Monday, April 4, 2016


Flower Seller making hair decorations

Prescription: Prayer
    The long road of quest for healing had led me to an Ayurvedic Clinic in India. 
Outside, the large Pipal tree cast its shade over the wooden framework eaves. The cooing of doves and the screech of parading peacocks flashing their jewelled feathers in the garden sounded through the slumbering afternoon.
  A wooden statue, reverently garlanded with strung yellow and white flowers glowed serenely in the midsummer heat. 

  Burning rosewood incense smoked in the vestibule while slumberous scent rose from the buckets of the seller who sat busily knotting jasmine hair decorations at the Clinic gate.
The serenity of the afternoon completed the picture that is both the Mystery and Beauty of India.
  As I waited for the Ayurvedic consultant to give me diagnosis and medication, I expected anything but his courteous first words:
  "You will be given various prayers to pray throughout the day.
  We need to ensure there is no withheld anger of lack of forgiveness before beginning medical treatments."
  I literally left the consultation holding a prescription for prayer in my hand.

  Dear Reader, it is many years later. I still practise the prayers and asanas [yoga postures] that accompany ongoing striving for good general health. 
  More than 2500 years ago Siddharta Gautama attained the Supreme Enlightenment and became Buddha under the shade of the Pipal tree. 
  Near the shade of the descendent of this sacred plant, I learned that the most powerful prescription of all is prayer.

Spirituality and Medicine
Religious and spiritual beliefs and practices are important in the lives of many patients, yet physicians are often uncertain about whether, when or how, to address spiritual or religious issues. 1
  In previous times physicians were trained to diagnose and treat disease, and had little or no training in how to relate to the patient's spiritual being.
  Added to this, professional ethics require physicians to not impinge their personal beliefs on patients who are vulnerable when seeking health care.
  In a climate of religious pluralism, there is a wide range of belief systems: this can prove a hurdle in competent interaction for a healthcare professional.
  However, McCormick tells us that research indicates that the religious beliefs and spiritual practices of patients are powerful factors for many in coping with serious illnesses and in making ethical choices about their treatment options and in decisions about end-of-life care.

Religious Surveys
Surveys of the Public in the 2008 Gallup Report show a high prevalence of belief in God, 78%; and an additional 15% who believe in a higher power. 2
  One survey in Vermont involving family physicians showed that 91% of the patients reported belief in God as compared with 64% of the physicians. 3
  A 1975 survey of psychiatrists showed that 43% professed a belief in God. 4
 McCormick tells us that these surveys remind us that there is a high incidence of belief in God in the public surveyed. It also appears that physicians as a group in the relevant survey are somewhat less inclined to believe in God.
  Whereas up to 77% of patients would like to have their spiritual issues discussed as a part of their medical care, less than 20% of physicians currently discuss such issues with patients. 5
  McCormick concludes that physicians clearly are not inquiring about spirituality to nearly the degree that patients prefer. 6
  Reader, I have taken McCormick's example as it shows clear quantifiable evidence post-survey about the link between spirituality and medicine.

Why is it important to attend to spirituality in medicine?
When illness threatens the health and possibly the life of a person, that person is likely to come to the physician with both physical symptoms and spiritual issues in mind.
  It is through the two channels - medicine and religion - that humans grapple with common issues of suffering, loneliness, infirmity, despair and death.
At the same time they search for hope, meaning and personal value in their illness crisis.

  It can be an immense comfort for an ill believer in God to receive visits from his or her worship leader. These pastoral visits during illness or hospitalization can be a major source of comfort and reassurance.
  The spiritual history of the person is a deeply important part of her or his nature. 
How can a spiritual history be taken with sensitivity and discretion?
  Well, often the spiritual history can be incorporated into the present format of 'bio-physical-social-spiritual' patient history.
  McCormick postulates that the following can be simply stated, "As physicians, [or as physicians-in-training], we have discovered that many of our patients have spiritual or religious beliefs that have a bearing on their perceptions of illness and their preferred modes of treatment. 
  If you are comfortable discussing this with me, I would like to hear from you of any beliefs or practices that you would want me to know about as your caregiver."
  If the patient responds affirmatively, follow-up questions can be used to elicit additional information.
  If the patient responds 'no' or 'none' it is a clear signal to move on to the next topic. 7

Any health issue or near death experience is a crisis. 
  People facing serious illness, accident or death often experience a crisis of meaning.
Prior to the crisis in health life carries on much as normal.
You get up, work, have your meals, enjoy comfortable relationships with your family, friends and colleagues. All is at peace.
  Until suddenly you fall into a deep dark well. 
  Your health undergoes crisis; you are no longer able to carry out your life and duties as before.
  Change in work ability leads to lessening of your employability.
Loss of employment leads to change in personal status, and - if you placed great reliance on your work identity - a loss of your role.
  Your status in society changes, your role in the family changes as you no longer can carry the responsibilities or role you previously carried.
  In a nutshell, through a health crisis you have changed from a caregiver and perceived productive member of society. to a care needer.
  And the change in role can lead to various consequences.

