Healing in Health Care
I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to see many people healed in the setting of emergency medicine. I think healing and medicine make a wonderful partnership, though not everyone agrees. There are many issues that need to be considered if you want to use divine healing in your medical practice. In this message, we’ll discuss the most common problems and look at some solutions.
Before I began operating in divine healing, one of the things that bothered me about claims of healing miracles, was the apparent lack of credible testimonies from medical experts. The few stories I’d heard were reported in such a way that made their verification impossible. Symptoms were poorly described, no diagnosis or mention of medical treatments was given and little was provided in the way of diagnostic testing afterward to verify the claims of healing. I found these stories hard to take seriously.
Since then I’ve learned that a lot of clinical research has been done on healing prayer and much of it suggests that the power of prayer can be observed and predicted through clinical trials.
In 1988, Randolph Byrd shocked the world with the results of a study he had conducted five years earlier on the effects of prayer on cardiac patients. Byrd studied 393 patients admitted to a coronary care unit in a San Francisco hospital. The patients were “statistically inseparable,” meaning their conditions and symptoms were all similar.
Patients were randomly assigned to one of two groups – those who received intercessory prayer and those who didn’t. Neither the doctor nor the patients knew who was in which group. Byrd gave the first name, diagnosis, and condition of patients in the prayer group to different groups of three or four active Christians from several denominations.
These groups prayed for their patient daily throughout the patient’s stay, away from the hospital, without meeting the patient. They prayed for a timely, easy recovery and one free from complications.
When the study concluded, Byrd found that there was indeed a significant difference in the quality of recovery among patients who received prayer: The prayer group fared better on average than their fellow patients who did not receive prayer. Almost 85 % of the prayer group scored “good” on the rating system used by hospitals to rate a patient’s response to treatment. They were less likely to have a heart attack, need antibiotics or require interventions like ventilation or intubation. By contrast, only 73.1% of members of the control group scored “good.”
Research on prayer has nearly doubled in the past ten years, says David Larson, MD, MSPH, president of the National Institute for Healthcare Research, a private nonprofit agency. Even the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which refused to review a study with the word “prayer” in it four years ago, is now funding one prayer study through its Frontier Medicine Initiative.
Advances in traditional medicine will continue, but they will eventually plateau. Research in the field of divine healing is just getting started. Duke University, John Hopkins and other medical centers are building programs to study and harness the full potential of spiritual healing. The landscape of health care is rapidly changing. Here is a glimpse of what it may look like in the future:
In February of 2011, I had a dream in which I watched a new hospital being built. I walked to the construction site every day to check on the progress, taking a different route each day, trying to find the shortest one.
One day I arrived as the building was nearing completion. I walked to the street corner and began walking up a steep sidewalk next to the building. There was a handrail, so I used it to climb the long, steep slope. I met a man coming down the sidewalk. He was tall and austere in appearance. He was one of the hospital staff. As we met, he glared at me and kept walking.
There was one more element in the dream; at the beginning of the dream, I watched hospital employees standing around a bed, speaking curses that were damaging a patient. They seemed to be unaware of what they were doing. At the end of the dream, when the hospital was completed, the same group of people stood in the same room and prayed for a patient, who was healed by their prayers.
Let’s do some interpretation:
I believe the new hospital represents a new model of health care that God is “building.” My trips to the construction site reveal my involvement (and probably the involvement of people like me) in “seeing” the new model of health care as it is built. The fact that I took a different way each day, trying to find the shortest route would suggest there are longer and shorter paths to seeing the project completed. Our influence is intended to get it done in the most expedient and efficient way possible.
The steep sidewalk is a reminder that we have an “uphill battle” in helping the medical community see the value of divine healing.
The austere man is a representative of the existing medical paradigm. While they may be left “speechless” by what they witness happening, they may not react favorably.
Finally, the group of people who cursed the patient in the beginning and prayed for their healing in the end, could reveal a present problem and the solution to it.
The problem is that many health care workers speak words to their patients that rob them of hope and cause them to agree with sickness and death. We have enormous power in our words and people hold our views in high esteem. When we tell a patient there is no hope for survival, they tend to believe it. They give up hope, even ruling out the miraculous. If we neglect to tell patients that God wants to heal them, we’ve concealed from them what is perhaps the most important fact of all.
The solution is to speak frankly about their chances of survival from a medical standpoint. If medicine has nothing to offer, tell them so and point them to the fact that God isn’t limited in the ways that we are. We need to give them hope that a miracle is always possible, even if we don’t believe it’s likely. That option should never be taken from them. If we truly want the best outcomes for our patients, I think that includes praying for them to be healed.
Divine healing and medicine may 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.
When God challenged me to begin praying for my patients, I had some anxiety over it. I wasn’t afraid to pray silently for patients. That doesn’t take a lot of faith. It was the idea of asking a stranger if they wanted me to pray with them that terrified me. I was also afraid someone would complain to my manager.
