How I Began Praying With Patients (Dr. David Levy)

The Following article is from the website of Dr. David Levy, DrDLevy.com.

drlevyMy heart was pounding wildly as I climbed the back stairs at the hospital and entered the pre-operative area. Nurses, anesthesiologists, and doctors rushed by holding charts, IV bags, and vials of medicine. I have some nervous anticipation before surgery, especially before complex cases, but am always the portrait of a confident neurosurgeon. Even the smells of the hospital — rubbing alcohol, latex, sterilized steel — trigger feelings of ascendancy in me.

But today I was terrified.

I had made up my mind to pray for a patient before surgery.

For years I had passing thoughts about praying for patients, not just in my head but in their presence. But I could not imagine what prayer would look like in the medical practice. In all my training and in practice, I had never seen a physician pray for a patient. The surgeon’s motto is “heal with steel.” Prayer is a polar opposite.

My own opinion of spirituality and medicine had changed a great deal since medical school. I had always believed that spirituality and medicine were weakly connected and could be explained by the placebo effect. But as I grew in my appreciation for the connection between our physical and spiritual lives, my opinion changed.

One Saturday I was in the dentist’s chair preparing to have a filling replaced. My dentist friend had the Novocaine syringe with the long needle in his hand. Like most surgeons, I hate having the needle or scalpel turned on me. My dentist friend sensed my apprehension, put his other hand on my shoulder, and said a short prayer asking God to guide his hands during the procedure. A sense of peace washed over me. The procedure went fine, and I went home feeling not just fixed but encouraged.

That confirmed to me that God wanted me to pray with my patients before surgery and transmit that same kind of peace to them. But I remained skeptical and kept giving God my best reasons against it.

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