In the temples of Ancient Greece dedicated to Asclepius, the God of Healing, there was the integration of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual healing. This approach to medicine could also be found in the Indian, Egyptian and Chinese culture as well as the monasteries and convents of Medieval Europe. With the advances of technology in Medicine, the spiritual and mental aspects of healing were put aside. The human body became one only viewed functionally as a mechanical machine. Scientific research once again began to explore the connection between the mind, body and spirituality. It is being shown more and more how prayer and meditation can indeed contribute to the healing process. It is known that negative thoughts set up a friendly environment to harbor diseases. Meditation actually can change the wiring of the brain, creating a more positive frame of mind.
Dr. Christina Puchalski, MD was the pioneer introducing coursework at George Washington University School of Medicine in 1992 on spirituality and health. At that time it was an elective course only only offered by 2% of schools. By 2004 the number increased to 67%. Now for many of the Medical Schools it is a requirement to take at lease one course related to the topic. The goal for such curriculum is to help the student gain an understanding of how to be compassionate participants in their patient's lives.
Many physicians today respect and some actively participate in the patient's need for prayer, meditation and other forms of spirituality.
For more on this topic the book Spirituality and Medicine: Can the Two Walk Together by Dr. Glenda Hodge, MD can help one gain further insight.