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October 19, 2008

Do You Pray With Your Patients?

Handspray72x721 I have been having interesting online conversations with fellow patients diagnosed with dystonia about the use and effect of spirituality and faith on chronic disease and illness. Most of us with dystonia realize that a cure is a long way off, especially with NIH funding cuts. Personally, I don’t expect a cure for my dystonia during my lifetime. I expect only the reality of dealing with a complicated, complex, disorder marked by misfiring neurons of unknown origin!

I believe that healing prayer can be effective for physical issues, mental/emotional issues, and spiritual issues. Too often, people are looking for only the instantaneous and complete healings that Jesus performed. To be sure, those kinds of healings still occur today.  But they seem to be just as rare now as then. It’s more common to see gradual healing, often in conjunction with traditional healing methods like medicine, surgery, and counseling.  Just keep in mind that healing is the work of God, done by his will.  No one can control it.  We can only position ourselves -- or others -- to receive it, and then ask.  And we should not be surprised if we ask for one type of healing, such as physical, and receive another, such as spiritual.

However, I have never been asked by a patient or their family to pray with them in the ICU setting. Have you? This shouldn’t be a surprise for a simple reason.  Western medicine in particular has been relatively single-minded in its approach to healing, focusing primarily on the body -- and even just parts of the body -- for physical healing.  But as healthcare advances, a more holistic approach to healing is emerging. The relationship among body, mind, and spirit is becoming clearer. 

As the acuity of patients rises, will the use and power of prayer increase? Should we, as nurses, encourage the role of prayer in healing and comfort? What about our own beliefs? Do miracles occur in medicine today? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Quote: "Find out about prayer.  Someone must find out about prayer." (Albert Einstein)

Related Resources
Primum non nocere (First, Do No Harm): Prayer, Culture, and Evidence-Based Practice

Intercessory Prayer for the Alleviation of Ill Health

October 19, 2008 in Beka | Permalink


Amy's post is most reasonable to me.

Personally, I can't understand why a family would ask the professional hospital staff to pray with them or for them. That is what the hospital chaplan is for.

I'm not a nurse. I'm a visitor who prays for my loved ones and was taken aback (hopefully I did not show it) recently when one nurse began probing about prayer and whether or not we were Christian. She was very nice and I know she did not have bad intent, but it did seem inappropriate. It is a traditional preference for us to utilize the chaplan or minister.

I'm curious what nursing students are taught about this issue- if it's broached in an ethics class or codes?

Posted by: Angela Thompson | Feb 12, 2011 10:39:05 PM

thankyou so much for this kind way to help others in a meaningful way. i think its a great idea, and only hope the powers that be will allow it. they haven't in the past.

Posted by: sandy p. | Nov 7, 2009 11:01:52 AM

Requesting Pray for Olivia Escobar

This 2009 God Bless you.
My request is for my sister Olivia, who is at home in Dania, FL. She has been in bed for 17 months without recognize anybody in silence after received 3 surgeries due to her brain bleeding. We have faith, nothing is impossible to God, that is why we continue praying every single day for Olivia and asking God for strengths and no dismay. We know that if we pray all together, God is going to response and heal Olivia for full recovery.

Thank you very much and God bless you


Doris Phan

Posted by: Doris | May 5, 2009 11:31:59 PM

Requesting Pray for Olivia Escobar

This 2009 God Bless you.
My request is for my sister Olivia, who is at home in Dania, FL. She has been in a coma for 13 months without recognize anybody after received 3 surgeries due to her brain bleeding. We have faith, nothing is impossible to God, that is why we continue praying every single day for Olivia and asking God for strengths and no dismay. We know that if we pray all together, God is going to response and heal Olivia for full recovery.

Thank you very much and God bless you


Doris and Juventina

Posted by: Doris | Feb 4, 2009 11:19:35 AM

Yes, I have prayed with a family as the husband/father lay dying. They were of the Catholic faith, I am a Baptist. This did not matter. The chaplain could not get there in time and I was afraid that they would received no peace. The son grabbed my arm and pleaded with me to pray with them. I did. I was nervous. Are we taught somewhere in nursing school NOT to pray? I couldn't remember for sure. That did not matter either.
I prayed a simple prayer. Focused more on the family than the dying man lying in the bed. The family would be the ones to go on. That was my focus. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had as a critical care nurse

Posted by: Teresa | Jan 18, 2009 3:19:17 PM

Dear Doris,
i have just read your letter in regards to your sister Olivia, my hear just melted. I have a 10 year old daughter named Hannah, and she is my world and i can only imagine what you and your family must be going through. I am a student nurse at the moment and apart from studying very hard i am a christian and beleive strongly in the power of prayer. I have included some words of encouragmenet for you and your family that may give you some hope... When my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. - He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. The lord is the strength of my life. Be not far from me, for trouble is near, thou art near, O Lord thou hast heard my voice. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himslf, and God, even our father,, which hath oved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts. i will pray for you and your sister and your family and i will share it my church so you can know in your heart that she is being prayed for from our church in Devonport, Tasmania. I hope you find some comfort from these words and i truly hope that your sister will get better soon. take care and God Bless you all,
Jeanette Overton...

