Whisper a Prayer in the Evening

August 01, 2002 | Pat Benton

It’s 10:45 p.m.

For Walla Walla General Hospital (WWGH) nurse Becky Saranto, it’s almost routine. But for her patients—many of them in crisis—it’s anything but ordinary.

Tonight, as on hundreds of nights before, Becky visits each of her patients before she signs out, offering them something not found in most medical textbooks—a goodnight prayer.

Her prayer is simple. She prays for her patient—possibly exhausted by tests, anxiety, and visitors—and asks God to provide a good night’s sleep, to aid in the recovery process, and to prevent medical complications.

“About 95 percent of the time the patient is pleased that I offer to pray,” Saranto said. “Often when I finish, a patient will add a few words. Sometimes I notice a tear or two.”

Saranto sees her work in an Adventist Health hospital as a ministry—one that couples the best medical skills she can offer with a desire to minister to her patients the way Jesus Christ did.

Recognizing that her patients are facing life-and-death situations, she knows that anxiety and fear can be pervasive, sometimes slowing the healing process. She finds resources in her own faith to respond to these needs in a sensitive, loving way.

Sometimes, the moment of crisis passes. At other times, a patient may spend his final hours under her care. In those cases, she’ll make time for a short, private conversation.

“I want to make sure that he or she has the opportunity to accept Christ before dying,” she says. “I briefly outline how it can be done.”

Not every patient responds, but Saranto has seen physical changes that let her know some do. “He may begin to breathe easier,” she noted. “Or she may squeeze my fingers.”

“A hospital mission is so much more than a plaque on a wall,” says Morre Dean, WWGH president and chief executive officer. “It’s carried out through the actions of our people, who take it to heart and implement it in hundreds of little ways every day. Becky is a shining example of a person who not only demonstrates excellence in her skills, but who also conveys compassion in her work.”

While the power of prayer in healing is gaining national attention, caregivers in Adventist Health hospitals have long understood the importance of offering hope through prayer.

Through gentle touch, words of hope, a prayer, or offering a listening ear, Saranto attends both physical and spiritual needs, by offering a special “healing balm” that can calm a fearful heart or bring hope.

At the end of each shift, Saranto says she hopes that she has lived by the mission statement of WWGH:

Restoring peace…

Restoring hope…

Restoring health…

To do this as Christ did

This is our mission. •