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Spirituality and Prayer

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Spirituality refers to an awareness of something greater than the individual self. It's usually expressed through religion and/or prayer or meditation, but there are many other paths of spiritual pursuit and expression. Prayer may be silent or spoken out loud; it can be done alone or in a group setting, such as in church or temple. Prayer can be for one's self or on behalf of others, as when an entire congregation is asked to pray for a sick person or the person's family. The person is usually a member of the congregaton, but not always. Some religions set aside certain times of the day and special days of the week for prayers.

Studies have found that spirituality and religion are very important to the quality of life for many people with cancer. Although research has not shown that spirituality can cure cancer, or any other disease, some studies have found that prayer may be an effective addition to conventional medical care. The psychological benefits of prayer may include reduction of stress and anxiety, promotion of a more positive outlook, and the strengthening of the will to live.

Medical institutions often include spirituality and prayer as important aids in healing. Many hospitals have chapels, clergymen and voluntary groups to serve their patients' spiritual needs.

Does prayer help?
Those who believe in the importance of spirituality feel that prayer can decrease the negative effects of disease, speed recovery and increase the effectiveness of medical treatments. Religious observance has been associated with peace of mind, stress reduction, relief of pain and anxiety, and strengthening of the will to live.

Prayer can, indeed, provide an active means of coping with the stress of illness. In the face of suffering, belief in God and prayer can provide purpose, meaning and hope. Sometimes answers come from prayer when medical science has none.

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