In this health-conscious age, patients are demanding more from medicalprofessionals. They want more compassion and less dispassion, more listeningand less lecturing; they seek healers of the mind and spirit, not justmechanics of the body.

According to recent scientific studies and polls, two out of three individuals would like to address spiritual issues with their doctors, and half would even like their doctors to pray with them.

Is this something new? The latest fad? Actually, the bond between religionand medicine is quite ancient. Since the dawn of recorded history, thesetwin traditions of healing have been partners in the care of the sick,plowing together the holy ground of healing.

The success of modern medical practice came at a price: There seemed to be"no room at the inn" for religion in healing. Nonetheless, the doggedpersistence of chronic diseases and the alarming advances of AIDS and otherscourges have tempered any hope or expectation that science will eventually,inevitably solve all mysteries of illness.

A new willingness to consider alternative healing practices and a growingcivility between religion and medicine is in the air. It's time to reunitethese long-separated traditions of healing. In my office, I encourage everyone to exercise regularly, eat properly, stop smoking and excessive alcohol use, take medicines correctly, and even wear seatbelts. Should I tell them to pray, read Scripture, attend worship, or work at a soup kitchen?