I don’t usually plug TV shows and that’s not my main goal here. But I did stand amazed after watching Season 2, Episode 12 of New Amsterdam. I generally enjoy the program though the values it promotes are a mixed lot for me. But the main theme of this episode concerned faith and prayer. As I perceived this, I prepared myself to be disappointed with the handling of an issue critically important to me and mine. But I was pleasantly surprised.
The main character (Max) is such an obviously goodhearted, kind and caring individual and brings those qualities to bear as chief of medicine at New Amsterdam hospital. But he is also deeply scarred by shattering disappointments and carries a burden of bitterness that can be difficult to watch.
In this episode, a pastor leads a prayer group on a rotating tour of hospitals where they station themselves in the lobby and – pray. The group works to remain unobtrusive but lives on the edge of being escorted out by security. Max is tolerant but dismissive. He won’t have them removed unless they REALLY become a problem - but they are plainly a nuisance – taking up space in the lobby for no good reason, slightly in the way and accomplishing nothing of value. There is also that uncommunicated bitter edge in Max that seems to take some measure of personal offense at the prayer group’s presence.
The tragedies De Jour include a man in his fourteenth year of a vegetative state and his struggling family, a dangerous but difficult to diagnose problem in the ER (where the computers are on the fritz due to a software update), a woman depressed by skin flaps after massive weight loss (and her inability to afford corrective plastic surgery and the rigid position of the insurance company on the matter) and a teenaged boy who is probably going to die from ‘vaping sickness’. Max’s irritation grows as his community of doctors, nurses, and orderlies converse on even the most casual connections between events in these cases and the presence of the prayer group. The crux of the matter is reached when the boy with vaping illness – who has been holding stable while they plan a course of treatment – suddenly crashes – minutes after the departure of the prayer group from the hospital.
Max chases the pastor down and asks for – well, he clearly knows not what. Growing impatient with the pastor’s explanation – ‘That’s not the way it works…’ Max protests ‘Well, then why do you do it – if not to ask some higher power to do – something – to make changes, improve situations?!’
The pastor patiently explains that the main change we seek in prayer is to ourselves, we want to be drawn into God’s purposes and come to understand them – at which point – the chaos begins to make sense. Not everyone is healed but God is in the ‘not healings’ too. When prayer becomes that to you, miracles are possible and recognizable.
Max returns to the hospital and watches the dying boy – the single remaining unresolved situation. He prays. ‘Hello – up there? I’m not really into the whole praying thing. I know my parents did a lot of it when my sister was sick and it didn’t seem to do a lot of good. (The childhood death of Max’s sister remains one of his burdens) But I could really use a miracle down here and surely, in all the chaos and terrible things that happen – can’t one be good? I realize I don’t have anything to bargain with or offer but this empty space inside me which I’m willing to fill with – something. Jackson (the teen) could really use Your help and the worst of it is he needs specifics.’ Camera changes scenes.
Jackson has, miraculously it seems, recovered. Never mind further treatments. And after all, other doctors muse, we know almost nothing about vaping illness yet so who knows why. But it’s great, right. Max looks ever so slightly up and replies – ‘Amen’.
This so nearly describes my own thought on and experience with prayer I thought I should pass it on. Glad to hear what anyone else thinks.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church