Prayer And Spirituality
This treatment modality is thought to promote wellness and optimize overall health. Prayer and spirituality should be used with, not in place of, standard cancer therapy.
What does prayer and spirituality involve?
Religion has been a part of communities since the beginning of recorded history. Prayer and spirituality is thought to have served as a means of seeking explanations of the unknown and assistance to alter nature, health and disease. Today, religion still plays a vital role in every culture of the world. While different religions, including but not limited to Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism, hold different beliefs about a supreme being, some form of prayer is a universal act to communicate with one’s own God or other supreme being. Because one’s supreme being is usually believed to be capable of creating life and restoring health, people pray for help, understanding, strength and wisdom in dealing with life’s difficulties. Prayer can be done in silent or spoken aloud and can occur in a group setting or individually. Prayer may be for one’s self, known as supplication, or for others, called intercession.
How are prayer and spirituality thought to promote wellness and optimize overall health?
Many people find religion provides meaning, fellowship and comfort to their lives in the face of pain and suffering and believe that the spiritual component of healing is necessary for positive results to occur. By redirecting suffering into positive channels, depression can be alleviated and relaxation heightened. Patients and families both take great comfort in the act of prayer.
What has been proven about the benefit of prayer and spirituality?
There have been studies on the effects of prayer in healing disease, but no definitive results have been produced. Scientific evidence suggests that prayer does not influence the course of illness, either in a positive or negative way. However, by providing an active form of coping with the stress of illness, prayer may result in a placebo response whereby the wanting and expecting of recovery produces an improvement of illness and lessens pain (see Appendix E).
What is the potential risk or harm of prayer and spirituality?
There is no intrinsic risk or harm of prayer and spirituality. Relying on this type of treatment alone, and avoiding conventional medical care, can have serious health consequences.
How much does prayer and spirituality cost?
Prayer costs nothing more than the patient’s time. Many medical institutions and health care practitioners include prayer and spirituality as parts of their practices. Hospitals and communities have chapels, which are free to all who enter, and contacts with ministers and rabbis to serve patients’ spiritual needs.
For additional information:
Healing Words by Larry Dossey. San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins Publishers, 1993.
Note: Information about therapies is intended to help you make informed choices, not to endorse any particular therapy. The information is courtesy of "Integrating Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Cancer Patients," a handbook written as an independent study project by Heather Morein. For more information, see the full text of the handbook (PDF), including all references and appendices.