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What is Prayer Therapy?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Prayer therapy is a type of treatment for medical or psychological conditions that strives to utilize prayer as the primary method of healing. While prayer therapy may include other types of more traditional practices, it also includes efforts to communicate with and appeal to some sense of higher power to affect change in a person’s life and help him or her find a greater sense of inner peace. This can take a number of forms, such as the inclusion of prayer in another type of treatment, the use of prayer as a sole form of treatment, and simply using prayer or meditation to quietly reflect and cleanse the mind.

The purpose of prayer therapy is typically to target the mind and spirit of a person for assistance in dealing with medical issues or physical complications. This can include recovery after surgery or a major medical procedure, battling psychological and physiological illnesses like addiction and depression, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle in preventive ways like reducing blood pressure and stress levels. Though the precise physiological benefits of prayer may not be fully understood, and there is debate as to how it works, there have been numerous studies that show prayer and positive spiritual beliefs can be beneficial for people.

Proponents of prayer therapy indicate that a person is composed of three major aspects, which are the body, mind, and soul or spirit. The body is the domain of medical doctors and psychiatrists, and the mind is typically treated through a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other therapist. Prayer therapy seeks to target the spirit, primarily, to ensure spiritual well being that establishes greater potential for a healthy body and mind. Practitioners of prayer therapy believe the soul or spirit of a person is generally overlooked by other health care professionals, and they strive to rectify that oversight. While most physicians and therapists do not argue against the benefits of prayer therapy, they often suggest such treatments be used in conjunction with other medicinal and psychological therapies.

In the United States, many people who practice this therapy direct their prayers and thoughts toward a singular deity and often practice Christianity. Evidence, however, has indicated that such monotheistic and dogmatic beliefs are not entirely necessary. Surrender to any form of higher power and meditation or prayer aimed at releasing negative spiritual buildup have been shown to help people recover from or deal with various ailments and conditions. Much as keeping negative thoughts and emotions “bottled up” is believed to cause mental unrest that can develop as physical conditions, proponents of prayer therapy strive to prevent people from keeping spiritual stress self-contained.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1006259 — On Feb 19, 2022

I think that prayer is a very important treatment for any kind of illness. All our conditions derive from imbalance of our thoughts and physical body activation. Prayer helps unconscious mind to heal (to be in balance). Because the unconscious mind has to do a lot with automatic biological metabolic cellular processes.

By ddljohn — On Apr 11, 2014

I have personally benefited from prayer therapy. I realize that not everyone believes in it or feels the need for it, but for me it's a reality.

A few months ago, I developed a severe back spam which left me in immense pain for weeks. I was receiving shots of pain killers, muscle relaxers and steroids. I couldn't walk and I lost feeling in both legs and feet. All of this happened in a matter of days and I was so devastated and depressed. After several weeks of treatment, my condition was not improving and so I decided to pray more and ask for God's help.

I prayed all of the prayers I knew daily, as well as the prayers that are known to have therapeutic effects. I also prayed the rosary daily. Soon after I started the prayers, my condition started improving. Today, I still have pain once in a while but I can walk and the feeling in my legs have returned. I'm sure that the medications helped, but the prayer definitely helped as well.

There is nothing that anyone is going to lose by praying for healing. There is only something to gain from prayer therapy and so it should not be discounted.

By SarahGen — On Apr 11, 2014

@fBoyle-- As far as I know, there have been studies done on this. For example, there are church prayer groups who upon request from patients and their loved ones, pray for them to get better. I remember seeing a study which showed that patients whom prayer groups prayed for recovered faster than patients who did not have the support of a prayer group. So I think that even science has accepted the power of prayer.

By fBoyle — On Apr 10, 2014

I don't think that prayer can treat illnesses. Even mental illnesses are genetic in nature or are caused by a dysfunction in the brain. What can prayer do about that? As for physical illnesses, modern medicine can treat most illnesses today.

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