Author, Gray Matter (2011)
America's Top Surgeon, 2011l
Patient Choice Award, 2010 & 2011
Attended Emory University School of Medicine
Attended Doctor of Medicine Barrow Neurological Institute
Neurosurgery Training Fellowship in Endovascular Neurosurgery at University of Vienna(Austria)
Dr. David Levy: Praying with Patients
The 700 Club
PRAYER AND HEALTHCARE
Neurosurgeon Dr. David Levy wanted to bring his faith into his practice because he believed that he needed to use all the means God can use for healing – even prayer. Since he has addressed his patients’ spirituality and made prayer a part of his regular interactions with his patients, he has seen positive results. He says his patients’ lives have reached levels in their spiritual, physical, and emotional health that they never had before.
It was not always this way. Because faith and medicine are separate, Dr. Levy was concerned that he could lose the respect of his peers and his patients if he combined them. He struggled with the decision to pray for his patients, but a visit to the dentist changed that. Dr. Levy went to his dentist one day. His dentist noticed Dr. Levy was nervous and said a short prayer for him. Dr. Levy noticed that shortly after his dentist prayed he felt peace. As Dr. Levy experienced the benefit of prayer personally as a patient, it renewed his own conviction to pray for his patients.
Later, he felt like he “heard a voice” telling him to pray for one of his patients, Mrs. Jones. He was feeling terrified, but finally he asked Mrs. Jones if he could pray for her. She agreed. Dr. Levy wasn’t comfortable praying in front of anyone yet, and the nurse was still in the room. He waited until the nurse left the room, but then the anesthesiologist came in. Dr. Levy still didn’t feel comfortable, so he waited. When everyone left the room besides Mrs. Jones and her family, he asked if he could pray. Then, he said a short prayer and asked God for the skill and wisdom for the surgery. Dr. Levy says the prayer was simple, but found Mrs. Jones and the bystanders were weeping. For Dr. Levy, the prayer gave him peace and he had joy for performing the surgery that he never had before. Later, Mrs. Jones thanked Dr. Levy and said she felt peace.
Dr. Levy started to feel more comfortable praying for patients but still found that the most tormenting part was waiting for the nurse to leave. Then he felt like God was asking him what was he afraid of? Dr. Levy was afraid that they would talk about it around the hospital. Then he felt like God was telling him if he felt that way he should stop. He sensed that God was also telling him to be the person he was, and he had to be authentic even if people didn’t understand. If he believed prayer was good for patients and a sacred time and moment, then he should continue. One day, a nurse told him that most of the nurses noticed he had been praying with patients. Then she asked him if the nurses could be included during the prayer time.
THOUGHTS ON PRAYER AND MEDICINE
Dr. Levy says a lot of us want to include the spiritual aspect with the medical but are afraid. Both doctors and patients seem to realize that there is a missing component to patient care. Dr. Levy says that though spirituality is almost completely absent from medical interactions, 75% of more than a thousand physicians surveyed agree that religion and spirituality are important in helping patients cope and in giving them a positive state of mind. Studies also show that patients similarly place a high value on spirituality, especially during a time of illness. Statistics show that 50% of patients want to pray with their physician and not just a chaplain. Other studies show that on routine doctor visits patients would like to pray with their doctors. Dr. Levy says often physicians are willing to pray with patients but physicians don’t know which people want to pray. He thinks patients should ask for prayer if they want it from their doctor. Dr. Levy also says the reasons he prays are because he cares for people, he wants to bless people, and he wants to use all the tools God has given him to help heal people. Praying brings people together. He sees families unify through prayer.
One never knows how God will use prayers in someone’s life. A patient, Gloria, came to see Dr. Levy six months after her previous appointment. Her friend Gail came and Dr. Levy prayed for both of them. He didn’t really know exactly what to pray for them, but they started weeping after. Two weeks later, Gail died. Gloria later thanked Dr. Levy for having the courage to pray because Gail was able to get right with God before she died. Dr. Levy says we never know what we’re doing when we pray – it could be a part of what God is doing in someone’s life.
Dr. Levy has found that whatever illness people have, forgiveness helps with the healing process and it has well documented health benefits. Forgiveness is also a process, but it helps people recover joy. Dr. Levy admits he has had to go through the process of forgiving his father, though his father has passed away. Through forgiving, Dr. Levy has become more loving, caring, doesn’t have an agenda, and has a heart that he didn’t have before.
A patient of Dr. Levy’s, Ron, was fairly young, large, and muscular, but had a lot of health problems – arthritis being one of them. Dr. Levy has found that many times if a young person has many health problems, the cause may be an emotional or spiritual issue. This proved to be true in Ron’s case. He had a hard time forgiving his mother. Dr. Levy told him he needed to forgive his mother. Ron prayed with Dr. Levy, and then Ron called his mother after not having contact with her for many years. She started going to church and they had a family reunion. Forgiveness proved to be good medicine because Ron recovered well from surgery. Also, he had joy and he found forgiveness in Christ as he accepted Jesus as his Savior.
DR. LEVY’S JOURNEY OF FAITH
Dr. Levy’s father was raised in a traditional Jewish family. In his ‘20s, he received a New Testament Bible and began to read it. The passage in Luke 4 where Jesus read the scriptures about healing the brokenhearted moved him. He accepted Jesus as His Savior and became a Messianic Jew. By the time Dr. Levy was growing up, the family was attending a Protestant Church. When Dr. Levy was in college, he felt that God wasn’t what he needed. He returned to his Jewish roots and wanted to be a part of Jewish culture. He didn’t want anything to do with Christianity. He also was ambitious and was studying to be a doctor. He decided to specialize in neurosurgery and he wanted to be able to perform surgery perfectly. Later, he did attain his goal. He was a successful neurosurgeon and he was able to do a technically perfect case, however, the woman he operated on died of a blood clot. This was a turning point for Dr. Levy. He was angry with his father because his father said he would be happy if he became a physician. His mother told him he needed to forgive his father. Dr. Levy did and no longer blamed him. Then Dr. Levy started reading the scriptures and had a better view of Jesus. As he grew in his faith, Dr. Levy genuinely learned to love people and have compassion for them –something he didn’t have before. This was about 12 years ago. Seven years later he wanted to bring his faith and newfound compassion into his medical practice.
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