Medicine And Religion Are Not Opposed

Phillip W. Long, M.D.
January 27, 1996

Some deeply religious people are reluctant to seek psychiatric help. They have great faith in prayer for healing, but somehow feel that medicine and prayer are opposed.

The following passage from the New American Bible (Book of Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 38:1-15) helps to explain how medicine and prayer are not opposed.

“Hold the physician in honor, for he is essential to you, and God it was who established his profession. From God the doctor has his wisdom, and the king provides for his sustenance. His knowledge makes the doctor distinguished, and gives him access to those in authority.

God makes the earth yield healing herbs which the prudent man should not neglect; was not the water sweetened by a twig that men might learn his power?

He endows men with the knowledge to glory in his mighty works, through which the doctor eases pain and the druggist prepares his medicines; thus God's creative work continues without cease in its efficacy on the surface of the earth.

My son, when you are ill, delay not, but pray to God, who will heal you: flee wickedness; let your hands be just, cleanse your heart of every sin; offer your sweet-smelling oblation and petition, a rich offering according to your means.

Then give the doctor his place lest he leave; for you need him too. There are times that give him an advantage, and he too beseeches God that his diagnosis may be correct and his treatment bring about a cure.

He who is a sinner toward his Maker will be defiant toward the doctor.”

The author of the Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) highly respected the medical profession, even at a time (second century B.C.) when medicine was in its infancy. This biblical passage clearly states that God cures through the skill of the doctor and through medicine. Family physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, priests, ministers, and rabbis all together form God's healing team. Medicine and religion are not opposed.

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