Prayer and Healing: The Power of Faith is Making Big News

by Jonathan Dolhenty, Ph.D.

Herbert Benson, M.D., is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and author of the best-selling book Timeless Healing: The Power and Biology of Belief. Dr. Benson, along with Dr. Larry Dossey, a practicing physician and author of such works as Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine, and Pray is Good Medicine: How to Reap the Healing Benefits of Prayer, are currently bringing national media attention to something many people claim to have known all along – Prayer Works.

Why so much media interest now? It is, at least in part, because more and more physicians are coming forward to discuss the power of prayer in physical healing. (See the survey results at the bottom of this article.)

And why do physicians feel this way? According to Dr. Benson, it is “because we’ve seen the power of belief. We’ve seen that belief is powerful in conditions including angina pectoris, asthma, duodenal ulcers, congestive heart failure, diabetes, all forms of pain. We see it all the time, and we can’t deny it.”

The matter is being taken seriously all across the country. In December of 1996, almost 1,000 health care professionals met a Harvard Medical School in Boston for a session on “Spirituality & Healing in Medicine.” Another session was being planned for later in Los Angeles. A professor at Georgetown Medical School, Dr. Dale Matthews, says: “I think this is a historic time. The spiritual traditions of healing will be joined with surgery and pharmaceuticals. I think we’re entering the era of prayer and Prozac.”

It may seem strange that prayer is being prescribed by physicians, particularly in light of the fact that Western medicine is so focused on the physical aspects of human beings, the body instead of the mind and spirit. But more and more physicians are making public their belief that prayer can help. It seems to surprise many observers of the social scene that surveys are showing that nine out of 10 Americans say they pray and ninety-five percent of those that pray believe that some of their prayers have been answered.

Physicians are coming forward with examples of healings they can’t explain. One oncologist (specialist in cancer) states: “We see medical exceptions all the time that we can’t explain. You can’t work in a cancer unit and not notice these things.”

Praying for healing is an ancient practice found in almost every culture throughout the world. Centuries ago there was little difference between those in the priesthood and those who were healers. The physical and the spiritual were considered together. As the modern practice of medicine emerged, it concentrated on the human body and physical disease, leaving the mind and the spirit to others. This breach now seems to be closing again.

One patient cited in a recent article on prayer an d healing was suffering from a chronic physical disorder and was told to accept his condition or pray for it to go away. He prayed and the symptoms disappeared. He was quoted in the press as saying: “At that point, I started thinking that our faith must be pretty small if we’re really shocked that the God who created us can’t also heal us.”

This patient’s final word on the subject sums up what many today are thinking: “You can pooh-pooh and you can giggle, but the fact remains there are times when (a disease) is there, it’s pronounced, and then it’s gone. And so what do you say about that?”

What do you think?


PHYSICIANS AND PRAYER(This is a survey of 269 physicians in family practice
conducted by Yankelovich Partners Inc.
The number to the right is the percent saying “yes.”)

Can religious belief contribute to a patient’s healing?
Can praying for someone help in treatment?
Can faith healers make people well through the power of touch?
Have any of your patients credited prayer for improving their condition?
Should physicians join a patient in prayer when the patient asks?
Has a patient ever asked you to pray with him or her?
Have you used prayer or meditation in treating yourself?
Do you think God or a higher power sometimes intervenes to improve the condition of people with serious illness?
Do you think God or a higher power has ever intervened to improve your condition?




And Here Are The Relevant Books! You may get more information about them and/or order them direct from bookstore by clicking on the appropriate link.

The late Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty was the Founder and President of The Center for Applied Philosophy and the Radical Academy, and is Honorary Philosophy Editor at Self-Educated American. Self-Educated American has adopted these projects beginning with a republishing and preserving of all of Dr. Dolhenty’s work.