas present.” So, I went back to my house and found some token gift (or re-gift) and took it back to their house so they would think that I cared about them. Then I woke up and I immediately recognized what prayer hypocrisy is:
– I get in some kind of flood…some kind of trouble. I go to ask God for help. He’s not home. Why? Because I’m giving him TOKENS of my attention: time when it’s convenient, my love as long as it doesn’t cost me too much or is too much sacrifice.
Well, I went to the Bible and looked up the word “prayer” and in Isaiah 55, I found this: “Come to me with your ears wide open. For the life of your soul is at stake. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are completely different than yours.” That’s when I realized that I didn’t have a clue about what prayer is really about because I didn’t know how to LISTEN to the voice of God; I was trying to change Him to fit in MY mind.
So, I come before you today with a contrite heart, sharing my struggle of prayer with you, and feeling a bit unworthy of standing before you. But, somehow it seems fitting, that before we can pray for others, we must come to grips with our own TRUTH about prayer.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We come before you today confessing that we often do not know Your ways…we often do not know how to enter Your silence so we can listen to You. We come before You confessing that we sometimes go through the motions of prayer when our hearts are really elsewhere. We ask that You deliver us from our pride that makes us think that we are praying when we are not. Deliver us from our inability and sometimes unwillingness to pray. Grow in us, instead, a CLEAN HEART – a heart that is honest so we don’t fool ourselves into thinking that we’re praying when we’re not; Grow in us a heart that is humble so that we can learn Your ways including how to pray. And grow Courage in our hearts, Dear God: that each man here, that each woman here, will be leaders in their homes, workplaces, and this community by coming to You with a heart that is first and foremost, WILLING to pray. Amen
And God Said No!
I share this next prayerful reflection often. It is written by Claudia Minden Weisz and has helped hundreds of people cultivate more courage and peace in their lives:
I asked God to take away my pride, and God said, “No.”
He said it was not for Him to take away, but for me to give up.
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole, and God said, “No.”
He said her spirit is whole, her body is only temporary.
I asked God to grant me patience, and God said, “No.”
He said that patience is a byproduct of tribulation. It isn’t granted, it’s earned.
I asked God to give me happiness, and God said, “No.”
He said he gives blessing. Happiness is up to me.
I asked God to spare me pain, and God said, “No.”
He said suffering draws me apart from worldly cares and brings me closer to Him.
I asked God to make my spirit grow and God said, “No.”
He said I must grow on my own, but He will prune me to make me fruitful.
I asked God to help me love others as much as He loves me.
And God said, “Ah, you finally have the idea.”
(Claudia Minden Weisz)
Providing non-religious, spiritual care in a healthcare environment is tricky, yet it can be essentiial because well-being includes the spiritual dimension.
by Deborah Grassman
Peace that lies beyond human understanding is derived from the spiritual dimension. This dimension creates energy — that spark of life that powers the soul. It is the dimension that gets blocked when barriers are created that interfere with soul access. Those barriers are often unmourned loss and unforgiven guilt/shame – barriers which can precipitate a Soul Injury if the person begins to feel tainted, unworthy, or in some other way separated from his/her own sense of self.
During times of trouble or sorrow, people often contemplate deeper and more serious issues of the soul; they may even encounter despair. This time of darkness can be beneficial because it cultivates humility; humility accesses the soul. In the soul’s dimension, lies pervasive peace where energy beyond the material world is generated.
A word that might capture the essence of soul energy is “vitality.” When I stop denying feelings and instead open up to them, I experience vitality; I become more alive. When I reckon with hardships rather than cope with them, I become vitally alive; my soul is engaged. My soul is important because it’s the most authentic and enduring part of me.
The National Consensus Project Guidelines for spiritual practice defines spirituality as, “the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.”
Teilhard de Chardin offers yet another perspective: “We are all spiritual beings here for a human experience.” These definitions capture the nature of our soulful beingness where energy and vitality are generated.
It’s easy to confuse religion and spirituality. Sometimes I conceptualize that their relationship is like trees and forests. Religion is the trees of beliefs that we create to understand the spiritual forest of our existence. We all live our religion (the values and beliefs that underlie our actions); even atheists live out their “religion.” Beliefs, however, sometime interfere with understanding existence because “we can’t see the forest for the trees.” Many people discount the value of religion because of this distortion of perspective. Yet, forests can’t exist without trees; and the quality of the forest is dependent on each tree’s contribution. Forests and trees are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they might be mutually inclusive. I learned this from a rabbi on National Public Radio. He was on a panel of religious leaders of different faiths discussing religion and spirituality. All of them agreed that not all spirituality is religious. Almost all panelists agreed that all religions are spiritual. A rabbi disagreed. He said that any religion that teaches exclusivity is not spiritual because spirituality is based on humility not arrogance. I liked his distinction.
As death approaches, people start contemplating deeper issues. Their perspectives shift, and frequently they undertake a spiritual quest.
“Tell me how you are doing spiritually,” I’ll say to a patient.
Often the response is, “Oh, I don’t go to church.”
“Sounds like you’re not a religious person, but I’m wondering if spirituality has any meaning to you,” I’ll reply. “Do you receive strength or comfort from a source of energy or power beyond your own?”
Many will say they believe in God; others talk about nature or their family; some say spirituality has no relevance in their lives. I distinguish between religion and spirituality because I want patients to know I have no interest in trying to convert them to a religion, impose my personal beliefs, or urge them toward any specific beliefs at all. My attitude is important because many patients have had experiences where others had an agenda to change or impose religious ideas; sometimes this kind of imposition was done in a manner that did not respect the patient’s personal beliefs or his or her need to doubt and question.
