Should You Pray for Your Patients? This Nurse Says Yes! 5 Evidence-Based Reasons
By: LeAnn Thieman
Since we nurses are proud to deliver evidence-based care, we cannot neglect the proven benefits of prayer in healing our patients.
Gallup polls show that 95% of Americans believe in God. 90% pray. With these statistics, how can we not offer prayer as an adjunct to their healing? Consider this research proving the health benefits:
- Patients affiliated with a religious community had 50% shorter hospital stays than those with none. Those who attend church, temple, or mosque regularly have half the levels of the blood protein interleukin-6, which, in high levels, is associated with AIDS, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. (Duke University’s Center for the Study of Religion, Spirituality, and Health)
- Prayer and religious rituals can relieve stress. Praying 10-20 minutes a day can decrease blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and metabolic rates. (Harvard’s Mind/Body Institute)
- Patients who were prayed for but didn’t know it had fewer life-threatening complications and needed less medication. (San Francisco Medical Center)
- There is now convincing evidence that people who have strong spiritual beliefs do better, even in serious illness. (St Luke’s Heart Institute, Kansas City, MO..
- Over half of America’s medical schools now teach courses in religion and spirituality and the important impact on patient health. 99% of doctors believe there is an important relationship between the spirit and the flesh. (Associated Press.)
Perhaps nurses don’t introduce the idea of prayer because we feel uncertain or awkward. Sometimes saying, (if applicable), “I said a prayer for you today” is a simple way to bring up the topic. Their reaction usually dictates further discussion. If they indicate they are grateful, you can say something fun and non-threatening like, “There’s a lot more where that came from! Would you like to chat with our chaplain? He/she ministers to people of all faiths.” Another response might be to ask “Are there any prayers you’d like to say together?”
It’s important to use universal terms until you know the person’s religious affiliation. “Higher Power”, “Creator,” or “the God you believe in” are generally accepted by those who believe. Listen next for the word they use, then repeat that as you converse and pray.
Often a prayer can be as simple as saying “God, take good care of Margaret today.”
Ask them if there is anyone they would like you to call to pray with them, making sure they understand this is not an offer reserved for fatally ill people only! They might ask to talk with their rabbi, pastor, or even a friend from their church, synagogue or mosque.
Perhaps the best way for you to find the right words to open this discussion with your patients is to pray to the God you believe in. Your Creator will give you the words and both you and those you touch will be blessed.