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The Effect of Expectations on Healing

Susan Gammage | Oct 19, 2021

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Susan Gammage | Oct 19, 2021

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Can expectations effect healing and recovery? Can you heal without expectations? What role does prayer play in our physical healing?  

I asked myself these questions after I read an article this morning in which the author told a story of a young woman with a sore throat.  

She had someone place his hands on her throat and say a healing prayer, and when he did this, she felt a warmth seep into her pores and the sore throat vanished. I wondered: Is this possible? Is there a link between praying with intent and healing a physical illness?

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Baha’is believe in the agreement of science and religion, and the founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, ordained that those with physical illnesses should consult a competent physician. In his Most Holy Book, Baha’u’llah wrote:

Resort ye, in times of sickness, to competent physicians; We have not set aside the use of material means, rather have We confirmed it through this Pen, which God hath made to be the Dawning-place of His shining and glorious Cause.

However, the Baha’i teachings also point out that some maladies are physical and others are spiritual. Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’u’llah’s son and successor, wrote:

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.

I was intrigued, so I put the question to a friend of mine. He reminded me of a time when a doctor told him he would have to have an operation for a double hernia. He really didn’t want an operation, so he put his hand on the hernia and prayed for healing every night for about three months. When he asked his doctor to check on the status of his hernia, the doctor was puzzled when he found nothing. The hernia was gone.  

Inspired by these stories, I realized that my shoulders were aching from too many hours in front of a computer, so I put my hands on my shoulders, said a Baha’i healing prayer, and was immediately granted relief. Since then, I’ve been hooked. It doesn’t always work, of course, but I’m developing the habit of making it my first line of defense against any aches and pains.  

I was recently reminded that Abdu’l-Baha, the son and successor of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, told us:

The complete and perfect connection between the spiritual doctor and the sick person – that is, a connection of such a kind that the spiritual doctor entirely concentrates himself, and all the attention of the sick person is given to the spiritual doctor from whom he expects to realize health – causes an excitement of the nerves, and health is produced. But all this has effect only to a certain extent, and that not always.  

Dr. J.E. Esslemont, a physician and author who wrote an introductory book on the Baha’i Faith called Baha’u’llah and the New Era, suggested that: “Much more powerful effects result from the patient’s own mental states, and “suggestion” may play an important part in determining these states … hope, love, joy, et cetera, are correspondingly beneficial.”

RELATED: Is Caring For Your Mental Health a Spiritual Practice?

The Baha’i writings often refer to holy souls who’ve died as “the Concourse on High” who have a “service in both worlds” and I think they are a greatly underutilized resource. As I understand it, they’re ready to help. For example, another friend of mine told me that he made a list of all his friends who had passed away, and their occupations. Now, when his car breaks down, he prays for a mechanic to help; when he needs an appointment with a doctor, he directs his prayer to a medical receptionist he once knew who has since gone on to the next world. 

Baha’is believe that God is our “Divine Physician.” I need to remember to turn to this physician at least as often, if not more than I turn to my regular doctor. Abdu’l-Baha tells me how:

O thou pure and spiritual one! Turn thou toward God with thy heart beating with His love, devoted to His praise, gazing towards His Kingdom and seeking help from His Holy Spirit in a state of ecstasy, rapture, love, yearning, joy and fragrance. God will assist thee, through a spirit from His Presence, to heal sickness and disease.  

I’m wondering if these experiences are more common than I thought. Have you ever had this happen to you? If so, I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

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