Posted by: jeanette overton | Dec 8, 2008 7:59:26 PM

The power of prayer is always there. I worked in a catholic hospital for 10 years and then embarked on in a private agency. I still say my prayers are with you with the caregivers and the patients. Why not? It can't hurt.

Posted by: Norma Steiner | Nov 21, 2008 5:53:46 PM

in response to beka's question regarding "asking if patients or families want to pray in dire situations"...i will sometimes ask if they have anyone they would like me to call for them for support or if they would like a chaplin. Then if they are receptive to any of these promptings, i will sometimes tell them that i will be praying for them...........pause..........and ask if they would like me to pray right now.

Posted by: peg | Nov 10, 2008 11:11:56 AM

Requesting Pray for Olivia Escobar

I would like to ask you if possible to include my younger sister Olivia Escobar in your prayers, she has been in a coma for 10 months.

At this moment she is at home in Dania, FL. She was discharged from North Broward Hospital in October 8 after had 3 surgeries due to her brain bleeding. The doctor said that she suffered severe brain damage and he doesn’t know what is going to happen with her.

That is why, I keep asking to keep praying for her to complete the miracle, at this point Olivia is opening her eyes, saying mom, and she is moving a lot one of her arms, but she still in bed in a coma.

My mom is been taking care of Olivia , but she suffers a lot seeing her daughter in that condition all this time and without knowing what is going to happen with her. I know that for God nothing is impossible, that is why, as a family member we keep paying every single day for Olivia and asking God for strengths to continue and no dismay, especially my mom that is a little be old and for her is very difficult this situation.

Thank you very much and God bless you.



Posted by: Doris | Nov 7, 2008 9:44:49 AM

i belive in praying with the patient and the relatives for their recovery and good health. i do not pray in front of the patient but i remember all the patient in my prayer and i always advice the patient and relatives to pray atleast for half an hour with concentration. i observed patient feel better after prayer.

Posted by: champabhim | Nov 6, 2008 1:40:25 AM

I pray FOR all my patients. I pray WITH them only on request. If the patient's faith is different than mine, I let them know that. Then I ask whether they want me to find someone else of their own faith to pray with them (and tell them I will pray for them also), or if they just want someone, anyone, to pray for them regardless. I find that most just want someone to pray with them regardless, but not all do. And they are appreciative of the offer to find someone of their own faith to help.
I am a born again Christian, but at one time, I had rejected Christianity. I found that those who insisted on my conversion turned me off, so I don't do that. And I find that quite often, my actions have opened doors so I can share my beliefs as information with which they can do as they wish. I can't do the hard core witnessing thing.
I did study most religions, even cults, in my search for the truth, so I am familiar enough with the major parts of most religious customs that I can discuss them intelligently and know what questions to ask people of other faiths about their beliefs. This opens a lot of doors for me.
I don't hesitate when I am speaking with someone who shares my faith, because that would disrespect others who believe as I do. But I tread gently with those of other faiths and exchange information that I hope one day will encourage them to study my religion as I once studied theirs.
As for critical care areas, in a crisis, I simply tell the family and patient that I am praying for them and leave it at that. If they want more, I pray with them but at that point, I make sure of their religious preferences first so that I can attempt to find someone of their religion to pray with them if they want.

Posted by: Amy | Oct 29, 2008 8:20:30 PM

After last night, dealing with a patient in multi-system organ failure, a spuse without a support system, alone...How DO YOU ASK WHETHER a patient's family desires prayer in dire situations like this ???
Any suggestions ??


Posted by: beka | Oct 28, 2008 3:12:32 PM

I very much believe in the power of prayer as a born again Christian. I pray for my patients regularly either hands on or in my daily prayers and do have parents ask me to pray for their children as I work for Kid's Path, the children's program with Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro.

Posted by: Debbie | Oct 21, 2008 2:40:14 PM

I have been asked by patients to pray with them prior to surgery. I have done so, even though my own faith wavers. I feel that the patients' asking is such a gesture of faith in me that I almost feel an obligation to pray.

Posted by: Suzanne | Oct 20, 2008 9:19:53 AM

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