God, Prayer, Physicians, and Medicine

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor
of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

Fox News is reporting that a child in Weston, Wisconsin died because her parents refused to take her to a physician. They believed the power of prayer would heal the child. The following is an excerpt from the news report:

An 11-year-old girl died after her parents prayed for healing rather than seek medical help for a treatable form of diabetes, police said Tuesday.

Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said Madeline Neumann died Sunday.

“She got sicker and sicker until she was dead,” he said.

Vergin said an autopsy determined the girl died from diabetic ketoacidosis, an ailment that left her with too little insulin in her body, and she had probably been ill for about 30 days, suffering symptoms like nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness.

The girl’s parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, attributed the death to “apparently they didn’t have enough faith,” the police chief said.

They believed the key to healing “was it was better to keep praying. Call more people to help pray,” he said.

The mother believes the girl could still be resurrected, the police chief said.

Some people would commend the parents for their faith because they believed in the power of prayer. Although their intention was good, the decision to hold treatment was wrong and in the end it cost the life of their daughter.

Christians have to understand that God answers prayer to heal the sick but he also uses physicians and medicine to do his work.

The book of Ecclesiasticus, also known as Sirach, has a good statement on God, physicians, and medicine. It reads:

Honor physicians for their services, for the Lord created them; for their gift of healing comes from the Most High, and they are rewarded by the king. The skill of physicians makes them distinguished, and in the presence of the great they are admired. The Lord created medicines out of the earth, and the sensible will not despise them. Was not water made sweet with a tree in order that its power might be known? And he gave skill to human beings that he might be glorified in his marvelous works. By them the physician heals and takes away pain; the pharmacist makes a mixture from them. God’s works will never be finished; and from him health spreads over all the earth. My child, when you are ill, do not delay, but pray to the Lord, and he will heal you. Give up your faults and direct your hands rightly, and cleanse your heart from all sin. Offer a sweet-smelling sacrifice, and a memorial portion of choice flour, and pour oil on your offering, as much as you can afford. Then give the physician his place, for the Lord created him; do not let him leave you, for you need him. There may come a time when recovery lies in the hands of physicians, for they too pray to the Lord that he grant them success in diagnosis and in healing, for the sake of preserving life. He who sins against his Maker, will be defiant toward the physician (Sirach 38:1-15).

So, when Christians get sick, they must pray for healing, but they also should go to the doctor and take whatever medicine is prescribed by the physician.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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10 Responses to God, Prayer, Physicians, and Medicine

  1. Peter Kirk says:

    >Sound advice from Sirach. But these parents, as members of “a little Bible study of a few people” and so presumably not Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, are unlikely to accept such advice from a book they consider non-canonical, or would do if they knew anything about it. Of course the canonical New Testament also commends taking medical remedies, 1 Timothy 5:23, even if this is not a remedy you would approve.


  2. >Peter,I agree with you that Sirach’s advice is good and sound. I also know that many people will not accept Sirach’s advice because the book is not canonical. The reason I wrote my post is because, who knows, somebody may learn a lesson.I think you mischaracterize my views on the issue of wine. I am not against people drinking wine if they chose to do so. I have chosen not to drink alcoholic beverages because of previous experiences in the ministry.Over the years I have worked with many people who were alcoholics. Right now, in the church of which I am a pastor, there are two men whose life, professional career, marriage, and family were destroyed because of alcohol. They are alcoholics and they know it. They have joined Alcoholic Anonymous and have not had a drink in months. They are taught that alcoholism begins with the first drink. How can I minister to these men who are taught that abstinence is the only solution to their illness when their pastor drinks? Therefore, in order to minister to these men and thousand like them, I have chosen not to drink.Claude Mariottini


  3. Anonymous says:

    >The sad truth is that most middle American “Christians” dont have a strong grasp of their own beliefs. These people have probably read the Gospels and skimmed Torah but never really contemplated the Jewish writings and underlying ideals of the Old Testament. I have know these types my whole life. They wanted nothing more than to heal their daughter through prayer. But only so they could stand out in others’ eyes; a coversation piece. I don’t know of one God fearing/loving person of any faith that would let their diabetic child waste away from malnutrition.Ecclesiasticus was the first thing that came to mind when I saw this on TV. Canonical or noncanonical if people were as dedicated to their faith as they claim they would have had at the very least a passing knowledge of these texts. I myself was not raised Catholic,(or any specific denomination for that matter)but coming to Christianity I decided to do something crazy…LEARN about it! WOW. I looked into different translations, I looked into the Apochrypha; why it is so labled. Which is a whole other argument. (OT apochrypha IMHO is just as much inspired as any others for the simple fact that as a Christian I believe The Holy Spirit was at work during the time of Jesus AFTER Sirach’s period)These parents should not only be punished under the Supreme Court ruling which makes it unlawful to not provide meical treatment for an ill child, but they should also be repremanded by their church for not having even a survey level understanding of thier own faith and for giving other people of that faith a bad name. Shameful.


