What is Spiritual Healing?

When I first started working as a medical intern I used to place a prayer book in my bag for work. At the time I thought I might have the opportunity to say a prayer for a sick patient or share a prayer with a family if they asked. Unfortunately a hospital is a busy place, and being an intern even more so. I put prayer and spirituality to one side, focusing on the material, scientific healing I was trained to practice. But maybe that is an excuse and I, like many of my colleagues, don’t put enough stock in the effects of spiritual healing.

Abdu’l-Baha says:

O thou distinguished physician! … Praise be to God that thou hast two powers: one to undertake physical healing and the other spiritual healing. Matters related to man’s spirit have a great effect on his bodily condition. For instance, thou shouldst impart gladness to thy patient, give him comfort and joy, and bring him to ecstasy and exultation. How often hath it occurred that this hath caused early recovery. Therefore, treat thou the sick with both powers. Spiritual feelings have a surprising effect on healing nervous ailments.1

While medical training might not give attention to spiritual healing there is increasing evidence that at least some established diseases have a strong connection to our psychological, social and spiritual well-being. For example both psychosomatic and somatoform disorders are physical illnesses that are either caused or aggravated by mental health. These are well recognised to have a large component derived from anxiety and depression, of which spirituality can have a strong bearing. While other disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia are more controversial, they have responded to psychological treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy.234

You may not have ever heard of some of those disorders so you might be surprised to hear that they may be relatively common. A study looking at patients in twenty-two general practices in Switzerland found that 15.1% of patients presenting with a physical complaint met criteria for a somatoform disorder5. Other research suggests it might be as high as 30%6. These conditions often present as symptoms that are difficult to explain medically and often occur alongside anxiety or depression (sometimes undiagnosed).

So it is reasonable to say that we, as a society and as a medical profession, under-recognise how much of our physical health complaints and unexplained symptoms have some connection to our psychological, social and spiritual well-being. Doctors often either prescribe a drug in the blind hope it might improve things or, worse yet, some tell their patients their unexplained symptoms are “in their head”.

However, there is change stirring. Slowly the medical community is recognising that individuals truly do experience these symptoms, should be treated with respect and that more effort should be made to identify psychosocial factors that are playing a role. This is a slow process. There are still large gaps in medical training and deficiencies in how our consultations are structured.

I take heart in these words of Shoghi Effendi:

Abdu’l-Baha does often state that the medical science will much improve. With the appearance of every Revelation a new insight is created in man and this in turn expresses itself in the growth of science. This has happened in past dispensations and we find its earliest fruits in our present day. What we see however is only the beginning. With the spiritual awakening of man this force will develop and marvelous results will become manifest.7

Once the medical profession recognizes there are important psychosocial factors impacting on a wide range of physical symptoms, the next step is to acknowledge the need for spiritual healing. Abdu’l-Baha says:

Illnesses which occur by reason of physical causes should be treated by doctors with medical remedies; those which are due to spiritual causes disappear through spiritual means. Thus an illness caused by affliction, fear, nervous impressions, will be healed more effectively by spiritual rather than by physical treatment. Hence, both kinds of treatment should be followed; they are not contradictory. Therefore thou shouldst also accept physical remedies inasmuch as these too have come from the mercy and favour of God, Who hath revealed and made manifest medical science so that His servants may profit from this kind of treatment also. Thou shouldst give equal attention to spiritual treatments, for they produce marvellous effects.8

Physical disease, especially those in critical condition in hospital, will of course not respond to prayer alone and it is important to note Abdu’l-Baha explicitly encourages the use of physical treatment in the quote above. It is, though, heartening to know that everyone can play a role in spiritual healing, not just medical professionals – whether it be with prayer or by showing love and compassion:

We should all visit the sick. When they are in sorrow and suffering, it is a real help and benefit to have a friend come. Happiness is a great healer to those who are ill… This has greater effect than the remedy itself. You must always have this thought of love and affection when you visit the ailing and afflicted.9

There are two ways of healing sickness, material means and spiritual means. The first is by the treatment of physicians; the second consisteth in prayers offered by the spiritual ones to God and in turning to Him. Both means should be used and practised.10

So maybe I was on the right track all those years ago and I shouldn’t have neglected my instincts. I’m also sure there are other methods of spiritual healing that you can think of and share in the comments below.


  1. Abdu’l-Baha. Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, sec. 130, pp. 150-151 []
  2. Shirazi et al. Irritable bowel syndrome treatment: cognitive behavioural therapy versus medical therapy. Arch Med Sci 2012 Feb 29; 8(1): 123-129 []
  3. Bennett R & Nelson D. Cognitive behavioural therapy for fibromyalgia. Nature: Clinical Practice Rheumatology, August 2006 2(8) []
  4. Behavioural therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Accessed 13th February 2016. http://www.webmd.com/ibs/guide/behavioral-therapy []
  5. Hartgoli et al. Patients presenting with somatic complaints in general practice: depression, anxiety and somatoform disorders are frequent and associated with psychosocial stressors. BMC Family Practice 11:67, 2010 []
  6. O’Sullivan. “You think I’m mad? – the truth about psychosomatic illness”. The Guardian: Health & Fitness, Accessed 13th February 2016. http://tinyurl.com/pkc4au []
  7. In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to two believers, 14 January 1932 []
  8. Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, sec 133, pp. 151-52 []
  9. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by Abdu’l-Baha during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912 2nd. ed. (Wilmette: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1982), p. 204 []
  10. Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, sec 133, pp. 151-52 []

About the Author

Anis is a medical doctor working at a metropolitan hospital in Victoria, Australia. He is currently training as a General Physician with the Royal Australian Collage of Physicians. He has a particular interest in nutrition, video games and all things relating to soccer (especially Liverpool FC).

