Faith and Healing

         Faith and religious practice have the potential to improve physical and emotional health as well as to help people cope with illness and suffering.  A model was developed in the 1970s by psychiatrist George Engel, who viewed the impact of a disease  and modern medicine omitting social, psychological, and behavioral dimensions of illness.   Engel proposed, instead, that “…clinicians employ what he termed a biopsychosocial model  (PNI) in their practice, research, and teaching”(Engel 130). This approach caught on in fields ranging from biomedicine to clinical social work and psychology, due particularly to its emphasis on the connection between clinician and patient.

Stress, plays a huge part in a person’s mental and emotional health and can affect their physical health.   Engel found religion provides social support, hope and enables a person to cope more effectively and can impact a person’s neuroendocrine and immune systems thus your physical health.  mechanisms and, thereby, on his or her physical health. “…PNI provides a biological foundation for the argument that the mind plays a key role in both disease and health while, at the same time, factoring in biological, psychological, social, and spiritual variables” (Engel 131).

A number of studies have been done that seem to show that intercessory prayer can work to help patients overcome illness. These studies look at what happens when others pray for those who are ailing in some manner.  Cardiac patients who received intercessory prayer in addition to coronary stenting,  appeared to have better clinical outcomes than those treated with standard stenting therapy alone, according to researchers at Duke University Medical Center (Krucoff).  Other studies look at how a patient’s faith might actually help in the healing process. It’s more than just going to a place like Lourdes to become healed. How someone feels about a higher power, and how he or she communes with that higher power, might affect the outcome of an illness or surgery.  Andrew Weaver and Kevin Flannerly found in their study that religion offers hope to those suffering from cancer, and has a positive effect on the quality of life of cancer patients .  Spirituality of cancer patients determined quality of life during care. Those with faith had a better quality of life than those without it (Weaver and Flannerly 1210).

Some studies seem to show that if you believe with, and attempt to commune with, a higher power, you might enjoy better health and longer life.  The University of Toronto conducted a study about how people believe God influences them — and their health and other decisions — in everyday life (Schieman 25).

Faith, spirituality and religion appear to have a positive impact on people’s lives.


Engel, George L.   “The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Biomedicine”.  Science.   196.4299 (1977): 129-36. Web.  17 May 2013.

Krucoff MW, et al.  “Integrative noetic therapies as adjuncts to percutaneous intervention during unstable coronary syndromes: Monitoring and Actualization of Noetic Training (MANTRA) feasibility pilot”.  American Heart Journal.   142.2 (2001) : 760-769. Web.  17 May 2013.

Schieman, Scott.  “Socioeconomic Status and Beliefs about God’s Influence in Everyday Life”.  Sociology of Religion.   71.1 (2010) : 25-51.  Web.  17 May 2013.

Weaver, Andrew and Kevin Flannerly.  “The role of religion/spirituality for cancer patients and their caregivers.”    Southern Medical Journal.   97.12 (2004) :1210-4.  17 May 2013.

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