  4. >Dear Friend,Many Christians refuse to believe that God can use human instruments to accomplish his purpose. Doctors and medicine are two instruments that God uses to bring healing to people.A great enemy of the believer is ignorance. I commend you for your desire to study and learn. I wish more Christians would commit themselves to become students, not only of God’s Word, but also of the vast knowledge available to them in this age of communication.Thank you for visiting my blog.Claude Mariottini


  5. >I agree with the annonymous post about many Christians not fully understanding their faith. I have gone to church ALL of my life (taking a break only a few years) and yet my understanding of scripture is only 5% of the bible based on what sermons I’ve heard. It’s only now that I’m getting into study of the bible on my own. Not reading books on other peoples accounts of the bible but the bible alone.What brought me to this post was Numbers 17:1-8 about the staff of Aaron in the Tribe of Levi that was chosen by God out of all the staffs of all the tribes. And interestingly enough that staff blossomed into an almond tree. In my studies of becoming a family herbalist, Almonds are the most nutritious nut out of all of them (funny God used a nut to symbolize His favor on a tribe when the world associates nuts with being crazy!) I was searching for old testament physicians which is where I learned that men from the Levite tribe held the position of physicians and scribes. Interesting correlation to the fact that the Lord chose a tree that bears healthy food to represent His annointing on that tribe.I would love to read more about your knowledge of physicians in the bible as I’m going to continue my studies as a master herbalist. If you could please email me at thegenesisjourney@live.com that would be wonderful. Or you can visit my blog at thegenesisjourney.blogspot.comHave a beautiful day!In Christ Alone,Rebecca WitheyChristian Massage Therapistwww.RebeccaWithey.com


  6. >Dear Rebecca,Thank you for visiting my blog. I appreciate your words and what you are trying to accomplish. Many Christians today know very little about the Bible because they do not take the time to study it. They go through life missing the many beautiful lessons God has given to us in his Word.My father was a herbalist and his knowledge of the medicinal properties of herbs was amazing. I have seen people who were very sick restored to life because of the medicines he made with herbs.Unfortunately, the Bible does not say much about physicians. I will send you an email and tell more about physicians in the Bible.Claude Mariottini


  7. Anonymous says:

    >To many people believe that medical doctors are from God and this is just not true.”Doctors are third lead cause of death” if you don’t believe me put that quote into google. Would something from God be the third leading cause of death. Medical doctors to me are just glorified drug dealers.Doctors say, “take my drugs and be healed”, God says, “keep my commandments and be healed.”I think 2 Chronicles say it very simply and to the point, “And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.”2 Chronicles 16:12 King James VersionMay God bless you and yours,DaleP.S.I’m anonymous, because I don’t want to be spammed or flamed.


  8. >Dear Dale,Thank you very much for visiting my blog and leaving your comment. It is true that many physicians can cause death to their patients because they fail to do their work properly. You have to recognize that physicians save more lives when they do their work than they take lives when they fail to do their work.I have a good friend that is alive today because the doctors treated him when he had prostate cancer 15 years ago. If it were not for doctors he would be dead a long time ago,I think you misunderstood 2 Chronicles 16:12. The problem with Asa is that he only sought the physicians and not the Lord. This means that Asa failed to trust in God and decided to put all his trust in the physicians. Christians trust in God first, before they commit themselves to the care of a physician. God works through medicine and doctors; this is the reason there was balm and physicians in Gilead (Jeremiah 8:22).By the way, no one will react to your comment with spasm just because you disagree with me.Claude Mariottini


  9. Anonymous says:

    >I am giving a sermon to my seminary preaching class calling for ministers to preach that all humans should have equal access to health care. My foundational text is John 14:1-14, in which Jesus refers to his works as evidence that he is in the Father, along with the “greater works” that we shall do. I also plan to discuss the Good Samaritan who, though he was not obligated, did leave money at the inn to pay for the injured man’s care. Thank you for the Sirach and the Jeremiah. Any more suggestions for biblical mandates to take care of others who are sick?


  10. >Dear Friend,Thank you for visiting my blog. The Bible does not say much about physicians. Here are three passages that may help you in your preparation: Matthew 9:12; Matthew 25:36; and Collosians 4:14.Best wishes in your project.Claude Mariottini


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