The Physician within You
Gladys Taylor McGarey with Jess Stearn

Be Careful What You Pray For...You Just Might Get It
Larry Dossey

Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine
Larry Dossey

Prayer Is Good Medicine: How to Reap the Healing Benefits of Prayer
Larry Dossey

The Relaxation Response
Herbert Benson with Miriam Z. Klipper

Minding the Body, Mending the Mind
Joan Borysenko with Larry Rothstein

Self-Realization Fellowship has published a series of booklets by Yogananda on the subject of prayer and healing. This series includes Answered Prayers; Healing by God’s Unlimited Power; Harmonizing Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Methods of Healing; Ridding the Consciousness of Worry; How You Can Talk With God; The Law of Success; Scientific Healing Affirmations.


The Creative Power Of Sound: Affirmations To Create, Heal And Transform
Elizabeth Clare Prophet

The Science of the Spoken Word
Elizabeth Clare Prophet


The Healer Within: Using Traditional Chinese Techniques To Release Your Body's Own Medicine *Movement *Massage *Meditation *Breathing
Jahnke, Roger

How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery
Lawrence LeShan

Prayer and meditation

I used many spiritual healing techniques to help my body to fight the cancer, to get my body back into balance, and to boost my immune system. For me this was not just something that I did “as well as”—it was a key part of the program. I knew that to find my healing I had to pursue it spiritually as well as on physical, emotional, and mental levels.

I was diligent in my spiritual work and took time every day for my spiritual practice. I had already developed my daily spiritual practice—now I simply directed it to my healing. As well as all the other benefits, it helped me to feel that I was doing some of the work and not just leaving it all to chance or luck or the doctors and their treatments.

Healing Prayer

Prayer has always been a part of my life, but once the diagnosis was made, I prayed with renewed vigor and determination and with greater meaning—and also with more love. I also prayed with a sense of surrender as to the outcome. In fact, much of my prayer was to commend my spirit to God, even as I asked to be healed.

There comes a time when you just have to commit yourself to God’s care and ask him to take care of all the details—whether you live or die, or if you live, what kind of life you will lead. Our lives are a gift, and it is by his grace that we live. Even though you may have offered such prayers many times in your life, I can assure you that prayer takes on new meaning when you are given a diagnosis of cancer and have to face all that the word “cancer” entails.

In addition to my own prayer, there were many others who prayed for me from the time I had the mammogram until the end of my radiotherapy. I would tell everyone whom I met and who asked after me to “please pray for me.” It was one way to surrender myself into God’s hands and ask others to help. My name was on a number of prayer lists from America to Russia to Australia. An aunt in Australia put my name in her local Catholic prayer group. A friend, a practitioner of the Baha’i faith, prayed for me, and many family members, friends, and coworkers joined me in prayer. When I went to the hospital for treatments, I filled out prayer request slips that I put in the boxes they had provided for that purpose. The hospital staff would also pray for me, and with me, if I asked.

I am not alone in the desire for prayer. Recent studies show that 75 percent of us believe that doctors should address spiritual issues as a part of medical care, and 50 percent want their doctors to pray not just for them, but with them.[1]

Science is just now catching up with what many people have known for years. The person who has probably done the most to promote the scientific study of prayer in healing is Larry Dossey. Initially a skeptic, he came across scientific studies documenting the effectiveness of prayer and eventually came to the conclusion that he had to be willing to look at the facts, even though they did not fit with his preconceived ideas. He felt that he could not ignore the evidence without feeling like “a traitor to the scientific tradition.”[2] In his book Prayer is Good Medicine, Dr. Dossey says, “Prayer is back. After sitting on the sidelines for most of this century, prayer is moving towards center stage in modern medicine. Doctors are taking prayer not just into their offices, clinics, and hospitals, but into experimental laboratories as well.”[3]

And they are getting results. Statistically speaking, prayer is effective. More and more controlled laboratory experiments show that prayer can bring about measurable changes. Dossey covers the subject of prayer and healing thoroughly and from a scientific standpoint, and he includes results from many scientific studies. He quotes one widely-publicized experiment by cardiologist Randolph Byrd, which showed that patients in a coronary-care unit who were prayed for did significantly better than those who were not prayed for. They had fewer complications and needed less medication. Dossey’s comment on the study was, “If the technique being studied had been a new drug or a surgical procedure instead of prayer, it would almost certainly have been heralded as some sort of ‘breakthrough.’”[4] His three books on the subject of prayer and healing are well-documented and make for excellent reading.

