Who would ever think, that in a country ruled by rational thought, where proof is required every step of the way, that prayer would even be considered as a legitimate source of healing. Could it be that so many are disenchanted with current medical practices or has medical science run out of ammunition that doctors themselves are promoting prayer? There appears to be an emergence of current books, many written by MD’s, garnished with case histories and scientific studies to prove that faith and prayer are indeed effective tools for healing. Somewhere between the pro’s and con’s of healing prayer lies the truth that our Jewish ancestors, living in Israel around the time of the destruction of the Temple, knew that healing was one of the purposes of prayer, and lived reasonably well by it.
Some of these books I’ve read describe certain phenomena that seem to disclose the technology behind prayer. Larry Dossey, MD writes in “Prayer Is Good Medicine” that prayer is a nonlocal event, a term coined by physicists to describe distant interactions, particularly of subatomic particles. The most convincing experimental evidence within the whole of science lies in the area of particle physics. If one separates two electrons that had once been in contact and moves them far apart from each other, a change in one affects an immediate change in the other. The distance between them doesn’t matter; they could be stationed at opposite ends of the Earth. The separated particles behave as if they are united as a single whole. Is this connection between subatomic particles a form of prayer? If so, the entire universe is a prayer.
For the more spiritually minded, prayer is an acknowledgment of our connection with God and with all life. An eternal connection exists between us and the spiritual spheres, but it needs to be acknowledged in order to receive it’s blessings. Briefs surveys though the Jewish prayer book yields several references to healing. The best known is perhaps the Mi Sheberach for healing (a plea to He who blesses) which is customarily recited between the Torah readings on any given Shabbat. The daily Amidah, the essential Jewish prayer, contains within its petitionary blessings, one for healing–Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed–including blessings for a host of other vital human needs: abundance, wisdom, repentance. These blessings from above are continually available, waiting just to be acknowledged through prayer, so we may receive them.
In June of 1995, I presented a workshop on Jewish healing at a one-day conference at Camp Ramah, in central Massachusetts. It was designed to introduce a clinical prototype of Jewish healing based on concepts that I extracted from the Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. I had been working in that direction for a few years prior to the conference. Somehow the rustic camp house I was assigned for the workshop was hidden so deep in the woods and so far off the main path, that very few participants were able to find it. Consequently, only a few people actually showed up. What made it all worthwhile, however, was a young woman who approached me afterwards and introduced herself as a representative from the National Jewish Healing Center in New York. She came specifically to learn more about my approach to healing. Jewish healing was in its embryonic stages at that time and a National Center was established by a grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation to serve as a clearinghouse for healing programs throughout the country. Her presence opened my eyes to the two most prevalent forms of Jewish healing at that time: healing prayer and bikkur cholim, visiting the sick. Since then I began to take prayer seriously and included it in my arsenal of healing techniques.
How do we pray for healing? Traditionally, we offer up the names of cholim (sick members of the community) to the rabbi on Shabbat to be inserted into the traditional prayer for healing. Now, we can also pray for those who are ailing, at synagogue sponsored Jewish healing services–these are sometimes difficult to find. We can also pray for ourselves. This prayer which was included in the Camp Ramah healing circle typifies personal healing prayer:
“Hear my prayer, O Lord, heed my plea for mercy.
In time of trouble I call You, for You will answer me.
When pain and illness are my companions, let there be room in my heart for strength.
When the days and nights are filled with darkness, let the light of courage find its place.
Help me endure the suffering and dissolve the fear; renew within me the calm spirit of trust and peace.
We praise you, O God, Healer of the Sick”
Even skeptics or atheists, who constantly demand scientific evidence, are included in studies that illustrate how prayer facilitates healing. Whether one believes in the power of prayer or not, there is the pragmatic wisdom that prayer works based on studies that have shown significant improvement of disorders. The one condition, however, that overrides all concerns is that healing must ultimately become the will of God.