Prayer and cancer healing
There are two types of prayer – that which the individual does for themselves, and that which is received – either knowingly or not – from others. Numerous studies show that in the former case, those who pray contemplatively or meditate – in both Western and Eastern traditions – can positively influence their health.
Spirituality in Cancer Care
Source: National Cancer Institute
Religious and spiritual values are important to patients coping with cancer.
…Some studies show that doctors’ support of spiritual well-being in very ill patients helps improve their quality of life. Health care providers who treat patients coping with cancer are looking at new ways to help them with religious and spiritual concerns. Doctors may ask patients which spiritual issues are important to them during treatment as well as near the end of life. When patients with advanced cancer receive spiritual support from the medical team, they may be more likely to choose hospice care and less aggressive treatment at the end of life.
Serious illness, such as cancer, may cause spiritual distress.
Serious illnesses like cancer may cause patients or family caregivers to have doubts about their beliefs or religious values and cause much spiritual distress. Some studies show that patients with cancer may feel that they are being punished by God or may have a loss of faith after being diagnosed. Other patients may have mild feelings of spiritual distress when coping with cancer.
This summary is about spirituality and religion in adults with cancer.
Spiritual and religious well-being may help improve quality of life.
It is not known for sure how spirituality and religion are related to health. Some studies show that spiritual or religious beliefs and practices create a positive mental attitude that may help a patient feel better and improve the well-being of family caregivers. Spiritual and religious well-being may help improve health and quality of life in the following ways:
- Decrease anxiety, depression, anger, and discomfort.
- Decrease the sense of isolation (feeling alone) and the risk of suicide.
- Decrease alcohol and drug abuse.
- Lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
- Help the patient adjust to the effects of cancer and its treatment.
- Increase the ability to enjoy life during cancer treatment.
- Give a feeling of personal growth as a result of living with cancer.
- Increase positive feelings, including:
- Hope and optimism.
- Freedom from regret.
- Satisfaction with life.
- A sense of inner peace.
Spiritual and religious well-being may also help a patient live longer.
The miraculous rebound power of group intention
Healthy blood cells
And, more recently, there was Joe, a 62-year-old from Vancouver, diagnosed with leukaemia and given six months to live. He’d had aggressive chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells, and now the doctors were waiting to see if the cancer was in remission and his body able to produce healthy blood cells, a prerequisite for carrying out a bone-marrow transplant, which is medicine’s last-ditch attempt at a cure.
On the Saturday before our Sunday intention, Joe’s blood count was taken at the hospital and the doctors were still concerned about the low levels of white blood cells. The day after our intention, Joe had a new set of blood tests taken, which revealed that his white blood cells had risen dramatically.
His doctors were so astounded by the dramatic rise in his blood count that they took him off all his meds. Although they recommended that he carry on with another course of chemo, this would be a far gentler form of the treatment.
Lynne McTaggart, one of the central authorities on the new science and consciousness, is the award-winning author of seven books, including the internationally bestselling The Intention Experiment, The Field, The Bond and The Power of Eight, and her books are in some 30 languages. She is also editorial director of What Doctors Don’t Tell You, one of the world’s most respected US health magazines, now published in 15 countries and awarded Best and Most Popular Website of the year for Health and Wellbeing.
Spirituality Can Enhance Quality of Life for Cancer Patients
Experts say that spiritual or religious practices can help you adjust to the effects of cancer and its treatment. Patients who rely on their faith or spirituality tend to experience increased hope and optimism, freedom from regret, higher satisfaction with life, and feelings of inner peace. In addition, patients who practice a religious tradition or are in touch with their spirituality tend to be more compliant with treatment and live a healthier lifestyle.
Studies show spirituality also can have a direct impact on quality of life by contributing to your physical health. Among the benefits shown in studies are:
- Decreased feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger
- Decreased feelings of loneliness
- Decreased alcohol and drug abuse
- Lowered blood pressure
- Better control of pain, nausea, and discomfort
Spirituality may help patients and families find deeper meaning and experience a sense of personal growth during cancer treatment, while living with cancer, and as a cancer survivor.
Studies on benefits of prayer
This study of almost 700 people with cancer concluded:
Participants with cancer whom the research team randomly allocated to the experimental group to receive remote intercessory prayer showed small but significant improvements in spiritual well-being.
This study says:
In the present study we used the spiritual practice of prayer. Its use as a supporting therapy for cancer treatment must be strengthened, for we found that it caused a positive effect on people’s lives. The intensity of participants’ anxiety was reduced, going from moderate to mild (p< 0.00) after prayer was applied.
When comparing the results of pre- and post-intervention data collection, we observed significant alterations in anxiety levels (p<0.00), respiratory rate (p=0.04)
and blood pressure (p= 0.00) of patients who received prayer. Among other alterations, anxiety causes increased blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate. Thus, we can infer that prayers can reduce the intensity of anxiety, blood pressure and respiratory rate levels of patients.
This study says:
Prayer or spiritual healing therapies may also affect psychological mediators that facilitate physiological benefits for women managing symptoms of chronic illnesses, including, but not limited to, cancer. For example, Sephton and Koopman found that women with metastatic breast cancer who highly valued spiritual expression had significantly increased immune function (increased white cell counts and lymphocytes).
The identification of cancers other than breast or skin cancer as a significant predictor of the use of prayer or spiritual healing is consistent with the previous literature, where the cancer journey was significantly associated with increased spirituality. Intercessory prayer has been shown to improve spirituality among patients with various cancers. This result is of relevance given that ‘spiritual pain’ has been associated with adverse physical or emotional symptoms and decreased spiritual quality of life among patients with advanced cancer.