Prayers can help the sick, caregivers

Published: April 13, 2007 | 5995th good news item since 2003

Are health care professionals (HCPs) spiritual? Spirituality is defined here as an ongoing relationship with God regardless of whether one is healthy, chronically stressed out, or sick. I encourage fellow HCPs to pray for, and with, their patients. Regardless of their belief system, HCPs have the ability to grow in practice depth, humility and compassion toward their patients, and model the concept of abundant wellness to those who are interested.

Research supports that prayer benefits our patients in the areas of depression management, as well as coping with serious medical illness. One study reported that 44 percent of patients surveyed experienced healing through prayer at some time in their lives. A meta-analysis of 42 studies found that the odds of survival were 29 percent higher for individuals involved in spiritual practice.

Studies regarding the medical effectiveness of intercessory prayer offered on behalf of others began to evolve in the 1960s. Results have been mixed. Yet, I have witnessed medical miracles over the past nine years as intercessory prayers were offered for my father during his chronic illnesses, including remission from multiple cancers. His healing defied logic and science.

If our perceptions of our patients’ need for prayer are not synchronized with their spiritual assertions, here are some tips to help us close the gap. First, we can create a spiritual wellness journal and write our own spiritual history through sickness and health, then share it with other interested HCPs. We can invite our patients to seek out HCPs who are equally focused on spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being. We should believe that God guides HCPs in the healing process whether or not this notion is articulated in their presence. Next, we might partner with our patients, asking open-ended questions like: “Sounds like you are trying to cope with a lot of health issues right now. Would you mind if I pray with you?” or, “Do you have a spiritual support community/system (i.e., chaplain, pastor, rabbi)?” Intuitive HCPs will take their patients’ lead for next steps.

Spiritual practice demonstrates gratitude for our gifts and humility in our relationships with our patients. Imagine health systems employees praying daily, from accounting, to housekeeping, to pharmacy, to nurses and physicians. For me, these scenarios represent a whole relationship with God on Earth. I, and many other HCPs, believe that faith-based prayers to God are important instruments for healing for all of us. Spiritual HCPs may wish to consider integrating prayer into their professional practice.

Published in Prayer
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