Q How can I pray with an older person?
For many years, an elderly relative and I would set aside an hour each week to pray together. She liked to make a list of what we were to bring to God, I would agree it, and then she would spend the next 20 minutes praying through the whole list. When I suggested that we allowed ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit she said it sounded ‘holier than thou’, so I learnt to say a robust ‘amen’ to her prayer, and then thank Him for the prayers that He’d so graciously answered. She’s with the Lord now and I miss those prayer times.
In considering this question, I think also of a friend in her fifties who had longed for years to pray with her father-in-law. He had made it clear more than once, in his gentle, academic way, that he did not want to hear about Christianity. Now in his late nineties he was not expected to live much longer. Before visiting him in hospital my friend and her husband prayed passionately that God would open his heart. A few minutes into the visit she felt a nudge ‘now’ from the Holy Spirit, so she asked him if she could talk to him about Jesus. He said yes, and they had the joy of praying with him – and he asked Christ to be his Saviour. He lived a couple of weeks longer and each time they visited, they prayed.
Point number one then, is to be led by the Holy Spirit. Point number two is to be led by the older person him/herself. Some may consider it to be an intrusion, as they are ‘very private’ in their faith, though some may be happy to pray with you for a cause. Others will welcome prayer, though it’s always best to ask what he or she would like prayer for! One’s priorities at, say, 80, are not the same as someone in their thirties. Older people often want to pray for others more than themselves.
Don’t be put off if the person has dementia. Carla (name changed) has always been ‘difficult’ and has alienated most of her family: having dementia seemed to exacerbate it. Then a friend asked if he could pray with her, and to his amazement she said yes. She committed her life to the Lord and to everyone’s astonishment has become mellow and agreeable.
Above all, be encouraged. God will make a way and prayer changes things!