What began as a partnership of prayer between a single hospital and church has now grown to include two hospitals and congregations across the region.

The intensive prayer unit, a volunteer prayer initiative begun in 2002 by Holston Valley Medical Center and Mafair United Methodist Church, has expanded to Bristol Regional Medical Center and two dozen churches throughout Sullivan County.

“The growth and success of this program is a testament to the healing power of prayer,” said Dr. Gary Metcalf, Wellmont’s director of pastoral care. “The intensive prayer unit is our way of sharing with others that there is hope and strength beyond our technical limitations.”

The intensive prayer unit – or IPU – is not a medical unit but is, instead, a process of volunteers praying intensively daily for hospital patients. The innovative initiative is another example of the Planetree philosophy of healing at work within Wellmont Health System hospitals.

Patient participation in the IPU is voluntary. Patients who would like to receive prayer are given the opportunity to submit their first name, a description of their illness, a brief biographical sketch and prayer intentions.

Each patient’s information is then provided to prayer givers in local church congregations. Prayer givers also receive updates about patients’ medical conditions and changes in prayer intentions.

“IPU does not take the place of a patient’s church or church family,” Dr. Metcalf said. “It is taking the research concept of distant healing and implementing it through a faith medium.

“Prayers for the patient are lifted up by strangers out of love and a genuine faith in God’s healing power. IPU is people loving and healing people.”


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