Tag Archives: Prayer

Gair Rhydd and spiritual care

16 Feb

In response to this article in the Cardiff Student Newspaper this week, I think its author Rhys Howell has ignored the wealth of evidence suggesting that good care of patients’ spiritual needs is not only helpful but necessary. The NHS recommends that the spiritual needs of its patients need to be met as part of a holistic approach to medicine. Whether or not you believe that God hears and answers prayers in a miraculous way, several reports have found a link between faith and faster recovery times or more satisfactory outcomes .

One London doctor I spoke to reported that in 25 years of general practice, he has asked many patients if they would like him to pray for them, and his question has never been met with offence. Sure, some people declined the offer but many accepted and later were grateful for the manner in which they had been treated. Peter Saunders, general secretary of the UK Christian Medical Fellowship said that “Suspension simply for inquiring about the appropriateness of prayer is not only an act of religious discrimination but will undermine the proper provision of spiritual care in the NHS”. Last week the Daily Telegraph printed a letter (3 Feb) by GP Trevor Stammers in which he asked whether the GMC would now investigate him and the thousands of other doctors and health professionals who both offer to pray for, and with their patients.

In a further interview with the Telegraph (4 Feb), Stammers continues: “There is a difference between making an inquiry about prayer and suggesting that someone does it… It cannot be unprofessional in the right context, particularly when patients have a serious illness, to ask if a patient has a faith or an ideology that supports them… In my view, not asking about someone’s faith is showing an inadequate level of care. Patients will be poorer off as a result.”

As a Christian medical student, I do believe that God can miraculously answer prayer and heal people as he chooses. However, I also believe that God heals through clinical medicine; otherwise I would have no reason to be a student. Those families who have lost children by praying round them in circles rather than making the most of available medical care are misguided in their understanding of how God promises in the Bible to work for the good of his people.

Mr Howell rightly says that “the NHS is a public service, and as such, should remain completely neutral when it comes to religion.” However it should also provide holistic services for all those who require them, of all faiths and none. There is no suggestion that Mrs Petrie, the suspended nurse, was trying to spend all her time praying for people instead of carrying out her medical duties, nor was she trying to proselytise her patients.

There seems to be confusion on this issue even within the NHS, as some trusts employ a spiritual care team while other trusts have very little provision for spiritual care beyond the hospital chaplain. NHS Scotland guidance states that “while it is important that the patient’s right to confidentiality is respected, it is also important to ensure this does not result in a failure to provide patients with the available spiritual or religious care”.

We seem to be in a position where aggressive atheism has become quite intolerant of the expression of religious faith in a professional setting. In a society which prides itself on values of respect and tolerance, that is a very sad thing indeed.

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Praying through the financial crisis

31 Dec

At lunch today my grandfather prayed that the current financial situation would lead people to Christ; that as they face uncertainty God would turn their hearts to himself and that we would see revival in this country. What a great prayer!

As I look back over the past year I have seen much uncertainty myself, not necessarily financial, and in hindsight I can see that in all situations God was working for my good (and ultimately his glory) even if I couldn’t see it at the time.

I pray that 2009 would be a year of salvation and massive church growth as people see Jesus for who he is, the eternal Saviour of much greater significance than any stock markets, hedge funds or interest rates.

What do I pray?

27 Dec

Prayer is a pretty big thing. To think that we can talk openly to the Master of the universe with confidence that he hears us, is both humbling and a great reason for rejoicing. Because of Christ’s death, we can “boldly approach the throne of grace”, knowing that the Spirit inspires and directs the groaning of our hearts. As the popular phrase puts it, we can pray “to the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit”.

I wonder then, with such a great gift through the gospel, why we don’t pray more. Why does it so often seem like a battle to make time with our Father, and when we do make time, we’re lost for words. Perhaps we need to sort out what we should be praying for. John Piper helpfully shows us here what biblical prayers look like by examining the early Church in the New Testament.

First, they prayed that God would exalt his name and further his kingdom (Matt 6:9-10) and that the Gospel would triumph (2 Thess 3:1). Is this at the forefront of our minds when we begin to pray? I know how often my prayers don’t have anything like that in them, rather a list of my desires; even if they appear to be ‘holy’ often I am just trying to word thing in the ‘right’ way, as though God doesn’t know my heart!

The early church called on God for the Holy Spirit, for example in Luke 11:13. They called on God to save unbelievers (Rom 10:1). These two seem to go together. How will people be saved other than through the work of the Spirit in their hearts? Lord, give me your heart for the lost, that I would cry out to you for your Spirit to change them and bring them to new birth.

Along the same lines, they called for God to direct the use of his Word and for boldness in its proclamation (Eph 6:17-19), for how shall the lost be saved unless they hear, and how shall they hear unless someone is sent. They prayed for signs and wonders from God (Acts 4:30), demonstrating without question the truth of his Word.

Mark 9:29 tells us that Demons cannot be cast out without prayer. The early church also prayed for wisdom (James 1:5), godly leaders (Acts 14:23), workers for the harvest field (Matt 9:38), unity (John 17:20-21) and encouragement (1 Thess 3:10).

Perhaps one of the things which I need to pray most of all is for discernment and a knowledge of God’s will (Phil 1:9-10, Col 1:9). Often my prayers are for my will and not for the will of my Saviour. How ridiculous of me to think I know better than the One who from eternity planned to rescue me from hell and for his glory. Piper goes on:

They called on God for power to comprehend the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:14,18).
They called on God for a deeper sense of assured hope (Ephesians 1:16,18).
They called on God for strength and endurance (Colossians 1:11).
They called on God for deeper sense of his power within them (Ephesians 1:16, 19).
They called on God that their faith not be destroyed (Luke 22:32).
They called on God for greater faith (Mark 9:24 ; cf. Ephesians 3:17).
They called on God that they might not fall into temptation (Matthew 6:13, Matthew 26:41).
They called on God that he would complete their resolves (2 Thessalonians 1:11).
They called on God that they would do good works (Colossians 1:10).
They called on God or forgiveness for their sins (Matthew 6:12).
They called on God for protection from the evil one (Matthew 6:13).

Looking at my own prayer life it is so apparent that my prayers are often completely out of line with God’s plans for prayer. Perhaps even worse, most of what is above doesn’t even get a look in. May this list help us to pray better, more often, and more in line with God’s plan for us and his glory. Mark Driscoll helpfully pointed out in his sermon series on prayer that the Bible should never be separate from prayer – the two go together because what we read in Scripture shows us what to pray. How true. Our prayer will never be effective or biblical if we leave the Bible out of the deal. Most importantly, prayer should be a joy, not a duty. Christ died for us. Christ gave us access to the throne room of heaven. The Spirit intercedes for us to the Almighty.

Lord, thank you so much that I can pray because of Jesus. Help me to rejoice in prayer. Help me to pray better as you hace shown us in your word. Amen.

Original content from desiringGod.org

For a fuller theology of biblical prayer, try A call to spiritual reformation by Don Carson.