Doctor, Will You Pray With Me?

Doctor, Will You Pray With Me?


by Don Ingwerson

This question is not new, but it’s taking on a new look. It’s no secret that the public is using prayer for health purposes and that prayer has been reported as the most used integrative medicine. However, this is not so much about whether prayer should be used, but how. What can the patient expect from his physician if he or she – the patient – desires the integrative medicine of prayer?

Kevin B. O’Reilly, author of “When a Patient Visit Includes a Request for Prayer,” reported in the January 2003 Journal of General Internal Medicine that one in five patients was found to like the idea of praying with the doctor during a routine office visit, while nearly 30% wanted to do so during a hospital stay, and half of the patients would want to pray with the doctor in a near-death scenario.

These results show that many patients considering prayer a significant part of their health care. But what about the doctors’ reactions, and how do they deal with the patient’s prayer issues?

The April 9, 2007 Archives of Internal Medicine noted that about 75% of the physicians surveyed said patients sometimes or often mention spiritual issues such as God, prayer, meditation, or the Bible. Although doctors are encountering these topics on a regular basis, they are giving a very low-key response to them. In a May 2006 Medical Care study, based on a nationwide survey, 17% of physicians never pray with patients, while 53% do so only when patients ask.

With prayer being more widely accepted within integrative medicine, doctors may encounter more requests to incorporate prayer in health care – as integrative medicine is more fully embraced.

The Rand Corporation hosted an event titled “Integrative Health Care and Medicine,” in which they promote the incorporation of integrative medicine. I found their presentation of the event very interesting: “Integrative medicine combines the strengths of conventional medicine with effective and safe approaches in complementary and alternative medicine. In the past decade, the number of hospitals offering complementary therapies has more than doubled to over 20%, and, among Americans, 38% use integrative practices in their daily lives.”

As doctors and health care providers grapple with what role they should play in combining Western medicine with spirituality and prayer, the literature shows that the question is not should they – but how should they? The path through this array of treatments in the quest to attain quality health care is not yet clear, but it will need to be built on a consideration of doctor-patient ethics, patient demand, and an understanding of spirituality.

As Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland: “One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree.

‘Which road do I take?’ She asked.
His response was, ‘Where do you want to go?’
‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered.
‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.’”

The American public knows where it wants to go in the arena of health care, and the path at the fork in the road appears to include a reliance on prayer and other integrative therapies.

Article originally  published July 2, 2012 and first published in Blogcritics.

About the author

Don Ingwerson Don regularly blogs on health and spirituality and lives in Laguna Beach with his wife - both Christian Science practitioners. He brings his years serving the public in education to his work as a liaison of Christian Science, where he maintains contacts with the media and legislative offices.


  1. Pamela says

    Thanks Don for this reminder. We need to know where we want to go for then the way will be clear as to the direction we take. Doctors are increasingly coming to the realization that prayer is an effective weapon in healing disease. I have used prayer for healing all my life and have found it to be most reliable. In fact turning to God in prayer has always resulted in healing whatever was challenging me, whether it was health, relationships, supply, or employment. Prayer is an effective weapon over all evil. I have found this to be true.

  2. sue says

    I agree with the above comment. I too have found prayer an effective means of meeting health challenges in my life as well as issues with relationships, financial, work and the many other situations which need healing, direction and fresh perspectives. I am grateful that physicians and other medical related fields are discovering and finding ways to include the spiritual aspect in meeting the needs of their patients.

  3. says

    The “Which way?” question presents itself with each health challenge I face. In my life prayer is proving to be the means to know where to place my next footstep towards better health. I think that all healthcare professionals and patients who are searching to provide and experience true healing, we’ll find our path one step at a time. I am glad that the practice of medicine is open to the question.

  4. Anne Hughes says

    We get better results when we know where we want to go. Prayer gives direction and comfort. Good to hear of the return to prayer for healing among many health professionals. These are people who are looking to help mankind the best they know how.