Spiritual isolation and depression
The person undergoing the health challenge may feel very alone and afraid.
  As he or she attempts to climb out of the dark hole of fear and pain in which they find themselves, they are desperately in need of a kind word and hope.
  Illness can lead to a questioning of many issues previously unquestioningly accepted in the person's life.
  Doubts about God may surface, and even doubt in the existence of God.
 Depression is a common experience of those undergoing a serious health challenge.
  What can help in this time of trial and suffering?
As the Ayurvedic physician prescribed for me as first step in the healing process; prayer. Prayer is a great help.
  Pastoral chaplains can prove a veritable lifeline to those who are ill.

Hospital Chaplains
It is important to know that the physician is not alone in relating to the spiritual needs of the patient, but can rely on the teamwork of well trained hospital chaplains.
  Chaplains are trained to help when the spiritual needs of the patient are outside the physician's competence.
Hospital chaplains play an essential role as part of the multidisciplinary team caring for sick people.
  Some people struggle with terror as they feel overwhelmed by the pain of their illness, and the challenges the healthcare treatments pose.
  There is often a struggle with the financial implications of treatment; ill health is an expensive situation to be in.
  People in serious illness crisis can experience some, or all, of the following;
  • Religious struggle: Feelings of alienation from their spiritual community, anger with God for allowing the health crisis to happen
  • Crisis of faith: Wondering whether God actually exists
  • Depressive thoughts: Feelings of 'why did this happen to me?' 'Can I go on?'
  • Financial worry: 'I can't afford this'
  • Family concerns: 'Who will take care of my children?'
  • Practical questions: Concerning the permissibility of procedures such as blood transfusion, organ donation and other questions arise regularly for people of faith.
In many cases, chaplains will have specialized knowledge of how medical procedures are viewed by various religious bodies.
  The Chaplain has been well trained in expert listening and communication skills, and in responding to patients undergoing struggle.

Chaplains can assist in providing or arranging rituals that are important to patients.
  Some patients may need Scripture assurances. Others may wish to be led in prayer.
Others may request the sacraments of baptism, communion, anointing.
  Some patients may need the services of a religious leader such as a Rabbi, Pandit or Imam. 
The competent Chaplain is able to provide direct services for the patient where applicable, or to act as liaison with the patient's clergy person.

Development of Scientific Medicine 
It is important that the religious physician who has different beliefs to that of the patient, does not impose personal belief onto the patient.
  The person in health crisis requires spiritual support, not conversion.
It is of equal importance that the nonreligious physician does not underestimate the importance of the patient's belief system.
  Religious beliefs are important to many healthcare professionals. 
For some, medicine is a secular profession.
  For others, there is a sense of vocation; they feel called by God to this profession.

The opening line from the Oath of Maimonides, a Scholar of Torah and a physician [1135-1204] reads; 'The external providence has appointed me to watch over the life and health of Thy creatures.' 8
  Priest and medicine practitioner were one and the same in earlier times in most cultures.
An early division of the roles of priest and healer occurred in the Christian Church.
  Over time, the 'Corpus Juris Canonici' , the Council of Tours [1163], the Fourth Council of the Lateran [1215] with ecclesiastical canons such as canon twenty-two Cum Infirmitas and the Bull of Clement XII slowly formed a climate which became more adverse to the free and unencumbered practice of the art of medicine by clerics.
  Medicine became the sphere of the non-priest divisions in the church, the monks.
This initial division intensified further when the development of scientific medicine led to a clear division between the professions.
  After Descartes and the French Revolution it was said that the body belongs to the physician and the soul to the priest. 
  In the current medicine culture, some physicians wonder whether, when and how to express themselves to patients regarding faith.
  The general consensus is that physicians should take their cues from the patient with care not to impose their own beliefs. 9

Healing power of Prayer
As prescribed by my Ayurvedic practitioner, I practised prayer a number of times daily as part of my ongoing treatment.
  The very act of reaching out to God during my sometimes deeply painful procedures made me feel supported and cherished. I did not feel alone; I sensed that God was with me as I struggled through the illness.

Reader, the healing power of prayer is a universal concept. 
  Rebekah Pratt believes that prayer is - and always has been - an integral and valuable part of medicine. 10
  Pratt believes prayer to refer to any action that attempts to connect a person with a divine or universal force of energy for a specific purpose, without attaching or limiting itself to a specific religion or belief practice. 
  Prayer thus becomes universal in many forms including meditation, bio-energy healing, pranic healing and laying on of hands.
  In the Lakota tradition, the sacred pipe is a form of prayer. 
The tobacco, containing herbs with both male and female medicine, acts as the connection to the Divine Energy of the Great Spirit.
  When the White Buffalo appears, it is a sign that prayers are being heard [Sams & Carson, 1999]. 11

