Defining “Science” Prayer is Good Medicine (1997)

By Terry Shea

October 12, 2017

Centre for Spiritual Living White Rock

Posted In: Spiritual Wellness

Recent surveys as quoted in Larry Dossey’s book “Prayer is Good Medicine” published in 1997, say that 75% of patients think their doctors should address their spiritual issues as well as the strictly medical ones, and that 50% want their doctors to not only pray for them, but pray with them. I can’t wait to get back to my youngish and relatively hip GP, Jason (he wears Fox and Fluevog shoes so he must be cool) and ask him if he is interested in praying, not only for me but with me. I wonder what form that would take and what such a prayer would sound like. I also wonder to what Higher Power it might be addressed.

As a Reverend, I suppose I should take a more sanguine approach to this question and be just hopefully optimistic about the entire question. At the same time, while working as a chaplain in the provincial medical system, I witnessed the elimination of every chaplaincy in Fraser Health but one. The withdrawal of funding under the previous government left one chaplain for every medical facility between Burnaby and Boston Bar. It would seem that society, and by extension our governments, are ambivalent on the role of the spiritual in our physical wellbeing. As of the writing of Dr. Dossey’s book, one third of the Medical Schools in the United States, including the esteemed Harvard Medical School, have developed courses in alternative medicine, including spiritual issues and prayer. I could find nothing on prayer or spiritual issues at the UBC School of Medicine. I couldn’t find anything in the curriculum of the Vancouver School of Theology linking prayer and the medical system.

What is the connection between “faith” and health? Ernest Holmes, in the “Science of Mind”, is unequivocal on the nature of faith (pp,283-285) and its role in everything from how much wealth we enjoy, how deep and enduring are our friendships, to the state of our health and longevity. A philosophy that has, since its inception, a desire to heal is not likely to be replaced by allopathic medicine. Our current medical model may be able to keep the machine running efficiently, but at what cost? Diseases like Alzheimer’s, and auto-immune conditions, not to mention, plain old cancer seem to be the untouchables of our age. Take into account we are the most addicted society on the planet, I can’t help asking myself, if prayer is good medicine, then why are so few of us using it.

Science tells us that prayer works, but what it cannot tell us is how it works. Join me this week as we examine why, and specifically how, prayer works. AND nowhere will you hear a disclaimer that prayer could be hazardous to your health, or for that matter be presented with a long list of the potentially dangerous side effects.

Should we study prayer? Teilhard de Chardin, the famous Jesuit scholar once said,
“Research is the highest form of adoration.” He also hinted strongly that the phenomenon known as mankind is the expressed evolution of God.

Questions for Rev Terry? Email him at