In the last few years, I’ve prayed in public for several thousand people. About half of these were on the job and half were at stores and other public places. I have prayed for very few people in church settings. That’s right—I pray for many more people outside of the church than inside. Of all the patients I’ve asked, I can only remember a few who declined. Keep in mind that I did all this in the pacific-northwest where church attendance is the lowest in the US.
My observation is this: if you’re afraid that your patients don’t want you praying with them – you’re probably wrong. More people are willing to receive prayer than you might think. This is especially true when a patient believes they are seriously ill or on the verge of death.
Operating as a divine healer in health care is rewarding but it does come with challenges. I have met a few people who objected to a paramedic praying with his 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. Sadly, Christians have developed a reputation for using high-pressure tactics to convert people to Christianity. While some people may operate this way, it can be a subtle form of manipulation. Is there a reason why discussions can’t occur that allow us to share ideas about faith and God without crossing the lines of sound ethical practice?
When I ask a patient if I can pray with them, I have only two things in mind. One is to get them healed; the other 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 them 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 medicine 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 at the time of this writing, I am aware of no legal restrictions (in the US) that prevent us from pursuing this avenue of care. Please consult a legal expert in your area to determine if there are restrictions where you live.
Weighing the Risk
Can we expect a few complaints? I suppose we should. Not long after I began praying with my patients I was called into my manager’s office. A nurse in one of the emergency departments saw me praying with a patient and filed a complaint with her manager. Her manager and mine had a talk about it. I found it a bit ironic that this happened at of all places, a Catholic hospital. I worked for one of the largest private ambulance services in the country. In asking his supervisors what he should do about the complaint, my manager discovered some surprising news. None of the managers in our company could recall ever dealing with an employee caught praying with a patient.
In our meeting, I explained that God asked me to pray for the people I transport. I told my manager I always ask permission before praying and I always respect the wishes of those who say no. He said our company had no policy regarding prayer on the job and there were no plans to change that. My manager’s position was very reasonable. His only concern was that I avoid behavior that might generate complaints from our customers. He respected my convictions about prayer. He said I would be allowed to continue praying for patients under two conditions: first, I had to ask permission and second, I agreed to confine it to the back of the ambulance.
Most fire departments and hospitals have some type of chaplain service for their customers, including hospitals with no religious affiliation. Becoming a part of the chaplain’s service may open doors for you to pray with patients and family members, perhaps even staff. The fact that we have these services demonstrates a belief that the spiritual needs of our patients are real and that meeting those needs is a legitimate part of the service we provide.
I would like to know how an organization that advocates spiritual care in one sense, could reprimand an employee for providing it in the normal duties of their job, merely because they don’t have the title of “chaplain.” There is no reason why we should receive disciplinary action because we pray for patients who request it. And there is no reason to believe that any special training or certification is needed to provide spiritual care. Although western culture holds college degrees and ordination in high regard, there is no biblical basis for believing that they qualify us for service. Jesus used simple, uneducated people to work miracles of healing and raise the dead. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t follow that example today.
One fear we have is that of suffering discipline for praying with a patient. I had that fear and it proved to be unfounded. I’m not saying you won’t catch some flak from your supervisor – it’s certainly possible. But for citizens of the US, our constitution guarantees certain rights that we don’t surrender when we come to work.
I don’t advocate a militant or defiant attitude toward prayer in health care. Romans chapter 13 tells us to respect the authorities placed over us and that includes supervisors at work. Humility and a spirit of cooperation will go a long way. God opens doors and changes people’s hearts. I do a lot of prayer in the area of asking God to grant me favor with people as I step out in faith and pray for the sick. If God wants you to heal your patients, He’ll make the way safe, though you’ll almost certainly encounter a little opposition.
I had a dream about this situation shortly after I began praying for my patients. In the dream, I was on the run from the enemy and took refuge in a hospital. I wore scrubs and blended in with the staff. I slept in a bedroom on the top floor where the doctor’s dorms were located.
I was there for many days. Occasionally an agent of the enemy showed up at the hospital looking for me. When I saw them, I’d pull a surgical mask over my face and duck down a hallway or get on an elevator. As long as I didn’t draw attention to myself, the enemy didn’t notice me.
This was a dream of major revelation. It was God’s way of telling me that I was protected and given favor in the setting in which I worked. I could pray for my patients with confidence as long as I didn’t make a scene or draw attention to myself. I think we’re a lot safer than we believe in the realm of praying for our patients and I believe God will reveal strategies to overcome obstacles if you ask Him.
I’d encourage you to pursue God’s heart for your situation. Ask the Lord if you’re supposed to be praying for your patients. Begin looking for opportunities to test the waters. When you start praying with patients, expect to see a few miracles. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t. It was only through months of praying that I eventually saw see people healed.
The nature of our job doesn’t always allow us to follow up with patients. Some people are healed immediately, but they don’t realize it until being tested. Some are healed weeks or months later. Don’t give up. God is faithful. He will honor your obedience, in time.
This is an excerpt from the book Divine Healing Made Simple.
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