Several years ago I had an experience in a dentists’ chair that completely changed the way I practice medicine. It started when my dentist pulled out a 3-inch needle – then tried to hide it. Being a neurosurgeon, I’ve always felt that when it comes to needles, it is “more blessed to give than to receive!” Seeing me tense up, he stopped what he was doing, put his hand on my shoulder, and said a short prayer. I don’t remember what he said but I felt a peace come over me. A simple prayer made a difference. On the way home I knew I should offer prayer to my patients.
Though conventional wisdom said faith and medicine don’t mix, why not use every tool at my disposal to bring comfort and peace? Studies also show that 70-80% of Americans claim to pray regularly and that patients place a high value on spirituality, especially during a time of illness. Why not as for God’s assistance as I worked to bring healing to my patients?
It has been my experience that since I’ve started asking to pray for my patients they’ve received higher levels of spiritual, physical, and emotional health than ever before. For them, prayer has made a difference.
It made a difference for Mrs. Jones, who was the first patient I ever prayed with. I felt an inner prompting to pray with her, but struggled with just how to go about it. Even after she agreed to idea, I still hesitated because there were other “professionals” in the room. First I waited for the nurse to leave, then the anesthesiologist. Finally, it was just me, the patient and her family. I made it short and sweet, asking God to grant me skill and wisdom to perform the surgery. When I opened my eyes I saw that Mrs. Jones and her family members were weeping. The surgery went well, and the family thanked me for praying with them. It was a precious discovery, and I was determined to make prayer a priority in my medical practice going forward.
Prayer is a sacred matter and I still prefer to do it privately if possible. I don’t push faith on people and I don’t pray with everyone. I ask patients if they would like prayer before surgery because I care and because it’s authentic. It’s honest to say that I’m good at surgery, but there are things outside my control. If patient’s indicate that they’d like prayer, I am willing to pray with them and believe that it promotes healing.