The Role Of The Chaplain
Rabbi Sidney S. Guthman, D.D., 33°
Long Beach, California

There is a spiritual dimension to sickness and healing.


Humans are inseparable combinations of body and mind, of symptom and spirit. Therefore, the will to live and the sense of purpose in life are as basic and relevant as temperature and blood pressure. Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “A human being is a disclosure of the divine.” We are not only body and mind, we are also spirit. Indeed, there is a spiritual dimension to sickness and healing.

This is a simple truth which hospital chaplains of all faiths have always known. We Masonic chaplains seek by our presence in the patient’s room to make the patient feel better just by our sense of concern and confidence. Francis Peabody’s famous line is medically valid: “The secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient.”

Chaplains certainly must come to the patient with a sense of caring and compassion. But we also come to help the patient establish a connection with God, the source of our lives, the ultimate healer.

Prayer is no less than Jacob’s ladder joining earth to heaven and man to God. In the Bible, we find prayer and healing closely joined. Moses prays for the healing of his sick sister, and Job affirms his faith in God in spite of his physical afflictions. King Hezekiah in his serious illness prays to God for recovery. The ancient Rabbis put it succinctly: “Prayer is of good effect both before the illness and after it.” The Psalmist affirms that God is near to all who call upon Him in truth. In times of illness as in times of health, we must maintain faith that God is near when we call.

King David prayed, “I hoped in the Lord. He bent down and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the muddy pit, out of the mire and clay. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a sure footing” (Psalms 40:1–3).

Why was David helped? Because of his constant hope in the Lord. The Lord does not desire an offering of sacrifices. In His sight, our most precious offering is hope. “He gives vigor to the weary, new strength to the exhausted. Those who hope in the Lord will gain new strength” (Isaiah 40: 29, 31).

“Mine is the faith that I will surely see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Hope in the Lord and be strong; hope in the Lord and take courage” (Psalms 27: 13–14).

Finally, consider this moving prayer offered by a hospitalized patient: “My God and Father, healer of the sick, I turn to You in my time of trouble. Hear my prayer, O God, and my supplication. Grant me the courage to bear my pain and the confidence to hope that I shall be well, for I rely on Your love.

“Bless the efforts of my physician; endow him with Your wisdom to heal. Bless the efforts of all who seek to restore me to health.

“May it be Your will to restore me to health so that I may complete my years in happiness and well-being. Permit me to return to my loved ones and to my tasks. Bless me with insight and strength to serve You wholeheartedly. Heal me and I shall be healed, save me and I shall be saved.”

Please remember The House of The Temple Historic Preservation Foundation, S.J., USA, with your gifts and in your will, 1–800–486–3331.