Heavenly Appeals

Rediscovered prayer journal distills hope

By Norris Burkes
February 2024

Before my retirement as a health care chaplain, I was privileged to hear the prayers of patients who were hurting, sick and discouraged. They were heavenly appeals I wanted to share with you, but patient privacy prevented publication.

In other cases, patient families recorded their prayers in the public journal of our hospital chapel. The journal was a spiral notebook on the altar where visitors wrote anonymous requests.

I recently rediscovered some of those requests. Now I feel comfortable sharing them.

As you read these collected prayers, I encourage you to do two things. First, recall situations where God answered your prayers and granted grace. Second, offer your own prayer for these writers.

Some prayers are simple one-liners, like the child who asked, “Lord, help me to be a football player.” But most are deeply moving entreaties searching for healing, acceptance and understanding.

One writer searched for meaning:

“God, or whoever,

“I don’t know if there is a Creator/God. I only know that my day to leave this life will come. I just hope that the memories of my mother and father will be with me just like my parents were with me the day I was born. If there is a Creator/God, he/she will know that I tried to live my life with a clean heart.”

Some petitioners were scared:

“Dear Lord,

“I need your guidance now. I don’t have my mom anymore, so my dad and I are lost. My son and his wife have a sick baby girl. I need you to help us. Please hold my family tight. I love you, dear Father.

“In the name of the Father and Holy Spirit.”

Other revealed a struggle no one wants to face:

“Dear Lord,

“Mom’s accident crossed your desk and you approved it. Now we have to turn off the ventilator. It’s the hardest decision this family has ever made. My sister is hanging on with vain hope. Please help her see the truth and let Mom go.

“Mom is your child, Lord. I know she has a mansion waiting for her. The rest of us have peace about letting her go. Please pass that peace on to my sister. Time is a factor, Lord. Finances are a factor, too.

“The life she’s living now isn’t life. It isn’t fair to Mom to have to be like she is. Please help my sister to understand that we are all suffering. Give our family the strength to cross this bridge and give Mom a peace that only you can give.


One writer, apparently a caregiver, compared her pain to that of her patients. She expressed guilt many of us feel when seeing our problems in the light of tragedy experienced by others:

“Dear God,

“No one I know is dying or suffering, so I need to stop being a baby about my problems. I should be praying for those who truly need love and support. I’m going through a divorce, and I feel depressed all the time. However, I’m grateful for my health, friends and family.

“Please help me overcome this feeling of anguish, loss, anxiety and jealousy. It’s not good for my health, and I’m unable to help my patients who truly need it.

“Thanks for listening.


Finally, the last page offered a benediction for this column:

“To anyone who reads this:

“I hope God answers all your prayers in the New Year. The Lord is good!


Norris Burkes can be reached at comment@thechaplain.net. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento. Burkes is available for public speaking at civic organizations, places of worship, veterans groups and more. For details and fees, visit thechaplain.net.

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