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August 4, 2013

Holding Hands in Prayer

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

Holding hands

Last evening, I received a phone call from a member of another local Lutheran church. Their pastor is out of town on vacation and before he headed out on a period of rest and relaxation, he called and asked me if I would be around for the two weeks he would be out of town. After checking my schedule for the rest of the summer — cough, cough — I said I would stand in for him if and when an emergency popped up. Most of the time, emergencies seem to take a vacation with the pastor; but in those rare cases, like last night, a family in Christ needed the help of a clergyman.

I arrived at the emergency room looking for the family. The nurse at the front desk told me that apparently mom had taken ill during dinner and was rushed to the hospital as dad, their two children, and another relative/friend (I am not sure) drove behind the ambulance.

When I arrived at the woman’s assigned ER stall, mom was off taking some tests as her family waited rather impatiently for her to return. Sensing a little apprehension at this new clerical wearing guy standing before them, I asked if it would be OK to say a prayer. Dad gave the go-ahead. When I raised my arms from my side and reached out to hold dad’s hand and one of his children, I could see they were taken aback. Reluctantly, they grasped my hands and we made a kind of prayer circle … and I prayed for health for mom and peace for her family.

Immediately following my “Amen,” one of the children said that she never prayed holding anyone’s hand. Dad chimed in that he, too, never held anyone else’s hands in prayer, that is, outside of his wedding day when the pastor asked he and his bride to hold hands as he prayed over them. I explained that holding hands is nothing special, but during times of crisis, holding hands provides a sense of oneness, not just with God in prayer, but also with those around us. Holding hands during prayer doesn’t bring any greater spiritual gift, but in those times of great worry and fear, holding hands in a group does bring a sense of togetherness as you raise your concerns to the Great Physician.

“You are not alone. The Lord is here for you and you are here for one another,” I said.

Dad said he thought prayer hand holding was a kind of “new age stupidity.” While agreeing with him that holding hands during prayer can go overboard, in certain situations it can bring a sense of calm.

“When’s the last time you held your children’s hands,” I asked him. Dad said, “I think the last time I held my daughter’s hand was when she was four and we walked to her preschool.” And as he said those words, a shy little smile came across his daughter’s face while dad smiled broadly. And they held hands.

Now this four-year old is grown up – a college-aged teen with an eyebrow piercing and an iPhone firmly attached to her thumbs. I think last night’s little prayer hand-holding was a good thing for dad and daughter.

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