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What role does faith play in health and/or healing?

Q: What role does faith play in health and/or healing?

Rev. GEOFFREY KERSLAKE is a priest of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Ottawa.

Because Catholic Christians believe that human life is a unity of body, mind and soul, we recognize that health and healing are sometimes needed on any or all of these levels. Numerous studies have been done on whether praying to God will speed the recovery of a sick person helps them heal faster; I have seen results that purport to prove either that prayer helps or has no ­effect whatever.

I remember reading about the ­experience of a priest who spent many years of his ministry attending to terminally ill patients who was asked if he had seen any “miracle cures.”

His answer affected me profoundly when I first read it and after eight years of experience as a priest I know that what he said was true: “I have not seen any miracle cures, but I have seen many miraculous healings.”


Rabbi REUVEN BULKA is head of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa and host of Sunday night with Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA.

Once we absorb the idea that life is a gift from God for us to nurture and respect, this should translate into our being very careful concerning health matters. This means that overeating, excessive drinking, or failure to exercise are all inconsistent with a true, faith-­imbued appreciation of life.

It should be obvious that a true faith-based life would include an embrace of everything healthful. The people who would be in the best shape would be religious leaders, whose gratitude to God would be expressed by avoiding any food, drink, or habit that could curtail life. Even if we quibble about exactly which food, drink and habit qualify as worthy, we could still make the association.

However, to be blunt, the associ­ation of faith and health as projected by religious leaders is simply not there. Our image of religious people is not that of people in great shape. That, by the way, is a shame, because religious leaders in good (never mind great) shape would be a most effective inspiration.

As to faith and healing, we need to tread very carefully. Having faith in the face of crushing, debilitating illness no doubt can have enormous benefit.


Rev. RICK REED is senior pastor at the Metropolitan Bible Church in Ottawa.

This question is an intensely personal one for me, as I was recently diagnosed with cancer.

Being told you have cancer is a sobering experience.

It’s also a clarifying one.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen more clearly than ever the role my faith plays in health and healing.

Sickness and death have been sad realities since our first parents chose to disobey God.

We now live in a fallen world where none of us are exempt from suffering.


As I begin cancer treatment, I have faith that God can heal me — by miracle or medicine.

I’m grateful for the skilled and caring medical help I’m receiving, but my ultimate trust is in the God who promises eternal life to all who put their faith in Jesus (John 3:16).

God has already given me renewed spiritual health; I can trust him with my physical health.

Rev. RAY INNEN PARCHELO is a novice Tendai priest and founder of the Red Maple Sangha, the first lay Buddhist community in Eastern Ontario.

Over the past decades, we have seen a major shift in how we view health. It is less seen negatively, that is, as the absence of disease. More often now, it is defined positively, such as the UN has done, as a multi-faceted state of well-being. This includes such factors as diet, poverty and psycho-emotional balance. More and more, health is holistic, that is, encompassing the full spectrum of human experience rather than the limited lens of bones, blood and organs. Needless to say, one’s faith, however we define that, belongs with and contributes to overall well-being.


Buddhists, since our earliest times, have followed Shakyamuni’s original teaching that human suffering had a spiritual “cure.” He is often called the Great Physician, diagnosing suffering as caused by attachments and craving. His treatment and cure is to follow the “prescription” of the Eight-step Path. Further, as is clear from this path, whether we rely on modern research evidence or the recommendations from the Great Physician, that the significant factor is not simply faith.


JACK MCLEAN is a Bahá’í scholar, teacher, essayist and poet published in the fields of spirituality, Bahá’í theology and poetry.

The Bahá’i Faith gives some clear guidance on the role that faith plays in health and healing. Briefly, the Bahá’i teachings affirm that healing takes place through both spiritual and physical means. Spiritual means refers to prayer; material means refers to consulting “skilled physicians” and taking prescribed remedies. The Bahá’i teachings counsel that both methods should be used in the treatment of disease.

Skilled physicians refers to a variety of healing therapies, but the Bahá’i Faith does not endorse any one particular method to the exclusion of all others. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the authorized appointed interpreter of the Bahá’i teachings, wrote that when the science of medicine is perfected, healing will take place through herbs, diet and various waters.


