The Surgeon’s Prayer

Her voice, strong and friendly, as if she were speaking with a close friend, took over.

Dick Duerksen
The Surgeon’s Prayer

Everyone said she needed surgery, major surgery. “You have to do this if you are going to live,” her physician told her. Her friends agreed. All of them. So she began searching for a surgeon, the right surgeon, the very best surgeon. She wanted to live. 

But she was afraid. Very afraid.

* * * 

He was a surgeon. A good surgeon, sought after by many, recognized as one of the best. Willing to take hard cases no one else wanted. Despised by the nurses and technicians who worked with him. “He’s plain nasty,” one nurse said. “If you disagree or don’t get something as quickly as he requires, he shouts and hollers and throws things. He’s not a nice person. But he is a very good surgeon.”

“He’s a miracle worker,” her physician said. “Let’s see if we can get him to do your surgery.” 

“OK,” she agreed. Then she began to pray. Not for herself. For her surgeon. 

When her surgery date arrived, a friend drove her to the hospital, where an employee brought a wheelchair and pushed her to the admittance office. When her name was called, she checked in, paid her portion, and was escorted upstairs to a cold plastic chair in the waiting room outside surgery. 

He had many surgeries scheduled for that day, some in Suite One, and others in Suite Three. A team of anesthesiologists, nurses, computer technicians, and medical assistants waited in each room. Ready to do his bidding. Quickly. Without question. Before he asked. 

A hospital worker checked her name against his surgery schedule and told her she would be called in a few minutes. 

She sat, worried, and prayed. This time she prayed for her family, her friends, her surgeon, and for herself. “I prayed for courage, and for God to give the surgeon special skill as he cut into my body.” 

* * *

The surgeon was busy performing miracles in Suite One when his assistant came to the waiting room and called her name. “You are next,” the assistant said, his name embroidered above the pocket of his crisp white uniform shirt. 

“Any questions, ma’am?” 

“Yes, please. Before I go to the operating room, I’d like to have the surgeon come and talk with me. I will wait here for him to come.” 

“He is a very busy surgeon, ma’am, and he does not come to the waiting room. If you want to talk with him, you will have to make an appointment in his office.” 

“Please tell the surgeon that I cannot come in until I have talked with him. I will wait here.” She smiled as she said it, trying to look as friendly and nonthreatening as possible. Yet determined, too. 

“I will tell him,” the assistant groaned. Then he slowly walked back to the big wooden door that kept unauthorized people from entering the surgical suites. 

She prayed. So did the assistant. No one had ever made this request before, and the assistant knew what the surgeon would say. It would not be nice or pretty, and he did not want to deliver the message. 

When the surgeon had completed his work in Suite One, his assistant tapped him lightly on the shoulder. 

“Sir, your next case is the older woman who needs that very special surgery you told me about earlier today. She is in the waiting room and would like to speak with you before she comes in. For just a moment, sir.” 

He was a surgeon. A great surgeon. Sought after, especially for the hard cases. No one told him what to do. No one! Certainly not an old woman who was going to die if he didn’t perform a miracle in her body. For a split second, he thought about the assistant’s message. Then he exploded. 

The surgeon swore. He called the old woman names. He called his assistant names. He swore louder. “You go back out there and tell that woman to get in here right now or I will never do her surgery, and she will die! Go! Tell her! NOW!” 

The assistant went back to the woman in the waiting room. He reasoned with her. He explained that the surgeon was very busy. He was kind. 

“Please tell him that I cannot come in until he comes here to talk with me,” she responded. 

The assistant found the surgeon at a sink, scrubbing his hands and arms in preparation for the old woman’s case. He explained that the woman would not come until . . . 

The surgeon scowled, said some loud choice words, and stomped through the waiting room door. That old woman was going to learn about life. 

* * *

Before he could speak, the woman rose from her chair and met him halfway across the room, her hands extended as a mother would greet a well-loved son. “Doctor,” she began. “Would you please pray with me before I go into surgery?” He was a surgeon, not a pastor, and he had not prayed for years, not even for himself. He was caught completely off guard. His mind raced to find a prayer worth praying. “Now I lay me down to sleep” came to mind and was quickly rejected. Then he heard the soft echo of a grade school teacher praying “Our Father” before class. 

He allowed her to squeeze his hands and then closed his eyes, as if hoping to read the prayer words on the inside of his eyelids. 

“Our Father,” he began, having no idea what the next words were or what words this old woman might find meaningful.

“Who art in heaven.” 

Her voice, strong and friendly, as if she were speaking with a close friend, took over. He stumbled, trying to match his words with hers. 

“Hallowed be . . . ” 

He stammered on, not thinking about the words, but in awe of this woman whose determination had gotten him to do something he hadn’t done for years. He was praying. Talking to God. Asking God for help. Promising God that he would listen, be kind, forgive, and love. 

She finished, peered up into his heart, and led him back toward the big wooden door. “OK. I can come now. Thank you for being a great surgeon.”

Dick Duerksen