Prayer is the language of the soul. In its essence, it is simply conversation with God—communion with him and listening to his answers. Dr. Dossey says that a key factor in the effectiveness of prayer seems to be the love, not the religion, that accompanies it. This reminds me of my father’s analogy of climbers taking different paths up the same mountain but all eventually getting to their destination at the top. It is not your religion or lack of it; it is the love in your heart that produces change.

Was I surprised at these results? Not at all. Although I was glad to see science catching up with spirituality, I had always believed in the effectiveness of prayer and had seen its results many times in my life and in the lives of my patients.

If I had to quantify it, as impossible as it would be to do, I would have to say that I believe in my heart that prayer (mine and others) and spiritual practice was at least 50 percent of the reason that I recovered and did so well during my treatment. When I get to heaven, I may find that 50 percent was a conservative estimate—maybe prayer was 75 percent. Or maybe I will find that other things contributed more than I realized. However, I do know that prayer was a mainstay of my treatment. It was the framework upon which everything else hung.

I am sure that heartfelt prayers reduced the tumor size from two centimeters on the mammogram and ultrasound to one centimeter at biopsy three days later. I think that it pushed me back to stage I. My medical mind tells me that other doctors may take exception to this, and of course, I have no way of proving it. Nevertheless, I have to say it, as I feel it is true.

At times I was lifted up by the prayers and good wishes of people who I knew were praying for me. It was a real boost to meet people who would say, “You are in my prayers!” Sometimes it was people in my church or community whom I barely knew, and I was so grateful. The knowledge that people cared for me helped me to feel good about myself on the not-so-good days and often brought tears to my eyes.

I was especially grateful for the prayers of my spiritual teacher, Elizabeth Clare Prophet. I could feel the light and the energy that she radiated to me as she prayed for me by phone each day for more than two weeks.

Scientific Prayer

There are scientific methods of prayer, and many have taught of its powers. The beloved Indian saint and yogi Paramahansa Yogananda has encouraged us to follow the rules of prayer. He says that the first rule is to approach God only with legitimate desires. The second is to pray for their fulfillment not as a beggar but as a son of God the Father. He says, “Be practical and earnest about prayer. Concentrate deeply on what you are praying.”[5]

There was a special group of about ten close friends around the country whose help I enlisted for very specific prayers. These were souls who knew how to pray scientifically and use visualizations. They held a very strong spiritual focus with me. I would e-mail them a few days before my treatment and tell them what was happening with me and the details of my treatment. I would also tell them what visualizations I was using, and they would often e-mail back with suggestions and refinements that were extremely helpful.

For example, I would tell them to pray that the chemotherapy only go to where it was intended to go in my body and not produce any unwanted side effects or problems. They prayed that my white-cell counts and blood counts would not be reduced (or that they would be reduced just enough so that the doctors could see that the chemotherapy was working and not need to increase the dosage unnecessarily). I also asked them to pray that I would not have nausea, hair loss, mouth ulcers, diarrhea, and other possible side effects. After each treatment I would let them know how it went and we would refine our visualizations.

I combined my prayers with the visualizations I mentioned earlier in the book, and I found this combination to be very effective. I visualized violet light and healing green light entering my body and dissolving the cancer, restoring everything to its original, divine order. During chemotherapy, at the suggestion of one of my prayer partners, I used the blue and the violet colors in particular—the blue for protection of the healthy cells in my body and the violet for change and transformation where it was needed.

Sometimes I worked at the visualization on a cellular level, seeing the cancer cells being dissolved and removed by my healthy immune system. At other times I just allowed the body to do its work.

The power of the spoken Word

One form of prayer that I used a great deal was to say simple but effective mantras to invite the light into my body. In the East, people repeat mantras over and over, many times a day. In the West, we are not as accustomed to this practice. However, each time you repeat a prayer, you strengthen the power of the request by investing it with more and more of the light and energy of God that is flowing through you.

The benefits of repetitive prayer, or mantra, have been known by mystics for centuries; they have reported having extraordinary mystical experiences using this practice. They have achieved profound changes in their lives—spiritual and even physical.

