Most Americans turn to modern medicine to heal their ailments. Christians are no exception. They count on shots to avoid catching the flu, aspirin for headaches and Benadryl to relieve allergies.
But many Christians also count on something else to help them feel better—their faith.
Hope and prayer
In the Bible, Jesus Christ healed the blind and the sick, the lepers and the paralyzed. He even brought Lazarus back from the dead. And he did this through the power of God.
Christians still turn to God in times of need, said Chris Ngai, who runs a prayer tent at Arizona State University. Anyone can stop by to pray with the volunteers who manage the tent.
The 23-year-old ASU graduate spends much of his time praying with Christians in times of need—and that includes during illness. “The Bible teaches that God is a healer of all things,” Ngai said. “When I run the prayer tent, I find that a lot of people who come by have sicknesses, and I find that after they get right with God, they get healed.”
Ngai said healing and salvation often go hand-in-hand for Christians. Sozo, the Greek word for “salvation,” has multiple meanings in the Bible. “When we ask God into our lives and he forgives our sins, that’s a big part of what salvation is. However, the exact same Greek word is also used when people are physically healed. It all comes with knowing God.”
Most American hospitals provide chaplains and worship services for Christian patients. Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, for example, televises the Sunday church services held in the hospital’s chapel on a closed circuit. The hospital also holds services on Easter, Christmas and other Christian holidays.
The chaplains at Banner Good Samaritan help people of all faiths. “A lot of the time the patients just need someone to listen to them,” said Ramona Yoder, an administrative assistant in the Department of Spiritual Care. “Nurses have other things to do. They can’t always just sit and listen.”
On request, Banner Good Samaritan provides Bibles, including Spanish and large-print versions. Patients can also ask for Communion, a sacrament that commemorates Christ’s sharing of bread and wine with his disciples at the Last Supper.
The hospital’s goal is to accommodate patients as much as possible. “Even if they ask for a Baptist pastor, we’ll try to arrange for that,” Yoder said.
Hospitals affiliated with a particular faith bestow the same care on all patients, no matter what their beliefs. Mercy Gilbert Medical Center in Gilbert, Ariz., is part of the Catholic Healthcare West system. All patients receive “radical loving care,” said David Roth, the director of Spiritual Care. “It’s really a mind, body, spirit approach. We not only do the customary kind of things that chaplains do in hospitals, but the whole hospital sees itself as having this mindset, or more accurately, ‘heart-set,’ of radically loving the people who come to us as our guests.”
While Mercy Gilbert accepts patients of all faiths, its roots are in Catholicism. The hospital has a chapel with an altar, a crucifix and an Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is an icon of the Virgin Mary popular in Mexico and the U.S. Southwest.
Mercy Gilbert and Chandler Regional Hospital, also part of the Catholic Healthcare West system, recently hired a clinically trained priest-chaplain—the only one in the Phoenix area. “That’s key to being a Catholic hospital—to be a warm and welcoming place for people of all faiths or no faith,” Roth said. “We take spiritual care seriously as an integral part of healthcare.”