The healing power of faith in the Lord

Published 1:17 am Sunday, May 22, 2011

Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. James 5:14-15 (New International Version)

Wow! Does that really work? Does faith in the Lord really make us healthier, even cure our diseases? Well, if there were any doubt, why would such prestigious medical schools as Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, Brown, Emory, George Washington and Vanderbilt add “Spirituality” courses to their curricula?

One good reason is because a large majority of patients list faith in God as an important factor in getting well and 44 percent name faith in God as the most important factor. Today the medical schools in the nation teach their students to support a patients religious faith.

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The Physicians magazine in the late 90s reported on research showing that the patients were right. Here’s what they found:

Elderly patients were 14 times less likely to die after heart surgery if they found strength in their religious faith. – Dartmouth Medical School

The University of Pittsburgh reported that patients who had a strong faith and took part in religious services showed “greater physical functioning” at the 12 month check-up after getting a heart transplant.

According to the “International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine” high blood pressure ranked 40% lower among the folks who attended church and prayed and read their Bible . Their study was based on around 4,000 people 65 years of age or older.

A study of 1,700 older citizens by Duke University showed that the folks who went to church were only half as likely to have elevated blood pressure. Older adults who attended church contracted fewer diseases and had fewer unhappy life experiences.

At the University of Michigan a research team found that faith in God helped women cope with gynecological cancer. Over 90% said their faith strengthened their hope, three fourths said their faith was significant in their lives and 40% said their faith strengthened their sense of self worth. Not one patient reported being less religious as a result of their condition and around half became more religious during their treatment.

A 28 year long study showed that faith in God delays death. People who attended church weekly were 25% less likely to die than those who did not go to church on a regular basis.

Early on the Board of Directors of Southern Regional Corporation and Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation agreed that one of our very first efforts would be to plan for a chaplain program in the new hospital. We favored the program because a chaplain program would support the religious faith of the patients and enhance community health – exactly what the foundation was set up to do.

We met with Dr. Gene Huffstutler, Director of the Clinical Pastoral Educational program in New Orleans, who recommended that we “Hire a staff chaplain who would provide basic chaplaincy services and coordinate educational events periodically which would involve community clergy.” Now that the new hospital is being built we are moving to implement the chaplaincy program envisioned by the Directors of SRC and LPRV.

At a recent meeting the Directors of SRC concluded that the project was important enough to call for an enlarged Chaplain Committee with community leaders from Poplarville as well as Picayune. (This would include pastors,, doctors, elected officials, business leaders, lawyers and Highland Hospital officials.)

“A hospital chaplain, as a representative of a religious tradition, uses the insights and principles of psychology, religion, spirituality and     theology in working with individuals, couples, families and groups to achieve wholeness and health. A chaplain provides spiritual support and pastoral care to patients and their families. All chaplains are willing to support and encourage people of all religious faiths. The counseling they provide includes crisis intervention, grief ministry, family support counseling, presurgical and postsurgical counseling,    worship leadership and preaching, religious sacramental ministry, staff counseling and support and education.” — The Mayo School of Health Science.

The chaplain, in addition to serving the patients, is also available to minister to the hospital personnel. His training is equivalent to that of a licensed psychotherapist but it is based on a solid theological foundation.

The next step will be to set up a Chaplain Search Committee to find and place a certified chaplain on the staff of the new Highland Community Hospital. He or she would provide basic chaplaincy services and schedule educational events that would involve our local pastors. When the chaplaincy program was presented before the Picayune Ministerial Alliance awhile back the pastors gave it a unanimous vote of approval.

Let me add this personal note: I was an Army chaplain in WWII and during my last twenty years as a faculty member of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary supervised the clinical training of chaplains in several hospitals in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Florida and I assure you our community has a wonderful opportunity to support our new hospital’s healing ministry through a well-funded Chaplain’s program.