Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Praying with Patients

Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. Jas 5:14-15

About 3 years ago, I felt it on my heart to start praying regularly with my patients. I am an interventional radiologist performing liver directed therapies on patients with very advanced cancer. One morning in my Christian small group, a colleague challenged me to pray with my cancer patients that day. I agreed and decided to begin. We prayed about it together and I went to work.

My first opportunity was a woman for whom I was planning radioembolization of metastatic liver tumors that were causing pain. As I was consenting her, I wanted to pray with her, but instead I chickened out and went back to dictate some cases in another room. Five minutes later, my nurse called me back into the interventional suite. She told me that the patient did not want the procedure until I said a prayer with her. I was flabbergasted. I have performed over 10,000 procedures and not one other patient has asked for me to pray with them. God was watching and was faithful to prod me along. I got the message. Since that time, I regularly pray with my cancer patients.

Charles Nutting DO

Is prayer with patients beneficial enough to overcome the fear of rejection that sometimes comes with offering it? I suspect Dr. Nutting would say it is.

Many doctors, from their experience, can describe the amazing bonding that occurs between a doctor and a patient or a doctor and the patient’s family because that doctor, unlike all others, took them to the Lord. Such bonding is valuable in medical decision making. Patients and their families know that they can trust this doctor, and that they are of more importance than their bill or their biology.

Besides this, praying with a patient reminds the doctor of the truth of life; that God loves and cares for this patient. That each patient encounter is a divine appointment where God is planning an eternal work.

Prayer with the doctor reminds the patient where their security really lies. However good the doctor skills, our lives are ultimately dependent on God’s hands; and God’s hands will not let us go.

Probably most important, God honors the invitation of prayer. He actually draws near when we call on Him and His power is present, guided by His will to touch and heal, to place within the illness eternal significance, for His glory and for the redemption of our world.

Dear God,
Help me listen for Your whisper as I care for my patients. Give me the opportunity and the courage to pray with them when You lead. Amen.

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