Is There a Place in Medicine For Divine Healing?
I looked at the registration sheet in the transfer packet. His religious preference indicated “ISL”. My patient was a follower of Islam. My heart sank. I thought, “There’s no way he’ll let me pray for him.” The unit secretary was still copying records, so it would be a while before we would transport him to another hospital for surgery. I went to his room to introduce myself.
Crammed into a room slightly larger than a closet, I found Maurice, a man in his thirties with some big problems. After passing large amounts of blood in his bowel movements for three days, he reluctantly came to the emergency room. He’d managed to flush most of his blood volume down the toilet. A normal red blood cell count (RBC) is between 4.5 and 5.5. His was 1.6. His hemoglobin and hematocrit were critical. The ER doc ordered a transfusion of 6 units of whole blood for starters.
Maurice was diagnosed with high blood pressure at the age of 15. At the age of 18 he suffered his first stroke and spent 2 weeks in a coma. At 21, he developed kidney failure and learned about dialysis. My new friend had more medical problems than most men twice his age. I explained my part in the continuing drama of his life. We chatted as I thought about how we would get him out of the tiny room and keep the IV attached to his neck from pulling out.
Maurice was curious. The moment we got in the ambulance the questions began.
“Are the lights on?”
“Yes, but only on the left side. Most people don’t appreciate bright lights in their eyes.”
“Not the inside ones, I mean the ones on the outside. Are the red lights on?”
I smiled and asked if he thought we needed them. He said, “I don’t know, what do you think?”
I explained that we don’t use red lights much between hospitals because most of our patients are stable. We talked about the risks and benefits of running red lights and siren. But I shared the story with him about the woman we transported earlier in the day who was in premature labor. “We don’t like delivering babies in the ambulance.”
“What’s the difference between an EMT and a paramedic?”
“What’s the difference between a paramedic and a nurse?”
I really liked Maurice. He was a pleasant man in spite of his medical problems and he laughed at a lot of the things I said. He didn’t fit the stereotype of Muslims that I’d built in my mind. He was strangely….very much like me.
In explaining the differences between paramedics, EMT’s and nurses, I told him that I was a little different from most paramedics because I saw many of my patients healed in the ambulance.
With a puzzled look, he delivered his next question, “What do you mean healed?”
I told him a few stories about patients who had been healed. Now he was even more curious.
“Can you do anything about my headache?”
I asked how bad it was. He said it was very painful, about 8/10. I told him I’d command it to leave. I placed my hand on his head and commanded the pain to leave in the name of Jesus. Then I asked how he felt.
“A little better”
I put my hand on his head again and commanded the pain to leave then asked again.
“A lot better.”
I did it one more time. He said, “It’s gone…completely gone.” He was smiling from ear to ear.
I said, “Jesus just healed you.”
He wanted to discuss who Jesus was, but I kept the focus on getting him healed. I told him that God could give him new kidneys, and heal his GI bleed if he would let me continue praying. He nodded in agreement, so I placed my hands on his abdomen and commanded the bleeding to stop and for his kidneys to be healed. We arrived at the destination hospital and moved him to his ICU bed. I gave report to the nurse and left out the fact that his headache was healed.
Two days after transporting Maurice, I went to the ICU to check up on him.
During the next six months, I prayed with several hundred patients, but I didn’t follow up with any of them and I didn’t see any miracles. The lack of results was discouraging, but I continued having dreams about praying with my patients, so I kept asking people if I could pray with them.
One morning, we transported an elderly woman for flu-like symptoms. In gathering her history I learned that she had scoliosis and a torn meniscus in her left knee. I asked if she wanted to be healed. She said she did, so I prayed with her. Both her knee and her back were healed before we got to the hospital. She had no pain and complete freedom of movement. The same day we transported another elderly woman with fractured tibia. She was also healed, almost immediately.
In one weekend in 2010, I saw three ER nurses healed of foot problems. Two of them had plantar fasciitis and one had broken the 5th metatarsal on both feet. All three women were healed instantly. In a recent transport to a cath lab for a pacemaker implantation, I prayed with a 94-year-old woman who had bilateral frozen shoulders due to torn rotator cuffs. After praying with her, it seemed nothing had changed. But ten minutes later she suddenly raised her right arm straight up in the air and said, “Praise God, it’s a miracle!” Her right shoulder was completely healed. On the same weekend, a 95-year-old woman with crippling arthritis in her right knee was completely healed just a few minutes after I prayed with her.
In the last three years, I’ve seen hundreds, perhaps thousands of people healed. One of the great myths about healing is that healing is a gift, only given to a few special people. Nothing could be further from the truth. Twelve years ago I was an atheist. Four years ago I believed in God, but not in healing. I was the least likely candidate to receive the gift of healing if such a thing existed. The truth is; healing miracles can be a part of your life, just as they became a part of mine.
Divine healing and emergency medicine may at first seem like strange partners. Divine healing is a matter of faith. Medicine is mostly a matter of science. Our culture has at times, identified these two as being in conflict with one another. But the truth is; divine healing is an excellent complement to the practice of medicine. There are many conditions for which medicine has little to offer. The power of divine healing has virtually no limitations. While patients have a high degree of trust in the medical community, most patients also believe in a higher power.
In the minds of our patients, there is no conflict between healing prayer and medicine. In the last three years, I’ve asked over 1,000 patients if I could pray with them for healing. Less than a dozen have declined and those who did, thanked me for asking. When I began to ask patients about prayer – I wasn’t prepared for what I would find. I couldn’t believe how many people not only welcomed prayer, but were deeply touched when I asked. Many cried tears of joy simply because a stranger in an ambulance asked if he could pray with them. I’ve been surprised at how many agnostics, atheists, and people of other faiths have wanted me to pray with them. The ones who saw no immediate healing were grateful. The ones who were healed were ecstatic.
My observation is this; if you’re afraid your patients don’t want you praying with them – you’re wrong. More people are willing to receive prayer than you might think. This is especially true when the patient believes they are in dire straits.
Operating as a divine healer in health care is rewarding but it does come with a few challenges. I’ve met a few people who objected to a paramedic praying with patients on duty. I had a discussion with a doctor who was offended when she learned that I talked to my patients about God. In her mind my actions were unethical. She believes patients are vulnerable, seeing medical workers as experts. Her fear was that I would abuse my ‘expert’ status and push a vulnerable patient into accepting a religious point of view, without having time to fully consider it. I suppose some people may operate this way, though it seems rather manipulative. There is no reason why discussions can’t occur that allow us to share ideas without crossing the lines of sound ethical practice.
The truth is that my attempts to proselytize patients are extremely rare. When I ask a patient if I can pray with them, I have only a couple of things in mind. The main goal is to get them healed. A secondary goal is to introduce them to God in a way that is personal and memorable. I simply invite God to touch them in a way that will allow them to know He is real. And they are fully aware that’s what I’m doing. I allow my patients to hear me as I ask God to touch them. I don’t preach to them and I’m not in the habit of asking them to believe in Jesus as their savior.
If your motive for praying with a patient is to convert them to your religious belief, people have a right to question your motives. If on the other hand, your desire is to see your patients healed; your motives will be seen as less selfish and more consistent with the goals of sound patient care.
If EMS is about delivering the highest level of care and the best customer service possible, then divine healing should be a part of what we do, at least for those interested in the realm of faith. Yes, there are cultural obstacles to overcome. But there are no legal restrictions preventing us from pursuing this avenue of care.