Scientists in the West are now discovering the power of mantra. In the early 1970s, Dr. Herbert Benson, president and founder of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard Medical School, documented a phenomenon he dubbed the “relaxation response,” which he says is the opposite of the body’s fight-or-flight mechanism.

Bensen experimented with Sanskrit mantras. He told his subjects to sit quietly, repeat the mantras mentally or verbally for ten to twenty minutes, to breathe regularly and to push intruding thoughts aside as they entered their minds. He found that those who repeated the Sanskrit mantras for as little as ten minutes a day experienced physiological changes: reduced heart rate, lower stress levels, and slower metabolism. Those with high blood pressure found that the repetition of mantras lowered their blood pressure. These changes did not occur just while they were saying the mantra but lasted throughout the day. Subsequent studies show that repeating mantras can benefit the immune system, relieve insomnia, and reduce the need for visits to the doctor.[6]

Bensen found that other words or phrases had the same effect. Even words like one, ocean, love, and peace produced the response. It appears that there is a universal principle at work here: the practice allows human beings to enter a different physiological state.

However, beyond the physiological changes that Bensen documented, there are also spiritual benefits. More subjective and thus more difficult to document scientifically, they are just as important—perhaps more so. Many people find that repetition of mantras allows the mind to focus on God. Whether it is Buddhists reciting their mantras, Orthodox monks reciting the Jesus Prayer, or Christians reciting the rosary or other prayers, they find a sense of peace and oneness with God through the repetition of spoken prayer. And I have found this to be true in my own life.

Devotion is the key to the power of mantra, song, and prayer. You can use any mantra that appeals to you and that is sponsored by a being in heaven. You may want to give the rosary to Mary, recite Buddhist mantras, offer Christian prayers or Jewish devotions, or simply sing God’s praises to your heart’s content. Do whatever means the most to you and whatever activates that power of devotion and love within you.

I gave all of the above. I gave prayers to Archangel Michael for protection. I prayed to Archangel Raphael and Mary for healing. I was, and still am, devoted to the rosary, and I gave it every day of my treatment. In choosing to pray, you really can’t go wrong. Prayer is the cheapest form of treatment that there is.

Mantras, in particular, helped me to find peace and greater contact with my Higher Self during my treatment. A simple mantra I used often was a favorite of mine because it is easy to remember and say any time, even while doing other things. It is a simple affirmation of the violet light and the violet flame, which is known as a transformative energy that changes darkness into light, sickness into health, negative energy into a positive manifestation.


I AM a being of violet fire,
I AM the purity God desires.


The words “I AM” refer to the Higher Self, and the meaning of the affirmation is that “God within me is qualifying my being with the energy of the violet flame.”

I would repeat this and other mantras many times throughout the course of the day, sometimes with full devotion and concentration, even as a meditation. At other times I would give them while I was doing other things, such as cooking or driving. I even gave them in the shower, as I visualized the violet light tinged with emerald green flowing over my body as the water came down from the showerhead. In a pool at the hot springs, I might visualize violet or green-colored water and imagine that my body was soaking in its healing essence. I also said the mantras softly under my breath and sometimes just meditated and thought about them.

These were special times for me, when I could slow down and allow my body to heal. A very helpful tape was Spiritual Techniques to Heal Body, Mind and Soul, by Elizabeth Clare Prophet. The first side contains teachings on the use of prayer, mantra, and sound for healing and the second side includes a fifteen-minute rosary and prayers using the violet flame.[7]

To me, prayer and mantra are like the oil in the gears that makes the engine of life run smoothly. I can never fully express my gratitude and appreciation for those who prayed and did spiritual work for me.


Meditation is another spiritual practice that I used along with prayer. Sometimes prayer and mantra are forms of meditation for me. Even a walk in nature can meditative, as I leave behind the thoughts of daily life, still my mind, and focus on the present moment, maybe even saying mantras as I walk.

Dr. Joan Borysenko has much to say about meditation and the healing of the body and the mind. She is co-founder of the groundbreaking Mind-Body Clinic at the New England Deaconess Hospital, Harvard Medical School. The program at this clinic was designed to teach patients how to boost their immune system, overcome chronic pain, and alleviate the symptoms of a host of stress-related illnesses through prayer, meditation, and other means.

