Prayers for the Uninsured

Offered at a vigil on the Alabama Capitol steps, April 4, 2023, after a day of appeals to legislators to help our uninsured citizens.

We come to you, loving God, seeking healing for our sicknesses and balm for our wounds.  O Great Physician, examine us thoroughly through the powerful lens of your love, and heal all you see of brokenness or malice.  Hear, too, the cries of our hearts for those whom we know who need healing power in their lives whether in body or soul.  -adapted from A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People, p. 356.

We have gathered here to remember and grieve those who have died too soon even as You have given us the means to keep them well and enable their lives to flourish. For those who knew only the desperation of poverty, lives taken too soon. Lives diminished by neglect and the blight of communities far from healing resources. Those in despair and whose lives are living death.  We call out their names to you, who never forget us.

Bring us alive again.  In peace, let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy.

We pray for healing for those whose relationships have suffered disruption—broken friendships, shattered homes, divorce, and alienation.  Youth caught in cycles of violence and anger.  As they seek reconciliation may your power to make whole fill them, Lord. We remember those who were shattered by lack of help in their moment of need and call their names together.

Bring us alive again.  In peace, let us pray to the Lord,

Lord, have mercy.

We remember those who need for a healthy mind. Those who lack access to resources for mental health and those who don’t know how to navigates our complex systems. For prisoners languishing in overcrowded prisons and those in prisons of violence and violent speaking. Touch them as we call their names, as Jesus once touched the sick in Galilee, and bring transformation. 

Among us who render care and have the means to help them, help us to offer healing through our systems and institutions as well as acts of caring. For doctors and nurses and social workers and case workers, trustees and administrators, those who clean rooms and those who work in the complexities of the insurance industry. The immensity of our tasks can render us weary, defeated, indifferent, cynical. We no longer can feel the touch of the one reaching to us through the crowd. Today we call the names of people in our systems who carry out the work, that they labor not in vain.

Bring us alive again.  In peace, let us pray to the Lord

                        Lord, have mercy.

For those caught in the chains of some bondage, or addiction, or those trapped in situations and systems that overwhelm their longing for life, we pray for healing, that they might be liberated in body, heart or mind. We repent of our indifference and ask that their faces and lives stay in our view. We call their names

Bring us alive again.  In peace, let us pray to the Lord,

                        Lord, have mercy.

Closing prayer

Eternal God,

We pray for healing for our nation and this state where we live.  Wherever hatred, mistrust and resentment burn, disease spreads and injury follows, whether by our actions or our refusal to act, heal us. 

Heal us from the lies of falsehoods, gossip, condescension and prejudice. Help- us to come alive in our work, in our common life, and in our political systems that they be instruments of Thy peace and not sluggish bureaucracies of inertia and waste.

We have come here together to pray for our Governor, our legislators, and ourselves. Help them with courage to do what should be done rather than what is expedient and popular. Grant them deliverance from a failure of nerve. We plead for the rebirth of caring, the vision of a long possible future, and the end of partisan shallowness. We pray for an awakening of depth of soul to replace it.

Teach us again what responsibility means to freedom, what justice means to love, what neighbor love expresses of our love for You, O Holy God. We are uncertain of how you will answer our prayers, but are convinced that what you will do will be more than enough.  We pray it in the unity of our hearts that rises above the difficulty of our difference and in Your name, O God.


Shadow Prayers Audiobook

Dr. Gary Furr claims his “mind is like an entire cage full of monkeys on steroids.” Don’t take the joke. Here is authentic, pandemic-produced piety that stills the soul. It is a reminder of the spiritual gifts imposed by the virus: silence and solitude, a lighter load, new visions and innovations, and our aching, throbbing need for each other. Read it slowly. You will stop often, sometimes lingering long, to ponder your existence, to confront your moral shortfall, to pray for a nurse, or to remember the wall-to-wall pain in our world. They should have taught us to pray like this in seminary.

Walter B. Shurden, Minister-at-Large at Mercer University

Now available for downloading or streaming. Click to listen to selected chapters or buy

The Right Thing to Do

I was happy to see that my home state, North Carolina, has passed a bipartisan solution to expand Medicaid. Southern states have suffered disproportionately to find solutions for the health insurance crisis, leaving many families to choose between healthcare and paying their bills. The national political divide over the federal funding of Medicaid expansion has left us to ignore the financial, economic, and quality of life benefits from this move.

When the leaders of North Carolina stepped back, however, to ask how they might best benefit the people they serve, they saw that many of the challenges that police officers face daily with mental health situations, the crisis in their rural hospitals, and the needs of the working poor to buy food and pay utility bills, the need for change outweighed the partisan political debates that obscure real solutions.

I have been a hospital trustee. I understand better than I used to how complicated the healthcare and insurance systems can be. I also learned that in truth we all are paying for everyone’s health care one way or the other. It can either be organized and intentional or haphazard and full of inequalities and financial burdens. The most important question seems to be left aside. More of our citizens would benefit from expanded access to better care. Healthier people get better faster, are able to work longer and more productively, and babies consigned to poverty have a better chance to get a good start in life. Families might not have to be bankrupted at the end of life by an elderly parent’s care. Infant mortality and poverty are moral issues, not political questions. The politics is only about “how?”

Polls show that most Alabamians are in favor of expanding Medicaid when asked. It would mean receiving enormous amounts of federal funding to help our most vulnerable citizens receive better care.

I appreciate so many good things that Governor Ivey has done. Our legislature, under her leadership, has already expanded Medicaid to cover babies up to a certain age. The template is already there. To solve problems, we do not need political slogans and partisanship. We need to do the right thing.

A close pastor colleague and friend, the late Dr. Philip Wise, was a pastor in Montgomery many decades ago. When a question arose in his church about an issue related to race and the mission of the church, he went to a wise older leader of the congregation to ask his advice. To push forward would undoubtedly create conflict in the congregation. To pull back for the sake of unity would come at the price of doing what the Bible required of them.

This wise leader listened to him and asked, “Pastor, what is the right thing to do?” He said his answer was clear in his heart. “Go forward with the work of reconciliation.” The wise older head, said, “Well, pastor, why don’t we do the right thing?”

I have thought of that story from time to time through the years. It is hard for churches, communities, and states to stand above the divides among us until we ask this question.

I lived in my home state of North Carolina for ten years of my life altogether, longer than anywhere else I have lived until we moved to Alabama in 1993, where I served as a pastor for twenty-eight years. I have retired in Alabama, and it is my home. I love Alabama and its people. It is a great place to live.

I want Alabama to be a place where Infant mortality goes down and our people, especially our children, have access to the care they need.  I don’t have all the answers about the how, but that isn’t really my question. Our governor and legislature are charged with the responsibility of the how. I just have asked myself the question my friend asked his layman years ago, “What is the right thing to do?”

And my answer is, “Why don’t we do the right thing?”

NEW PODCAST “The Waiting Room”

NEW PODCAST In the waiting room, we are all the same…fear stops by in the morning and pops back in when you least expect it…people have truly different ideas of what the phrase, “dress appropriately” means…nothing starts when it is scheduled and why things go on longer than you were told

Photo taken by Gary Furr of mobile that hangs above the emergency room waiting area, UAB Medical Center, Birmingham, Alabama.