Can Prayer Heal the Sick?

prayerRecently I visited an ex-colleague who has been sick and bed-ridden. While I was talking to his family, three people (two gents and a lady) came in white dress and asked him if they can pray for him.

He wife said it would be irritating as he needs calm and quite ambiance. They are a Christian sub-caste prayer group under the banner “divine retreat”. The chief of them looked at me and said: “Sir, you appears good man…Please tell the madam that prayer is a holistic treatment and he will be miraculously cured…” (Without knowing me he made a sweeping statement of me being good just to please me – what a strategy to market their products!)

“Sir, prayer has its powers. Some channels may open up and some people will be blessed by divine grace. As far as this person is concern, the best approach is with adequate medical care. If you are so sure of healing, why can’t you go home and pray for him?” I asked him.

“But we have to pray onsite so that the Holy Spirit will save him and his all diseases will disappear…”

“Yes sir, it may disappear, only if it is a psychosomatic disease. For serious diseases like this it may not work…”

“Modern scientific research says prayer will miraculously heal sick people…”

“Please don’t mix up belief and science. I agree prayers have some powers. But it is not a solution for everything….”I told them, “And I have also seen reports of such research. The studies on the effectiveness of prayer have shown it to be ineffective. One study showed that people who knew they were being prayed for did slightly worse even. So, please do not market your service to me, I don’t subscribe to it…”

My colleague’s wife told a horrible story that a religious parent from similar faith have refused medical treatment for their child with cancer, relying on faith and prayer alone. The child’s condition got much worse, he died, and the parents were charged with neglect and the child’s death. But this faith healing is not applicable for the pastors. They go to hospitals.

He said: “They were not having adequate faith in Holy Father. That’s why…Prayer has powers and ordinary people do not understand it”

“Prayers may have powers. I do not know about it. But I am not in favor of exploiting people in despair in the name of prayer and only to increase the market share of your religion. I am not against prayer or your belief in god or your religion.” I said. It is very sad to see that government hospitals and sick people are seen as consumers for such prayer groups.

“So you are refusing and insulting the power of prayers. That’s a big sin. You will go to hell…” a lady among those white dressed army said.

I just smiled at her and said: “I do appreciate your belief. I also do pray. But I don’t subscribe to your superstitious beliefs like sin and hell…” They expected more heated reaction from me. That didn’t work. The chief might have warned her with some gestures. So she kept mum.

“Sir, your belief doesn’t agree with the power of prayer, faith healing and holistic cure?” he asked me seriously.

“That may work or may not work. I am a truth seeker so I am not in any prison of any such beliefs….”

“You can’t say like that…diseases are created by Satan. So we need to pray…” the other man said.

“Sir, unfortunately, we don’t have a Satan in my dharma. For me, everything is manifestation of the same cosmic power; people may call it god…”

“What a funny belief! You will say the disease is also god given…”

“In a way, yes it is. If you consider your karma or dharma as god. The diseases or illness can be the result of your karma – that’s bit complicated to explain now as; it involves many other factors like your ancestors, DNA, time, space etc. To make it simple, I would say we experience the divine presence in everything – all inclusive – animate and inanimate. So the virus and germs also integral part of the existence…”

“You mean to say, virus also has presence of god in it?” he laughed aloud.

“Yes…”I replied seriously.

“Aha, then you shouldn’t go to hospital…Disease is an act of god, according to your beliefs”

“But there is a problem in that…” I said.

“What problem? Going by your Hindu argument, disease and virus also are part of the god…”

“Yes…”I said slowly.

“Hence you shouldn’t treat disease, let the things be taken care by the god…And that’s exactly what we tried to communicate…God will listen to your prayers and heal the patient” he sounded triumphant.


“But what?” he raised his voice, “you lost”

“The issue is, we see god’s presence in doctors as well as in medicines…For us, and the medicine is also integral part of god…” I said.

His face changed. He didn’t reply and then changed the subject.

Udaylal Pai

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