By Sharon Ruff—
I had no profound prayer words left to wrap around the excruciating suffering that blanketed each person on my growing prayer list. Their urgent physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual needs seemed to mirror the aches of humanity. So, with such a feeling of helplessness, I simply slid my fingertips gently over each name like a child learning Braille. As tears slipped down my cheeks, Oh God, have mercy, was all my heart could whisper. I felt like I was suffocating under the weight their suffering. Then suddenly God gave me an idea.
Rather than writing each person’s name down in the order I received them from phone calls, emails, and texts, I began to “triage” people like a hospital does for its incoming patients. Next I sectioned off my legal pad into distinct columns based on the level of need. I had Emergency, Critical, Struggling, and Care and Concern. Now I was able to quickly discern the level of care each situation needed. I didn’t feel so helpless and overwhelmed when I got inundated with prayer requests. As circumstances changed, I could easily “transfer” people to a different level of prayer.
I’ve also learned another effective way to minister to these folks who are scattered around the world. I prop my legal pad in a chair, kneel in front of it, and then take out my musty old hymnal. I select a hymn that seems just right for each person’s need and sing them a sweet song. My favorites are Breathe on Me Breath of God, and Fill My Cup Lord. The words and music are a healing balm reaching down to the very depths of pain—theirs and mine.
Many times I pick up sadness, despair, confusion, and hopelessness when I receive news of tragic circumstances. At those times, I feel like a lone ambulance driver gripping the wheel as he races his dying patients to the hospital. It was God who corrected my thinking. He is the ambulance driver. He is the hospital. He is the Great Physician. I realize that my job is simply to assure the patient of God’s loving care and help during the journey.
The shift to triaging the incoming wounded has brought order and peace to the chaos of my prayer life. Gently releasing everyone into God’s hands has freed me from emotional heaviness, from drama and trauma that I am exposed to each day.
God is our safe place and our strength.
He is always our help when we are in trouble.
So we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken
and the mountains fall into the center of the sea,
and even if its waters go wild with storm
and the mountains shake with its action.
(Psalm 46:1-3 NLV)
Sharon Ruff: Sharon makes her home in West Michigan near her children and grandchildren. She has been a widow for over a decade after being married for 30 years; fifteen of which were spent caring for her husband who suffered from MS. During those wilderness years of isolation and despair, God gave her hope from Jeremiah 29:11. He also assured her that He would restore the years the locust had eaten. He has since graced her with many opportunities to heal, learn, grow, and serve in women’s ministry through Bible Studies, retreats, conferences and personal ministry. She has also ministered in the Ukraine and Africa at women’s conferences.