by Leonard Albert
In Matthew 25, Jesus spoke prophetically of the time when He will say to the blessed of His Father, “I was sick, and ye visited me” (v. 36). They will ask, “When saw we thee sick . . . and came unto thee?” (v. 39). Jesus’ answer suggests perhaps the most profound reason why we should visit people in hospitals. Jesus will say: “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (v. 40).
Think of it! When we visit even the most unlovable people, in the hospital or nursing home, our ministry to them is equal to ministering to Christ himself. What an opportunity we have to win the people who are in these institutions to Jesus! It is a crisis time in their lives. It is a time when they are most receptive to spiritual things. When illness strikes, it makes one realize his dependency on God and his own helplessness.
If properly carried out, hospital visitation can be one of the most fruitful ministries that anyone can do.
When to Visit
Hospital visitation should be carried on daily. Normally, people are in a hospital only for a brief time, and a weekly visit is simply not enough. A good idea may be to divide the hospital into sections and let selected people be responsible for a certain floor, wing, etc. Once the initial contact is made, repeat visits should be made daily.
Whom to Visit
Visit everyone! First, visit the members and friends of the congregation. Then, visit all others who need to receive a friendly visit. An attempt should be made to visit each person as the Lord directs.
How to Visit
Many times people who do hospital visitation become fearful when they enter a room and find members of the family present with the patient. Do not let this be a hindrance. A warm smile and a friendly greeting can be given. It is really surprising how the family enjoys such a visit. It seems to break the monotony for them. A greeting could go like this: “Please excuse me for intruding; my name is [give your name] and I just stopped by to greet [patients name].” The point is don’t pass up visiting people who have others in the room with them; you could win the whole family to Christ! Use an appropriate greeting such as”
“Hello, I’m [give your name] visiting you today from the [name of your church]. How are you feeling today? We hope you will be able to go home soon. We are going to be praying for your health.”
The Gospel Presentation
You may or may not feel that you should make a presentation of the gospel on the first visit. Always try to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. This is one of the blessings that Spirit-filled people enjoy. God can help you to have boldness, power, and authority to witness for Christ (Acts 1:8). Let the Holy Spirit lead you!
The Closing Prayer
Don’t pray loud prayers! Watch the tone of your voice; be very careful not to be boisterous, because you should not bother others who are in the room. Only one person should pray! Although we love to pray in concert, it is wisdom for only the leader of the conversation to pray. It is not really necessary always to ask permission to pray. It is easily discerned if the people are interested in spiritual things; and when it comes time to pray, the leader should just begin to pray the prayer of faith for the needs of the patient.
What you say in your prayer on behalf of the ill is very important. Many times we talk a great deal about prayer but when we get right down to the actual prayer, we simply do not bring the real petitions of the ill to the Lord. Here are two prayers that we have found to be very effective as closing prayers in a patient’s room:
A Prayer for Healing
“Lord, I have no power, but You have all power and we’re obeying your Word. You said if we lay hands on the sick, they shall recover. You didn’t always say it would be miraculous or instantaneous, but You said `they shall recover.’ Thank you, Lord Jesus, for touching Your child today. Amen.”
A Prayer for Spiritual Needs
“Lord, I take this person and lift him up above the camp of the enemy. I lay him on Your altar, Lord, and pray that You will come against the enemy of his body and his soul with Your power, Your Spirit, and Your precious blood. Break down the enemy’s stronghold, Lord, and bring complete recovery both physically and spiritually. Amen.”
- Visit during the regular hospital visitation hours. Two good times to visit are the late afternoon and the evening. Avoid visiting at mealtime or during medical treatments. Always obey all rules regarding visitation.
- Keep your visit brief. Don’t homestead! On average, the visit in each room should last from five to ten minutes. Of course, there will be exceptions. You may wish to spend more time in some rooms. Sometimes it takes a long time to really explain the gospel, and very often there are many questions asked which must be dealt with. Be very considerate of patients’ time—don’t tire them with incessant, idle talk. Enter, share, pray, and leave. In this manner, you will not “wear out your welcome” for the next visit.
- Use tracts. The people have time to read, and reading material is always valued. Remember to select tracts appropriate for this type of visitation.
- Witness to those in other beds. Your acquaintance with one patient can be a bridge to getting to know the other(s). Try to witness to every person in the room.
- Let the patients talk. Let them tell you about their condition, their experiences, etc.; this will open the door for you to talk to them about their spiritual condition.
- Always pray. Whether you win the patient or not, always have a prayer of faith for him before you leave.
- Never forget that you are a guest of the hospital and that you are planting seed for future opportunities. Do not be obnoxious or intrusive.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Have a cheerful greeting and countenance.
- Know the person or patient’s name.
- Be sure to sit or stand so you can be seen and heard.
- Be sure to sit or stand so the one you are visiting doesn’t face the light.
- Discuss illness briefly, then speak of those things that edify.
- Plan to tell the patient or person you are visiting something interesting, positive, and cheerful.
- Don’t overwhelm the patient with more than one visitor, or at most two, at a time. (See #12)
- Pray about your visit and the one you are visiting. Ask the Holy Spirit to be in control, to guide the conversation and bring to your knowledge the needs of the one you are visiting. (Spoken or unspoken).
- Be genuinely interested in the one you visit.
- Take your cues from the patient or person you are visiting as to the length of the visit or the time to visit.
- Offer to read, write letters, pray.
- Observe hospital rules for visitors.
- Don’t discuss church affairs, except exciting future events.
- Give: a bookmark, a Sunday school paper, church periodical, a card with God’s Word—give something tangible that will remind the one you visit of that visit and that you care for them. Let the Holy Spirit guide you in this.