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Book Review: Gray Matter: A Neurosurgeon Discovers the Power of Prayer… One Patient at a Time by David Levy and Joel Kilpatrick

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Gray Matter is the story of Dr. David Levy, a San Diego neurosurgeon who has brought prayer into every aspect of his practice. Co-written with Joel Kilpatrick, it is a fascinating read that explores many aspects of body-spirit well-being.

Levy/Kilpatrick take us from a typical session of prayer with a patient now, after years of experience, back to the first rather humorous day when Levy decided this was something he should do. That day he hung around the nursing station, pretended to read the chart and make phone calls, and generally lurked until the coast was clear and he could pray in private with the patient and her daughters.

Gray Matter tells how Levy gained courage and boldness when he saw how prayer brought peace to patients, lightened the atmosphere in the operating room, and improved his own state of mind.

Over time, Levy also became aware of the varied emotional and psychological aspects of health. He tells many stories of people who seemed bound to their illnesses by bitterness over past events. Whenever these patients were open to it, he led them through counseling and prayer to forgiveness and often a renewed acknowledgment of God in their lives.

Not all stories in this book follow a smooth course. Levy shows a true caregiver’s compassion as he agonizes over cases that don’t go well. During these times we watch his faith grow. An example is the situation with three-year-old Annette, whose parents despaired after she became comatose post-surgery. As Levy/Kilpatrick tell it:

“The next time I went to the hospital, I knew I needed to change the atmosphere in Annette’s room. Anger with God is not a small problem in the pediatric ICU, one of the most depressing places on the planet….

‘I was hoping that things would have changed by now,’ I said to them (Annette’s parents) honestly.‘…The fact that I don’t know what to do is embarrassing to me, because I am supposed to know. But I know one thing. I know that God is good no matter what we see in this room. I have decided that, no matter which path we take medically with Annette, we should keep showing up and continue to declare that God is good. We will cry together and laugh together and make decisions together. And we will declare that he is good no matter what happens.’” p. 208.

Soon after that they removed the little girl’s breathing tube and ventilator, expecting her to die. But she survived. Needless to say, her parents were forever changed spiritually by that experience.

These well-told true incidents (though the names and identifying details of individuals have been changed), with their detailed descriptions of medical procedures, will be of special interest to those in the medical profession. This book gave me a renewed appreciation for the skill of doctors like Levy who, with the help of technology, can do amazing things with, in Levy’s case, the tiniest of rogue blood vessels which can so unexpectedly end a life.

But mostly, the book is a demonstration of how impacting, constructive, and beautiful can be the life of an obedient modern disciple of Jesus who is willing to step out and do the unthinkable – acknowledge God, through prayer, even in the midst of practicing modern medicine.

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About Violet Nesdoly

  • Cindycyn

    One of thee most inspiring, wonderful books I’ve ever read.