Rev. KEVIN FLYNN is an Anglican priest and director of the Anglican studies program at Saint Paul University.

The appearance of sickness, whether sudden or gradual, is always some sort of crisis. The body’s imperfect condition or the mind’s agonies call for attention and set us on a path toward restoration. Our care for the sick is grounded on Jesus’ own compassion and care for the sick.

The New Testament letter of James (chapter 5) has shaped the direction of the Church’s ministry: the sick call upon the elders of the community to come pray over them and to anoint them with oil in the name of Jesus Christ. James says this has three effects: the prayer of faith will save the sick; the Lord will raise them up; their sins will be forgiven. The relation between the physical and spiritual dimensions of sickness is underscored here by the first two verbs. The prayer of faith will save/heal — the word has both meanings in Greek. The “raising up” refers both to rising from the illness — literally getting out of bed — but is also the verb used to describe God’s raising Jesus from death (cf. Acts 3:15; 26:8; 2 Cor. 1:9).


KEVIN SMITH is on the board of directors for the Centre of Inquiry, Canada’s premier venue for humanists, skeptics and freethinkers.

Apparently, when God takes a break from controlling the levers and pulleys of his universe, he’ll often go on television. He does weekly guest spots with the likes of Benny Hinn and Ernest Angley, or so they say.

Working through these titans of the televangelist circuit, he’ll do a bit of healing, preferring mostly the poor or visible minorities. Even Peter Poppoff is back in the biz after discovering the instructions transmitted through his hidden earpiece weren’t from God; they were his wife’s static chirping. Wrong channel, Peter.

While I am respectful of people following their chosen faith, it angers me when following faith to the max can be hazardous to one’s health and healing.


ABDUL RASHID is a member of the Ottawa Muslim community, the Christian-Muslim Dialogue and the Capital Region Interfaith Council.

The Islamic view is that a human being consists of closely inter-related physical, psychological and spiritual elements. A change in one affects the other. Physical illness has an impact on mental and spiritual well-being just as mental illness affected physical well-being. Accordingly, the approach to illness has always been holistic.

Recent research amply demonstrates the positive impact of religion and prayer on health in terms of increased hopefulness and faster recovery. In cases of terminal illness, faith and prayer help maintain quality of life.

Islam’s first and foremost teaching is to have absolute faith in our Creator Who cherishes His creation. He says in the Holy Koran: ”I am indeed close (to them); I respond to the call of every suppliant as he calls on me” (2:186).

Having faith does not mean abstention from care of body and its treatment. Islam does not treat medicine and prayers as alternative forms of healing. When we do become sick, it is a religious obligation to undertake proper treatment. Our Prophet said “seek treatment ... for God has created a remedy for every ailment, some known and some not.”


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And from The Urantia Book (on faith as a factor in healings by Jesus)

149:1.1 "...scores of afflicted found restoration of health and happiness as a result of the reconstructive power of the intense faith which impelled them to seek for healing.

149:1.4 "In the absence of direct word from the Master regarding the nature of these cases of spontaneous healing, it would be presuming on our part to undertake to explain how they were accomplished, but it will be permissible to record our opinion of all such healing phenomena. We believe that many of these apparent miracles of healing, as they occurred in the course of Jesus' earth ministry, were the result of the coexistence of the following three powerful, potent, and associated influences:

"1. The presence of strong, dominant, and living faith in the heart of the human being who persistently sought healing, together with the fact that such healing was desired for its spiritual benefits rather than for purely physical restoration."

148:2.4 "In all his contact with the sick and afflicted, when it came to the technique of treatment or the revelation of the unknown causes of disease, Jesus did not disregard the instructions of his Paradise brother, Immanuel, given ere he embarked upon the venture of the Urantia incarnation. Notwithstanding this, those who ministered to the sick learned many helpful lessons by observing the manner in which Jesus inspired the faith and confidence of the sick and suffering." (Italics are placed by ed.)

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