Praying when you don't mean it

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    Do you think it's wrong or offensive to pray with a patient if you don't believe in that religion (or any religion)?

    For example, I am an atheist but I was raised a Catholic, and went to Catholic school. I know all the prayers, and how to pray, what verses would be appropriate, etc. I have no problem with reading the Bible, reciting Hail Marys or Our Fathers, or "asking God" for peace or other favors. If a patient asks me to pray with him, would it be wrong of me to do so? Of course I would never come across as ingenuine or tell him that I didn't follow his religion.
    Meriwhen likes this.
  2. 14 Comments so far...

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    IMO, when a patient wants you to pray with them, I would let them do/lead the praying out loud, while you stand nearby in respectful silence. That way you're addressing the patient's spiritual needs without putting yourself in a sticky situation.
    nurse2033 and Marshall1 like this.
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    I think it is very kind of you and a wonderful way to holistically treat your patients. Spirituality (whatever that means to each person) can be such an integral part of people's lives that including it in their healthcare can make a big difference in their ability to heal themselves (with our help, lol).

    Thanks for your willingness to participate in behavior that is important to your patients, especially when you have different beliefs.:redpinkhe
    Sehille4774, leslie :-D, Marshall1, and 1 other like this.
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    I'm not particularly active in my personal practice, but I have not had any problem in joining a patient when they needed to engage in their need for spirituality. Surprisingly, once I was even praised for this action. And at the time, I felt that I was being genuine. It came from somewhere inside. I would not worry about it.
    Meriwhen likes this.
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    When you pray,it should come from the heart, not from a memorized script someonelse wrote....

    As for praying with someone who does not share faiths.....My luck!!
    You could always just pray your own heartfelt prayer, and if it doesn't connect with their beliefs, then ask them to lead in prayer.

    I just close my eyes while they are praying and ask GOd to heal them and get them thru this tough time...In the end, we're both happy
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    I cannot comment on the job since I am a student, but I will say that if it makes you feel negative in someway after (guilty, shameful, dishonest) then of course it would be better to simply tell the patient that while you might not share the same faith you are more than happy to sit with them while they lead/pray both for emotional support and because you know prayer has been shown time and time again to benefit those in need. Sometimes a person is having doubts and needs/wants another persons affirmation that praying could help (hope) some people believe that the more people who pray together the stronger the outcome. If it doesn't bother you to do so though, I would think participating would only be a positive thing.
    leslie :-D likes this.
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    I am a dyed in the wool atheist. I don't believe in any religions dogma. However it is not uncommon for patients or their family to ask me to pray with them. I am very happy to do this and have taken the time to learn some appropiate prayers from chaplins of various denominations. My job is to bring comfort to my patients. If praying will help comfort them I will do it and there is no need at all for them to know I am acting.
    Raviepoo, MN-Nurse, leslie :-D, and 2 others like this.
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    "when you pray,it should come from the heart, not from a memorized script someone else wrote...."

    the catholic and episcopal churches have "scripted" prayers. there's a companion prayer book that goes with each religion, almost like a textbook that goes with a class. the prayers have been the same for hundreds of years and all people in these faiths learn the prayers. some religions have scripted prayers and others don't. i believe islam has scripted prayers as well. my point is that scripted prayers are perfect fine and appropriate if the patient is catholic.

    and to answer the op's question - as long as you're comfortable with it i don't see why it would be offensive, although you never know what someone else could be offended by. i'm an atheist too, but i've never encountered this situation. i've never had a patient ask me to pray with them, but when i can sense that a patient would like someone to talk to about spiritual issues i tell them we have pastoral care department with a priest and nuns would be happy to come chat with them if they'd like, then if the patient says yes i call pastoral care. pastoral care can do a much better job than i can of serving their spiritual needs, anyway.
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    I'm not very religious at all. I believe in God, but that's about the extent of my Faith lol. If a patient asks me to pray with them, I have no problem doing so, though they are usually the one leading the prayer, or a family member or chaplain. I just stay there in silence and honor their request.
  11. 0
    I'm borderline agnostic. I would have no problem standing quietly while a patient, a chaplain, or someone else led a prayer, but I would feel very uncomfortable if I was asked to lead one.


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