Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 23–37 | Cite as

Prayer, Process, and the Future of Medicine

  • Bruce G. Epperly


The wall of separation between spirituality and medicine is crumbling. Physicians are discovering the importance of prayer, spirituality, and religious participation in enhancing physical and mental health and responding to stressful life circumstances. A new metaphysical model is needed to replace the dualistic Cartesian-Newtonian model that has undergirded modern biomedicine. The process-relational metaphysics, influenced by the seminal thought of Alfred North Whitehead, is a fruitful alternative model for the future partnership of spirituality and medicine. A process-relational metaphysic supports this new partnership through its affirmation of (1) the relational nature of life, (2) the essential relatedness of mind, body, and spirit, (3) the multifactorial nature of causation in terms of health and illness, and (4) the affirmation of creativity and the redefinition of divine and human power in terms of partnership. This new metaphysical foundation provides a basis for including spiritual concerns in the care of patients, the education of physicians, and in professional self-care. Physicians are called to be partners with their patients, nurturing their own spiritual well-being even as they care for the spiritual well-being of their patients.


Mental Health Alternative Model Stressful Life Life Circumstance Relational Nature 
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  1. 1.
    The power of prayer has been discussed in recent books such as Larry Dossey, Healing Words (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993) and Prayer Is Good Medicine (New York: Harper-Collins, 1996), Harold Koenig, Is Religion Good for You? New York: Haworth, 1997) and The Healing Power of Faith (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999), Dale Matthews, The Faith Factor (New York: Viking, 1998), and Bruce Epperly, Spirituality and Health, Health and Spirituality (Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1997).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    An earlier essay, “Metaphysics and the Vision of Health,” Journal of Religion and Health 27:3 (Fall 1988), pp. 245-255, explored the impact of process thought on our understanding of health and medicine in a preliminary fashion.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    George Engle, “The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Biomedicine,” Science 166:4286 (April 8, 1977), p. 129.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Timaeus 87c-88b.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Quoted in M. Todd, “The Challenge to Medicine: Prevention of Illness” in E.M. Goldway, ed., Inner Balance: The Power of Holistic Healing (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall), p. 2.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Alfred North Whitehead, Modes of Thought, p. 21.Google Scholar
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    Larry Dossey, Prayer is Good Medicine (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), p. 65.Google Scholar
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    Dale Matthews, David Larson, Constance Berry, The Faith Factor: An Annotated Bibliography of Clinical Research on Spiritual Subjects (Bethesda, MD: National Institute for Healthcare Research, 1993), pp. 44-45.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Bruce Epperly, At the Edges of Life (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1992), p. 92.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Blanton-Peale Institute 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruce G. Epperly
    • 1
  1. 1.Georgetown UniversityWashington

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