This nonfiction “blend of medical drama and spiritual insight” reminded me of one of my favorite books from 2011, Praying for Strangers by River Jordan. In Gray Matter, Dr. Levy, a neurosurgeon, tells the story of how he started offering to pray with his patients before surgery, and eventually at other critical moments in their medical journey. He writes honestly about the fears involved in this experiment of faith: how he feared losing his reputation, offending patients or fellow medical coworkers, making a fool of himself, even ruining God’s reputation if his prayers went unanswered.
But Dr. Levy also tells how he felt compelled to offer his patients the gift of faithful, simple prayer before, and often during, what was for the patient an anything-but-routine procedure. And very few of his patients refused his offer to pray for them. For those who did refuse, Dr. Levy respected their wishes and went on to do the surgery with all of the skill he had. But the book focuses on the stories of individual patients who did agree to have Dr. Levy pray for them. The author tells about how prayer became for him an integral part of the treatment process and about how those prayers and God’s presence acknowledged in the OR made a difference in the lives of both doctor and patients.
I was especially encouraged to read about the importance of forgiveness and the release of bitterness on the road to physical health. Many, many people are afflicted by diseases and ailments that are caused or exacerbated by the spiritual illness that they hold onto in the form of bitterness and resentment. As Dr. Levy began to pray for his patients, he sometimes felt led to ask about their spiritual health, especially in the area of forgiveness. And some patients he was able to lead to forgive those who had hurt them and at the same time bring themselves into a place to receive healing and forgiveness for their own sins.
It seems to me that if I really believed that God hears my prayers and that He chooses to work through prayer to work in the world and in people’s lives, I would offer to pray for people much more often and then I would do it. This story of a doctor who does believe, not without doubts and stutters, but nevertheless believes and puts into practice what God has called him to do, is inspiring.
“When a situation popped up she held my hand and simply said, “We will pray.” And I did. And I know she did. Her example and exhortation was worth more to me than a pile of pamphlets, even though they may be written by Martin Luther. . . She also prays for each member of our family. And I know that her prayers are answered. I know. Her spirit of humility and committment to follow Christ was a huge spiritual wake-up call to me.”
Simply pray. Offer to pray. Pray daily. Pray through. If I believe in Jesus’ words “wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I”, I will pray for those He gives me breath to encourage in that way. And my faith will grow, and God will be glorified.