THE FAITH FACTOR: Proof of the Healing Power of Prayer by

THE FAITH FACTOR: Proof of the Healing Power of Prayer

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Faith is good medicine,"" pronounces this convinced though not necessarily convincing Christian physician, who here presents research on the connection between religion and healing, relates supporting anecdotes, and calls on his fellow doctors to utilize the spiritual component of the healing arts. Going even further than Herbert Benson, who identified the ""faith factor"" in Timeless Healing (1996), Matthews (Georgetown Univ. School of Medicine) delineates a dozen components of this factor--e.g., equanimity, temperance, social support, comforting rituals--that he says help prevent disease, enhance recovery, extend life, and create a sense of well-being. Drawing on case histories of his patients, he illustrates faith's benefits in healing body and mind, recovering from addictions, improving quality of life, and facing death. Noting that spirituality alone has not been shown to have the same benefits as religious involvement, he recommends that individuals develop a spiritual program that includes frequent church attendance combined with daily prayer and regular reading of the Bible. Further, he urges doctors to question patients about the importance of religion in their lives and to use this information therapeutically. Thus, in Matthews's view, a doctor who learns that a patient has stopped going to worship services would be justified in informing the patient that such behavior may have negative health consequences. Matthews, who uses spiritual readings and prayer with his own patients, has a vision of the doctor's office as ""a holy meeting ground between religion and medicine,"" a vision that he acknowledges is seriously threatened by managed care's increasing constraints on physicians' time. While many would welcome a more human element in the doctor-patient relationship, Matthews's vision is certain to be viewed skeptically, if not simply rejected, by large numbers of doctors and patients alike.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Viking