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"Few Medical Professionals argue anymore about the importance of emotions in helping to treat illness. It is the more abstract concept of the role played by the spirit—and, by extension, a person's religious faith—that has been considered controversial by many in the medical community.

"Plenty of books have been published for the layman touting the power of prayer to enhance one's physical and mental well-being. Until now, few scientific papers have been published in professional journals and elsewhere presenting that sheds light on the influence and importance of the spiritual realm.

"For several doctors who have contributed to the literature, the part that faith and prayer play in healing is unquestioned. Both Dr. Christina Puchalski at George Washington University and Dr. Dale Matthews, formerly of Georgetown University, have written extensively on the subject, and will on occasion pray with patients as part of the healing process. 'As a doctor, I attempt to enter into each patient's way of looking at the world,' Dr. Matthews writes.... 'If I want a good relationship with my patient, I must understand his or her worldview and incorporate his or her vocabulary and viewpoints into our discussion.' Prayer can be part of such discussions, he says.

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October 7, 2002

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