Physician-Patient Prayer

In this era of healthcare reform, there are many questions floating around on many different topics.  It was encouraging to recently see on the front page of American Medical News (a newspaper published by the American Medical Association) an article entitled, “When patient visit includes request for prayer” (June 18, 2012; volume 55, number 12).  The article discusses a survey of almost 500 adults from Florida, North Carolina, and Vermont in which “one in five patients likes the idea of praying with the doctor during a routine office visit, while nearly 30% want to do so during a hospital stay.”  The article continues to note that, “75% of physicians say patients sometimes or often mention spiritual issues such as God, prayer, meditation or the Bible”.  Also, according to a May 2006 study in Medical Care of 1,200 physicians, 53% of those surveyed pray with patients when patients ask for prayer.  Only 10% of physicians have no religious affiliation and 60% of hospitals have chaplains on staff, according to the American Hospital Association.  While the article doesn’t address geographical differences, I would certainly think that the percentages are much higher in the Bible belt and lower in other areas of the country, but the general statistics reveal how important that prayer is for patients.

The article wasn’t all rosy for physician-patient prayer because it also noted that “only 6% of physicians believe religion and spirituality often help to prevent negative clinical outcomes.”  In addition, the article more greatly promoted the feelings of some that physicians should not initiate prayer with patients, but should let the patient be the initiator and the physician should be silent.  Well, I guess that I am in the 6% category because I have definitely seen with my own eyes, felt with my own hands, and heard in my own ears the positive outcomes associated with patients having faith in Jesus Christ to heal them.  Physicians who do not feel comfortable with praying with patients or initiating prayer with patients should certainly not do so, but those who do actively pray with their patients and may even initiate prayer with their patients, as I do, should not be made out to be unscientific, as one physician in the article is quoted as saying.  If everything could be explained about faith, then it would not be called faith anymore; that is where the rub is for some who want proof of everything.  God has no obligation to prove anything to anyone, as He has revealed Himself abundantly already to those who want to see Him as the Creator as He is (Romans 1). 

I have prayed for miracles with patients and have seen miracles performed by God for patients.  If someone doesn’t believe that occurs, I can’t help that unbelief, but those patients who were healed know that God worked a miracle for them because of their faith in Him and because it was His will for them.  Without getting too specific due to privacy concerns, I have all the proof I need in medical records for dramatic changes in patients’ health I have seen take place over the almost twenty years of treating patients now.  Prayer and faith are extremely important in medical practice and when physicians feel led to ask a patient about praying for them, that physician should certainly ask the patient for permission to do so.  I’ve never had one patient refuse an offer to pray for them.  In my clinic, there is a locked, private box in the waiting room for patients to write out and leave prayer requests.  Allowing patients to express their faith is great for their health and should be encouraged.

Physicians shouldn’t let the possibility of a prayer not being answered in the way that we all like to see keep them from praying for someone.  We all know that God doesn’t provide physical healing for all prayers for healing and that doesn’t mean that there was necessarily a lack of faith, but a lack of God’s will to answer that prayer for physical healing.  Even Lazarus, who was brought back from the dead by Jesus, also later died again.  God has a plan for each of our lives and when we are in step with what He wants, He will help keep us here to accomplish what He wants.  There isn’t an answer for every thing that happens we don’t understand, although.  Dr. James Dobson’s book, “When God Doesn’t Make Sense” answers many questions that we all have on this topic; the general answer is that we certainly don’t have all of the answers about why, and we don’t have to have the answers.  When we are submitted to God, we learn that it isn’t up to us anyway; it’s up to Him.  Here again, God does not answer to man and we should have no expectation of any obligation on His part to answer our questions.  Just read the book of Job to discover that. 

The Bible is clear about the great value God places upon even small faith; He doesn’t expect us to have a great faith.  Great faith starts with small faith.  Trust God in spite of what is seen and when nothing makes any sense.  He will bless you with a greater faith in Him.  Any physician who has such a faith certainly cannot keep silent and when a patient can cling to nothing else but their faith, the greatest thing a physician can then do is to point them to the Author and Finisher (Hebrews 12) of their faith through praying with them and for them.  

Remembering Your Father — What will your children remember?

There is big problem in America today with the lack of dads for so many children.  For various reasons, those who should be the leaders and should be responsible feel that they are good enough fathers if they can just pay child support, but aren’t involved in the lives of their children in a committed way.  Marriage is being diluted down these days to mean nothing by those who see it as legal right they can claim and not a moral responsibility to be married in the way that God’s Word lays out for us very clearly – one man and one woman committed for life.  It is becoming acceptable in some quarters nowadays for young people to never even marry, go ahead and have children, and then proudly boast of their new baby on FaceBook with no shame at all; it is a proven fact that children born in this type of relationship are generally going to suffer.  People know this, yet the problem is growing.  The children are the ones being hurt the most and our society is reaping the fruits of this wholesale abandonment of what a true family really is.  Those who are blessed to have the opportunity for a family should cherish what they have before them and not toss it aside in the pursuit of selfish endeavors that aren’t going to bring fulfillment in the end anyway.

There are those out there who have lost a father due to no fault of the father, but because of an early death due to illness, or an accident.  Not having a father due to no choice upon the part of the father is tied to great sense of loss, but the sense of loss is even worse for those who know the father had a choice and made the decision to leave, or was just never committed enough to get married.  Those hurts run deep in our society.  Below is a poem about this topic:

I was sitting in church today;

My heavy burden I did carry.

He told that there is a better way–

Release that load here to bury.”

But I’m used to carrying it alone,

I want my load on my back to remain.

What could I do except maybe to loan. 

Give Me that load to take away the drain.”

I don’t know.  I’m so used to wearing

That weight without, it would be so light.

Give Me that load that you’ve been bearing,

And your future will be so much more bright.”

I’ll give it to You for a season,

But remember I want it back.

Guilt for not carrying it–that is the reason.

That load without–I would not know how to act.

The vision I saw was one of him–it’s him!

The one I barely knew, but miss him still.

An arm around me he placed to go meet Him.

Release this burden — it’s His will.”

That embrace felt so warm, so real!

It was usually Him, but now it was Him and him.

I wanted it to stay, but with life I must deal.

Keep your eyes closed so you can see them.

Let go of the hurt — it’s time you really live.

Carry this no more — put it on Him, my Father.

Leave it there this time after you give.”

Without the hurt I can remember him, my father.

There is choice before the male members of our culture and it is so clearly seen in the recent movie, Courageous.  It is a choice between becoming a real man, or staying a boy who just can’t seem to grow up and become responsible.  Guys — you need to love that girl enough to marry her and stop all of the excuses that only serve to protect the selfishness that is your heart.  Guys — you need to decide that the act of conceiving a child doesn’t make you man, but the act of first marrying the girl you say that you love, and then staying there through thick and thin to raise that child with your wife makes you a man.  Guys — you need to quit leaving it to the taxpayers to foot your bills by not marrying because you want the government to pay for the expenses of your girlfriend and children; grow up, take on your responsibilities, and be a man.  Guys — do want to be a man that your child can grow up one day and hopefully live long enough to hear them say that you did a good job, or do you want to see them grow up and realize that they just weren’t that important to you, even though you might have said you “loved” them. Guys — if you die, will your children have good memories that sustain them through their days of missing you, or will there be a void for the rest of their lives because that God-given desire for a loving father was never fulfilled for them?  There  is only one Hope for us all and that is Jesus Christ.  Through Him and Him alone, those voids can be mended for the many who hurt during a Father’s Day.  Become a man of honor to God and He will help you become what you cannot be on your own.  Trust Him — He wants to be your Father.Image