Spiritual Approaches

Every one in this world is connected to a higher power. A power that person considers supreme and above himself and all of the world. It doesn’t whether we view that power as God, as Science, logic or something else. Even an atheist who questions the existence of God knows that there is a power that he can’t name, touch, or hold but is tapping every living organism in this world. Spirituality exploits into that unknown yet superpower and uses it for healing.

One thing is consistent across all religions and spiritual practice. The power of love is not underestimated and is considered to be all-encompassing. When a human being or a living organism is plied with love and care, his thoughts are purified, and his body responds in kind. The belief that you can heal is essential before indulging into actual practices that can get you better. Spiritualism is channelling that inner calm which moves the entire universe and using the power of love and care to manifest it in our body. 

“Writing about the role of religion and spirituality in healing is one of the most difficult things to do. The reason is that the experience of the divine—or whatever you choose to call the realm of spirit—is by definition beyond words. And yet in the Commonweal Cancer Help Program we have witnessed hundreds of people for whom the mystery of spirit has been the most powerful dimension of their experience of healing. This can be true whether they are healing physically or not.

But it is equally true that many people go through cancer with no interest in religious or spiritual experience at all. Their orientation may be secular, scientific, philosophical, or simply devoid of religious or spiritual interest. 

This section reviews the literature on religious and spiritual approaches to healing, but for many of you, the science is somewhat beside the point. I personally have come to a profound belief that religious or spiritual experience can have a transformative effect on healing. The literature we review below is useful and important—but it is the lived experience that matters.”

Michael Lerner, Co-founder – Commonweal

Spirituality and Medical Science

Spiritual healing has many definitions and practices according to the many spiritual traditions. The Cambridge Dictionary defines spiritual healing as “the activity of making a person healthy without using medicines or other physical methods, sometimes as part of a religious ceremony.” Note the word “sometimes” in this last phrase. Spirituality is not the same as religiosity, although they may intersect and overlap. No authoritative, widely accepted definitions exist, but “according to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, spirituality is a relationship between a person and a power greater than themselves that improves their lives, whereas religion is a specific practice connected to an organized group.”

“Spirituality is a relationship between a person and a power greater than themselves that improves their lives, whereas religion is a specific practice connected to an organized group.”

-National Comprehensive Cancer Network

Collectively, spiritual approaches fall under a broader category sometimes called distant healing intention therapies. Defined by one source as “a compassionate mental act directed toward the health and wellbeing of a distant person,”3 these therapies include many forms:

  • Nonlocal healing
  • Prayer, including intercessory prayer
  • Shamanic healing
  • Spiritual healing
  • Laying on of hands

Key Points

  • You can be spiritual without being religious and religious without being spiritual. Or you can be both.
  • Many patients include spiritual and/or religious practices in their approach to healing. Some healthcare providers include spiritual beliefs and practices in their care—whether quietly or explicitly.
  • Our interest in spiritual and religious approaches reflects our deep experience—as well as scientific evidence—that they often bring profound comfort and relief of symptoms to people with cancer. Evidence also shows that spiritual and religious practices may extend life with cancer in some cases—or even contribute to lasting remissions.
  • Beyond the impact of spiritual or religious practice on symptoms and comfort, these practices often change entire lives.
  • We know that regular religious or spiritual practice—participating in a religious or spiritual service or group—is associated with stronger social support, which in turn is associated with better health in general.
  • We know that meditation has demonstrated health benefits.
  • We know that religious or spiritual beliefs can may have a profound impact in how people experience death and dying—sometimes alleviating fear almost entirely.
  • We are intrigued by studies of the power of intercessory prayer. We know that intercessory prayer can be of benefit to the person who prays as well as to the person who simply knows others are praying for her. The question is whether prayer has independent power to heal—for example, if you pray for someone and she does not know you re praying for her. Many religious people believe this to be true.
  • On the other hand, we know that beliefs that cancer is a punishment of some kind can be deeply distressing. Religious or spiritual beliefs of this kind are rarely helpful for anyone involved.
  • We don’t privilege spiritual or religious approaches over secular approaches to healing. We see them as equally valid.


Meditation is marked by focusing attention, regulating breathing, and raising awareness of thoughts and feelings to achieve inner calm, physical relaxation, psychological balance and improved vitality and coping. Many meditative practices include a spiritual component, and some are deeply spiritual.

Meditation can take many forms and has deep roots in both eastern religious traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Daoism) and western traditions (Christianity). Assessments of the role and purpose of meditation in Christian practice vary. Visit Meditation for more details

References and More Information

In this article


Scroll to Top