Christians have prayed for centuries - to God, the Angels and the Saints - requesting healing for the sick.
  Blessed holy water is often used in prayer as a connection to God. 
Healing oils are used to anoint people in order to transfer healing effects.
  Holy water from the miraculous spring from Lourdes in France is believed to have special healing properties, as is water from holy wells and springs all over the known world.
  According to the Jewish tradition, illness is viewed as a potential barrier separating us from God [Sherwin, 2001]. 12
  Prayers are often prayed at services requesting health and well-being for members.
Meditation has been used in many religions as a form of prayer healing. Buddhism offers prayer banners and prayer wheels for healing. 
  Prayer wheels are used to purify negative karmas and aid in stopping disease [Rinpoche, 1994]. 13
  Spiritual practices can help to improve coping skills and social support.
Qualities such as faith, hope and forgiveness, as well as the use of social support and prayer can support those searching for health and healing.
  A person's most deeply held beliefs - faith - can strongly influence health.
Some believe that faith increases the body's resistance to stress. 14

Dear Reader, every priest or minister will find a qualification in counseling deeply helpful.
  Counselors are much sought after in a society dealing with depression, medical and spiritual conditions, parenting challenges and marriages in difficulties.
  Counseling as a career takes work and effort.
The basic steps to become a spiritual counselor are;
  • Be a person of faith; the counselor must first be sure of his or her personal faith
  • Gain a quality education; Excellent training with an accredited degree is an essential. Many counselors earn masters degrees in counseling; and some attain their doctorates. Clinical Pastoral Education is an excellent education for chaplaincy 15
  • Select a specialty; Counseling is a vast field with many specialities. At some stage in your decision making, you will need to choose a counseling specialty. Examples are hospital chaplaincy, marriage, addiction, adolescence, post-traumatic stress syndrome, post conflict areas, rehabilitation of rescued child soldiers, counseling of youth rescued from human trafficking 
  • Enter clinical training; After your education is complete, gain experience in the counseling field.
  • Earn counseling licensure; Many areas require that counselors be board-certified. Requirements may include relevant qualifications, some years of experience in counseling, and the passing of an examination. Check the requirements of the area in which you wish to practice, and fulfil them. 
The healing road
Once the peak of the illness crisis is over, and the sufferer has climbed out of the immediate difficulties the illness imposes, what is next?
  Well, Reader, that is a question each person has to answer in his or her unique fashion.
For me, the answer was to share the insights I learned in the course you are now studying . . .

I believe that the healing road challenges us to become more aware of the suffering members of our community. This enables us to become more sensitive to others' needs,
and to extend a helping hand where appropriate.
Prayer; the Prescription; has many facets. The greatest of these is to reach out to God the Healer for healing; not only for ourselves, but for others.

Questions for the Heart and Mind
1. Why do you think prayer may be of great value in healing? 

2. What does counseling mean to you?

3. Why is Chaplaincy such an essential service?

4. Spend some time reflecting and then write a short essay; 'What specialty of healing I feel most called to.' 

1. McCormick, Thomas R [D.Min]. April 2014. Spirituality and Medicine. Ethics in Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. https: // html
2. Newport, Frank. 2009. 'State of the states: Importance of religion." Gallup Poll. Retrieved from http: // aspx 
3. Maugans TA, Wadland WC. 1991. Religion and family medicine; a survey of physicians and patients. Journal of Family Practice 1991; 32: 210 - 213
4. American Psychiatric Association.1975. Psychiatrists' viewpoints on religion and their services to religious institutions and the ministry. American Psychiatric Association Task Force Report 10. Washington, DC 
5. King DE, Bushwick B. 1994. Beliefs and attitudes of hospital inpatients about faith, healing and prayer. Journal of Family Practice 1994; 39: 349 - 352
6. McCormick, Thomas R [D.Min]. April 2014. Spirituality and Medicine. Ethics in Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. https: // html  [Page 1]
7. McCormick, Thomas R [D.Min]. April 2014. Spirituality and Medicine. Ethics in Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. https: // html [Page 2]
8. McCormick, Thomas R [D.Min]. April 2014. Spirituality and Medicine. Ethics in Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. https: // html [Page 5]
9. McCormick, Thomas R [D.Min]. April 2014. Spirituality and Medicine. Ethics in Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. https: // html [Page 5]
10. Pratt, Rebekah. The Healing Power of Prayer; A Return to Spiritual Medicine. drleannawolfe. com/ page 85.html
11. Pratt, Rebekah. The Healing Power of Prayer; A Return to Spiritual Medicine. drleannawolfe. com/ page 85.html
12. Pratt, Rebekah. The Healing Power of Prayer; A Return to Spiritual Medicine. drleannawolfe. com/ page 85.html
13. Pratt, Rebekah. The Healing Power of Prayer; A Return to Spiritual Medicine. drleannawolfe. com/ page 85.html
14. Spirituality. University of Maryland Medical Center.  umm. ed / health/ medical/ altmed / treatment / spirituality
15. Clinical Pastoral Education [CPE]. 2015. https:// / clinical-pastoral-education. html

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Rev Catherine
Use freely for any worthy purpose

Disclaimer; The information on this post is meant for information only. The   information is not meant to replace your Doctor or Health professional or Herbalist care.

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