Her national bestseller Minding the Body, Mending the Mind describes various simple but effective meditation exercises. She says, “The primary goal of meditation is not relaxation—it is awareness. This is what eventually leads to getting the mind back under control. Relaxation is a side effect of learning how to meditate.”[8] I particularly enjoyed reading about her self-expressed evolution from “worrier” to “warrior”—I could certainly relate!

There are many different forms of meditation. Some originate in Eastern spiritual practices. Some have evolved from the spiritual traditions of Christian and Jewish mystics. Others have been developed as simple exercises for the mind and do not have a spiritual background. The basic principle is to still the conscious mind and bring a peace and harmony to the thought processes. Many people like to focus on something of a spiritual nature as their point of concentration and derive great benefit from this.

If you wish to pursue meditation, find a method that appeals to you and fits with your beliefs. Many people in the West who have grown up with the mass media (which trains people to have short attention spans) find that meditation combined with the saying of mantras or prayers works best for them. One good resource for meditation is Lawrence LeShan’s little book, How to Meditate.

Spiritual direction

Sometimes I would pray and ask God to send me or show me what I needed to know. When putting out a “call” to the universe in this way, it was amazing to see what came back to me on the return current. I would ask God to show me what was right for me. I would then wait for a prompting or direction. If it felt right in my heart, I would do it. If it didn’t, then I would not do it. I followed my feelings and my intuition, or inner guidance, as well as common sense and practicality. I always try to make decisions using this formula, and I find that it works.

I have found that when I begin to seek answers, the universe finds ways of providing them. These may take the form of something I come across in a magazine, something I “accidentally” happen to see while flipping channels, something that happens to arrive in the mail at exactly the right time, or myriad other amazing ways that the universe seems to be able to speak to us.

God does have ways of sending us signs, but it is also good to remember that not everything is a “sign from above.” You should not go too far with this and become superstitious about any little event that happens in your life. Prayer can help to discern the difference.

I had good friends who always seemed to show up at the right time. Two weeks before chemotherapy, I was actively looking for ways to make the chemotherapy more bearable. One of these friends had worked with herbs and natural healing methods all her life, and we had begun one morning at breakfast talking about different herbs and what they could do.

We drove to Bozeman and went to a health food store where we came across a book by a well-known herbalist. I bought the book, then we wandered through the aisles of the store in a kind of prayerful reverie. We looked up the material that appealed to us in the book, flipping through the pages and coming across a gem here and there. There was a great feeling of satisfaction as we took the products off the shelves and put them in the shopping basket. As we moved from aisle to aisle, I could feel the presence of angels. I had a joyous sense of the “rightness” of the herbs and tinctures that we chose.

After finishing at the health food store, we found an herbal shop that had just opened down the road called Heart and Soul Herbs. I had read something in the book about burdock-root oil for prevention of hair loss during chemotherapy but could not find it on the shelves. I went to ask if they had any, and the owner of the store pointed to another woman at the counter who happened to be a clinical herbalist. She told me how to make the oil, using burdock root and olive oil. Later, she told me that she had helped her husband overcome cancer of the kidney using herbs. And so, through a “coincidence,” I found the herbalist who made the herbal tinctures that helped me through chemotherapy.

There were a couple of occasions when I did not follow these impulses and wished later that I had. Praying for direction is only half the story: you also have to be able to recognize an answer when it comes your way—and, of course, act on it.

As I asked the angels and my Higher Self for guidance, I found that it sometimes came from strange and interesting places—sometimes from friends and acquaintances, sometimes from total strangers. Part of the spiritual path is being open to finding answers anywhere and anytime. These experiences happened so often that I began to accept that they would happen. I have spoken to a number of cancer patients who have had similar experiences and also felt led by Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or the angels.


1. Ibid., p. 2.

2. Larry Dossey, Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993), p. xviii.

3. Larry Dossey, Prayer Is Good Medicine: How to Reap the Healing Benefits of Prayer (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996), pp. 1–2.

4. Dossey, Healing Words, p. 180.

5. Paramahansa Yogananda, Man's Eternal Quest (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1975), p. 43.

6. Elizabeth Clare Prophet, The Creative Power Of Sound (Corwin Springs, Mont.: Summit University Press, 1998), pp. 49–53.

7. Additional information about the violet flame can also be found in Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Violet Flame To Heal Body, Mind And Soul (Corwin Springs, Mont.: Summit University Press, 1997).


Excerpted from A Journey through Cancer, by Neroli Duffy