A week ago yesterday, I went to visit my medical physician with the idea that I was going to let him know that I was being scheduled for back surgery the following day at a hospital near Philadelphia. After the doctor came in and we talked about my situation regarding issues with my back, I told him that my plan was to have this surgery done the following day. I asked him what he thought about that.
His response was very positive and supportive. He then asked me what I thought about it and how I was feeling about the fact that I was going to have back surgery the next day, knowing full well that this was something I did not want to do – that this was my absolute last resort.
I told him that I was feeling somewhat anxious about the whole thing. The nurse confirmed that my level of anxiety was high in that when she took my blood pressure, it was higher than it has probably ever been!
I sat on the examining table. My doctor sat on a stool in front of me. He looked up at me and said, “How about we pray about that? Why don’t we pray about your surgery tomorrow?” I said that would be great. Then he took my hands in his hands, got down on one knee and began to pray. I told him the name of the hospital and the name of my surgeon.
Then my doctor prayed in a very pastoral fashion – in a very heartfelt way – asking that God be present with me through the surgery and that the doctor would guide the surgeon’s hands (and he named my surgeon my name). He prayed that as a result of the operation, my body would respond in the best possible way by having this kind of work done to it. He prayed that there would be no infection of any kind and that I would heal as much as possible – that I would regain the strength and abilities I had in my life prior to having this back problem.
As this prayer ended, I had tears in my eyes. I was speechless. As he stood up, I hugged him and said, “Thank you so much for praying for me. I never in my whole life had a doctor pray for me. This is probably the most important time a doctor could have prayed for me given this surgery tomorrow.”
He was very humble about this whole thing. My doctor told me that he would see me in six weeks and was sure I’d be much better.
That evening I headed to Philadelphia. By 7 AM the next day, I was in the hospital and the surgeon came to my bedside. “How are you feeling? Are you ready to go?” he asked.
“I am feeling much better now than I was earlier this week. Something really special happened to me yesterday,” I began to say. “I told my doctor up home that I was having this operation and he almost immediately stopped and prayed for me, for you as my surgeon and for the whole situation that it would all work together for the good.”
My surgeon responded, “I am really glad to hear that. It’s not something that happens very much in the secular world any more. I did a lot of my training in religious institution. We always prayed before going into surgery – for the team that was doing the surgery and for the patient. It is unfortunate that it doesn’t happen much any more.”
I didn’t know what to say.
“I pray every day, he continued. “It’s nothing unusual for me. It’s part of my daily life.”
I asked him, “How about we pray before we go into this operation?”
“That would be great. That is a wonderful idea,” he said. “I know you are a pastor. Do you want to pray – or would you rather I pray?”
I said, “I would really like you to pray.”
“Fine,” he said. “I would be glad to pray for you.” With that, he took my hands, and bowed his head. He prayed in a similar fashion to my doctor back home. He prayed that God would guide his hands. He prayed for the surgical team. He prayed that my body would respond to the surgery in positive ways and that I would not have any infection afterward. He prayed that everything would work together for the good and that my ability to function be restored in as short a time as possible.
When he said, “Amen,” he opened eyes and smiled. “Well – are you ready?” he asked.
“Now I am ready, doctor! I couldn’t have said it as confidently before – but having you and my doctor at home pray for me I –truly feel that I am in God’s hands. I am ready to accept whatever happens to me as a result of this surgery.”
The anesthesiologist put a mask over my mouth and told me to breathe deeply and I was gone.
The next thing I knew, I was awake. The doctor told me that everything went well. “You should feel some relief in a few days. Make sure you walk a mile or two every day and then, I will see you again in two weeks.”
This morning I heard from my surgeon. I was walking as he instructed me – a mile or two every day and was several hundred feet away from home. My wife brought the portable phone outside to tell me that the surgeon was on the phone and wanted to speak with me. She told the doctor, “I can see him. He’s pretty far away. Do you want him to call you back?”
“I can wait,” said the doctor.
It took me a few minutes until I got to the phone and the doctor was still on the line. He asked me how I was doing. I told him that I thought I was doing well. Every day there seemed to be some improvement.
“Sounds like everything is on track as we expect it to be,” he said. “I will see you next week for our two-week scheduled appointment. Take good care of yourself and trust that this is all going to work for the good.”
I thanked him as sincerely as I could over the phone.
When I got off the phone, I said to my wife, “There is a lot more to healing than surgery. This phone call gave me another boost toward greater healing than had he not called. I realize I may never be cured in the sense that I will have the same mobility and lack of pain as I once did, but I do feel that through God’s guidance and the working of these people that I’ve been put in contact with, I feel like the Holy Spirit is healing me in a very special kind of way – not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.”
This whole experience has been a lot more than just a pain in the back. It has been a significant part of my faith journey. I feel that I have been blessed by special physicians and that God has been with me throughout this whole experience. I am grateful to God and to the many people God has provided in my life – who prayed for me and who continue to do so.