I usually try to provide nonreligious spiritual care. It takes time to assess a person’s beliefs, time I don’t usually have. Also, there are many different faiths, even divisions within the same faith. It requires time to discern the particular meaning of a patient’s religion. Instead, I provide open-ended “generic” spirituality so the patient can infuse his own personal meanings. I let the patient lead and I follow. I’m secure enough in my own religion that I don’t worry about differing beliefs sabotaging my own. Neither do I think it’s my business to convince them of my beliefs. Sometimes, we explore spiritual ideas together. I proceed cautiously though, always mindful that the patient could be vulnerable to my authority as the healthcare provider. I’m also aware that I might unconsciously want him to think like me.
I’ve learned a lot by watching other people provide religious and spiritual care. Shaku, one of the nurses on our Hospice unit, is Hindu, a religion not shared by many of our patients. She has learned prayers and practices of other religions so she can respond to patients’ varying needs. It’s not unusual to hear her reciting the Lord’s Prayer or the rosary with patients. Patients frequently tell me what a comfort Shaku is to them.
I had an encounter with a nursing assistant who reminded me of Shaku when I, myself, was a patient. I had abdominal surgery and afterwards a small artery began bleeding. I lost many pints of blood, and all my clotting factors were consumed. I not only needed several blood transfusions but a second surgery to control the bleeding. I was left weak and debilitated. I also had severe diarrhea. Too weak to quickly get to the bathroom, I was incontinent. Embarrassedly, I activated my call light. When the nursing assistant came to the room, I told her apologetically about the mess awaiting her under the sheets.
“Oh, that’s okay. That’s why I’m here,” she said cheerfully. “You don’t worry about a thing. Your job is to just let me help you.”
Long after she left, I thought about this woman who made me feel like there was nothing more she wanted than to have the opportunity to clean up my stinky mess. She gave me graciousness, and that was a gift of the spirit that remains with me to this day. “God” was never mentioned, but she helped me realize that tenderly emptying a bedpan for a patient is one of the most spiritual things I can do.
This nursing assistant’s act made me reflect on an adage that sometimes circulates in healthcare circles: “Nursing assistants aspire to be nurses; nurses aspire to be physicians; and physicians aspire to be God.” I sometimes ask myself, “To what role in a hospital does God aspire?” I wonder if the answer is that God aspires to be a patient whose suffering is redeemed through the love of a compassionate care provider like that nursing assistant who knows how to empty bedpans spiritually.
When “lub dub” is lacking, missing, or abused, then conditions are ripe for precipitating a Soul Injury.
by Pat McGuire
“Since the human heart is never completely born, love is the continuous birth of creativity within and between us.”
~ O’Donohue, Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World)
The first sound any of us hear in this world is the steady “lub dub” of our mother’s heartbeat. Throughout our lives, if we are lucky, there is a great deal of touch from nurturing family members, friends, and pets. This keeps us connected to the “lub dub” of our humanity and also to “the heart that is never completely born.” This is the significance of the eternal, ubiquitous “lub dub.” When “lub dub” is lacking, missing, or abused, then conditions are ripe for precipitating a Soul Injury.
When we are confronted with losses or disappointments of any kind, our primal sense of connectedness is reduced. I have had the opportunity to facilitate many groups throughout my career as a bereavement coordinator providing Family support, cancer support, grief support, addiction recovery, and facilitating The Hero Within book communities. No matter the purpose of the group, one of the basic needs of the attendees is a sense of connection. Coming together with others with the same issues can be very healing. However, these groups generally fill one hour of a week and the need for connection has no such limit. These feelings of disconnection are felt most intensely in the middle of the night.
At the ending of the group meetings, through consensus of the group, we end in a circle. Holding hands, each person says whatever is on their heart. It struck me more and more how strong the energy pulsing from hand to hand was when we were encircled in this way. I called this to the attention of the groups. I reminded them that even when we were not holding hands, our hearts continued to ”lub dub” together. I asked them to remember that when they were home alone at three o’clock in the morning, they could reconnect with the group by feeling their own pulse. The message of the “lub dub” is: “We all have to do this life ourselves, but we do not have to do it alone.” The groups responded well to this intervention, often saying that during chaotic times, “It brings me peace.”
I have also responded to this intervention, but in an even larger way. Just thinking about the great lub-dub of this universe draws me into my center where I am the birther and the birthee. When I open myself to the lub-dub among people, the energy in the room changes; we are no longer separate entities, but rather one entity of shared humanity; it’s a communal abiding spirit. This is the value of community: common unity. Creating small communities restores personal wholeness, TOGETHER.
I was lucky. I came by this naturally. I was born into a family with 13 children. Although there were some serious disadvantages with being part of so many, there was also a distinct advantage: I learned how to be part of a thriving community that took care of each other — we lub-dubbed together; we restored personal wholeness together. Now, my parents and two of my siblings have died. Several years ago, I left my hometown and many of my siblings in New Jersey to move to Florida. I found myself longing for the lub-dub missing from my heart. It was painful; it was lonely. It wasn’t until I transferred to the hospice unit that I again discovered my community heart.
Deborah Grassman was my boss. She had built a thriving community of hospice staff who loved and respected each other in a communal way. My pulse quickened as I was welcomed, supported, and grew into this new environment. Mainly, I felt safe. Deborah did not allow bitching and back-biting; instead, she showed us how to open up to our hostilities so we could own them and use them for personal growth.
Now, I am partnering with Deborah to create healing communities everywhere. I have started three Hero Within book communities in just the past three months. I call it lub-dubbing, and I am seeing healing transformations right before my eyes. It is, indeed, exciting to witness.
When I tried to explain lub-dubbing to Deborah, she said: “Sounds like you are experiencing what the Beatles sang about: ‘I am you and you are me and we are all together.”
“Yeah. Something like that,” I told her.