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Discussion 13 Comments

  1. Prayer is a true way to send comfort to the ill & their friends & family. Prayer is a way to send a guiding hand to the Dr’s that are giving medical help to the person. This is to show that God that we understand that we know He’s the 1 that will give an answer even if it ain’t the 1 we want. Bcoz God has a plan for all & sometimes His answers are hard for us to understand at the time His arrives; but if we keep our minds & hearts open His reason for His answer will be shown to us.

  2. Nice summary. science is catching up with these spiritual truths. There are numerous controlled studies of healing at a distance , an early one done with cardiac patients recovery and intercessory prayer in the 1980’s and reported by Larry Dossey, MD. Consciousness is one and all creation is connected.
    As a psychologist I know that some of what I do is intangible effects of the spirit and the unspoken thoughts and intentions and the radiations of the heart.

  3. I have experienced spiritual healing in my own life many times. Prayer is a way to ask for and receive God’s will. It allows us to trust in the process and be willing to believe that miracles do happen.

  4. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder many years ago and tried several medications and therapies, which have all helped me to a great extent. I’m so grateful that I have found a wonderful therapist who encourages me to turn to Faith for healing, encourages me to pray daily, to meditate on passages from the Writings that are comforting to me, and to seek out support from the community. With her encouragement, I have started meditating for the first time in my life, and try to say the long obligatory prayer as often as possible. The difference I’ve felt in my peace of mind has been incredible. It’s easy for me to find reasons not to keep those routines (I’m tired, etc) so I’m incredibly grateful to my therapist for encouraging me to keep them. I think a good therapist knows this truth about spiritual healing and incorporates it into their practice. I pray that in the future more primary care doctors will recognize when their patients need spiritual healing as well, and help them seek resources for that.

  5. The compilation “Throne of the Inner Temple” is a wonderful source of information on this topic. It is available in the online library.
    In that you will find a quote stating that people can be so aligned with the Divine that the touch of their hands will bring healing, and also that medicine is in it’s infancy and that disease will in future be cured by foods and “hot and cold water” rather than medicines.
    Well worth a read.
    As a Reiki master of 20 years now, I was delighted to find both and am now secure in my intuitive “knowing” that modern medicine is not the answer to all.

  6. Hi Anis, I enjoyed so much reading about your thoughts and experiences. I am a musician, and I once I discovered musictherapy, it changed my way of see the power of music. I’ve been practicing music therapy in hospitals, and it is so powerful. There are many different methods, but for me the most important is that music itself, is healing. It brings joy, creates close communication with the people, and if somebody is in a room in a hospital, and you go there and sing with him, play with him or do something he likes and enjoyes, his attitude and soul changes. I believe that in the future, music will be used so much more in hospitals because is vibration, and good vibration heals.
    If you want to know more about it, I recommend reading about Helen Bonny’s guided imagery method, that is one of the most amazing things I have experienced in my life.
    LOVE

    1. Hi Omid, thanks for your comment. There is no doubt that music can have a great affect on someone’s affect and mental state and its nice to hear you are having good experiences with using it in hospitals.

      “We, verily, have made music as a ladder for your souls” — Kitab-i-Aqdas

  7. Hello Anis,
    Thank you for a terrific heart felt article on spiritual healing with a Baha’i perspective.
    It is interesting to note that the healing profession in the United States had this huge renaissance in spiritual and holistic healing around the mid 1800’s to near the end of that century. Hmmm. One wonders what happen in the mid 1800‘s to influence such a movement.
    By around 1920 forward the system of medicine become more institutionalized in the U.S. It aligned with pharmaceutical companies, and the spiritual aspects of healing fell away to the rule of bio-chemistry and the comforts of a governing material philosophy.

    As a health practitioner for 35 years I enthusiastically support your idea that …”there is a change stirring.”
    As the saying goes, we are spiritual beings having a physical experience. Western physical based medicine is starting to catch up.
    Indeed, the truth is re-emerging in the science and art of healing as it is in our social and economical life.
    “So maybe I was on the right track all those years ago and I shouldn’t have neglected my instincts.”
    Or maybe you are still on the right tract having only to travel through a few cities and valleys before arriving at your destination. That is the consciousness you now have in your accomplished profession. God bless you. Keep up the grand work. charles cooper

  8. Another aspect of spirituality and healing is alluded to in the Second Hidden Word from the Arabic, where we are exhorted to use Justice in our lives so that we see with our own eyes and not through the eyes of others.
    As an example, we have antibiotics for bacterial infections but lament that there is no antiviral drug. However, great doctors of the 20th Century developed intravenous Vitamin C treatment that is a panacea for all viral infections. Because this information is not taught in universities, we instantly dismiss such a claim as quackery, and consequently our loved ones needlessly die when a cheap and effective remedy is readily available. I personally have known Baha’is who have died of viral infections in the meninges of the brain, deaths that could have been avoided by observance of the Second Hidden Word from the Arabic, and some oral or intravenous ascorbate.
    For an excellent summary of this treatment see this 1971 article from the Journal of Applied Nutrition: http://www.doctoryourself.com/klennerpaper.html

    Other search terms for inquisitive minds include GAPS (Dr Campbell-McBride) – a cure for autism, Orthomolecular, Niacin (schizophrenia remedy), and Liposomal C (nanoparticle Vitamin C to be taken orally but with the efficacy of IV C).

  9. Your article is wondrous! After 47 years in Health Care in a wide range of levels of practice I am retired from strict allopathic modalities and moving into integrative practice. Reiki training is the first step, the second step is to work with a circle of grass roots practitioners from which i hope to learn more about ceremony and healing. I hope that your good work continues with joy.

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