Spirituality is the recognition of something outside of the self in contrast to worldly things. It is often expressed by praying, but also through religion. Many people with cancer search for a better quality of life or even a cure through the use of prayer. Throughout history, cultures across the world have developed various types of religious or spiritual systems seeking assistance from a higher authority. The different religions hold a variety of ideas as to what constitutes a supreme being. However, these different religions share a common bond and desire; the power to change and heal.
Spirituality can take many forms. Common displays include the use of meditation and seeking meaning in life by various means such as: serving others, communing with nature or creative works. Spirituality, in the form of prayers, can be conducted in a multitude of ways. Prayer can be silent or spoken out loud; it can be a prayer for self (supplication), or for others (intercessory). Prayers can be performed alone or in a group and can be in a variety of settings. Prayers are spoken in churches, mosques, temples, and homes. They can be formal or informal. Praying often involves imploring a higher power for understanding, wisdom, strength, and help in dealing with the problems of life.
Benefits of Spirituality and Prayer
Studies conducted on the impact of spirituality and prayer generally focuses on the effects religious beliefs and practices can have on the survival, ongoing health, and quality of life of the participants. While not conclusive, some research suggests that religious groups with orthodox practices and beliefs have lower rates of cancer deaths. Though not a proven cure, actions associated with spirituality can have strong psychological benefits; reducing stress and anxiety, creating a positive patient outlook, and developing an overall well- being. Some religions such as Christian Scientists lay claim that prayer works over conventional medicine to heal illnesses and cure disease. However, the American Cancer Society states there are currently no studies available to support this claim. Still, the psychological effects cannot be discounted. The ACS also notes a study conducted on 43 patients with advanced cancer who claimed to be in a state of spiritual well-being. It was found that these patients were coping more effectively with the illness and finding some meaning in the experience. They reported an increase in self-awareness and confidence, faith and hope, the ability to cope with stress, and being connected with others. Other studies on this subject matter are also available.
When coupled with standard medical procedures, spirituality and prayer could result in reduced pain and stress, along with a sense of peace among patients. Patients diagnosed with cancers such as mesothelioma may benefit from alternative therapies such as this one. Mesothelioma exhibits a long latency period, oftentimes resulting in diagnosis occurring in the later stages. Due to the diagnostic stage, palliative treatment options are often considered, like the method of spirituality and prayer.