Usually, when someone brings up God or spirituality, people have one of two reactions: they proudly proclaim their religious beliefs, or they start shutting down. Hearing other people talk about the role of God or spirit in healing, they usually put it last, almost as if they are embarrassed by it. But what we found when we started researching the role of spirituality in medicine was that it had a great basis in healing.
Even if you don’t believe in God or the power of prayer, you have to believe in something more powerful than you or the cancer. Something more than you can touch, see, or taste, because this experience is too tough to go through without something to hold on to. Some being that inspires awe by its very nature. Some being that you can give it all up to. Some being that can bear the burden for you when you get overwhelmed.
Spirituality is often understood to be less dogmatic than religion. Whereas religions often have one prescribed path to God, spirituality can see many paths to God or a Higher Power. Religion is usually practiced in a formal house of worship at set times; spirituality is something you can practice on the beach 24/7; it does not have to be associated with a particular day or hour. To me, spirituality has always referred to my connection with a Higher Power, or God.
How does prayer fit in? Sometimes prayer is something individual; sometimes it is very public as in a church, synagogue, or mosque. There have been many studies on the efficacy of prayer, beginning as early as Francis Galton’s 1872 study.