The power of prayer

Column by Dan Hettinger

By Dan Hettinger
Posted 1/20/12

Tim Tebow did it. Maybe we should too. Pray when you feel the need for strength and when the situation requires more than you can do on your own. …

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The power of prayer

Column by Dan Hettinger


Tim Tebow did it. Maybe we should too.

Pray when you feel the need for strength and when the situation requires more than you can do on your own. Reach out to the source that is greater than you are. Call on the divine to help with your problems, give wisdom in your decisions, fill you with courage when resistance challenges and heal the injuries and infirmities in body and soul.

Being a Broncos fan and a man of faith this football season was a fascinating combination. Most people did not believe God was a football fan or that he cared about the outcome of the game, but it was hard to argue that Tim Tebow was strengthened and focused by his prayer in a way that helped him exceed expectations and transcend the value of the game.

I do not know what Tim prayed during the game, and to me that is not the point. For many years I have read books on how to pray and heard sermons and lessons that taught patterns revealed in the Lord’s Prayer and prayers the Apostle Paul prayed for the Christians of the New Testament. Maybe everybody has not made the same mistake I have, but I would often get focused on the technique and forget about the privilege of prayer and the power that comes from just reaching out to God.

An experience in one of the nicest retirement/assisted living/nursing homes in the area gave me a picture of prayer. I was making a hospice call in the early morning hours to a patient who had just died. Their family had said their final good-byes and left. As is the practice with my hospice, I stayed with the patient until the mortuary arrived to take him into their care. Waiting for an hour in the lobby of a floor for Alzheimer and dementia patients at 3 am is usually a sad and uncomfortable experience, but this time was unusual.

Half a country away, my mother was in a nursing home. The week before my father, died she began experiencing dementia for the first time. Dad’s declining condition from acute leukemia meant mom’s needs exceeded dad’s abilities to care for her. It was a painful time filled with decisions that were necessary but painful. My mother was a wonderful person who served her family with tireless enthusiasm, which gave us so much love and pleasure. Her separation from dad and in a demented state for two months before her passing, brought a grief worse than death.

In an awkward moment, an elderly women was bent over slightly so she could stare straight into my eyes from just a few inches away. “Can I help you?” I asked. Her eyes were bright but she could not get the words out. Because of HIPPA confidentiality issues, I did not know her condition, but it was apparent that she was demented. All sense of time is lost with the breakdown of mental function and it is not unusual for these patients to wander the halls at all hours. My mother rarely slept at night and would tootle around in her wheel chair trying to make sense of a world that was radically different and confused to her.

I decided to treat this woman the way I would want someone to treat my mother so I offered her a seat and gave her my undivided attention. We looked each other in the eye, smiled a lot and tried to talk. She would speak a garbled mess of words and I would try to figure out what she was trying to say. It turned out that it did not matter that we did not connect on content. After about fifteen minutes something happened. Her face brightened and she smiled broadly and I felt a warm contentment in my chest. Without words there was a breakthrough of love and caring.

Prayer is a lot like that except the chairs are switched. I am the one who is demented in my efforts to communicate to the deity. Rarely do I know exactly the words to say. But the other side of prayer is that God listens with attentiveness that defies explanation and when I know he is listening I experience a powerful connection that helps me. Sometimes my problem goes away, other times I experience strength to fight but often the blessing of prayer is enough. It worked for Tim and it does for me. So I’m going to keep doing it.

Dan Hettinger is founder of the Jakin Group, a ministry of encouragement and chaplain with Hospice of Saint John. Contact him at


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