You’re having coffee after the worship service on a Sunday. You say “Hi!” to someone you know, ask how are you, what’s up, and you catch up on this and that. And then, just as you’re finishing, your conversation partner takes hold of your forearm, and her tone changes. “Say a prayer for my dad, will you? He’s not himself, the dementia’s really kicking in, and I feel like he’s losing his identity inch by unrelenting inch.” And you look into your friend’s eyes and see the cost of what’s required to keep going, and you say, “I’m so sorry. This must be such a bewildering time for you. Of course I’ll pray for your dad. And I’ll pray for you too.”
But then you’ve made a promise. A promise you have to keep. How exactly do you pray for a person in such a situation? What words can you find to wrap around this kind of long, slow-burning tragedy, in which lives and souls unravel and there’s no sign of the dawn?