Praying for another person is certainly the best inner help we can offer in our present state of ignorance, provided it is done with an unwavering love and goodwill in the head and heart. But we should not confuse it with whatever involves the intercession of a priest or preacher on one’s behalf, or of a collective congregation praying for someone. Each of these activities are a little different from each other and almost all of them have many things mixed in them – the vital, occult, psychological as well as a little bit of a spiritual element.
Obviously where the prayer or intercession is done to further a propagandist spread, or partly as an advertisement for an individual or group, or simply to satisfy an ambition or greed for money, it is no more in the right attitude for spiritual forces to act. Intercession can help however, not due to the intercessors themselves and often in spite of them, but because the patient has a genuine faith that God is working through them! It is this faith that can make even an impostor perform miracles! In this sense, faith moves mountains, makes the lame walk, the dumb speak and the blind see.
Wherever there is true spiritual consciousness, faith will turn the switch on to its full action. But of course spiritual consciousness and the man who dwells in it does not turn it into a profession to heal all who come to him. It acts according to its own vision and law and a much greater purpose than our ignorant hopes can dream of. Above all, a truly spiritual man acts only in obedience to the divine Will in him and does not get carried away by human sentiments and its ignorant petitions and demands. Even where it seems to act that way, the real reason is something else, much subtler and more intrinsic. Otherwise, it will be as simple as putting a prayer in a slot and then just go fooling around because the answer will arrive exactly as we want it to be! So those who turn it into a profession to earn fame and money, to fulfill spiritual ambition and aggrandise the ego, or else to satisfy a lust for power and domination by having many disciples and followers are obviously a very different category than the truly spiritual being who does not act to satisfy the ignorant human demand for transient and perishable goods.
There are other issues as well. Collective healing sessions, especially in a religious or quasi-religious atmosphere, generate heightened expectation and hope due to the pressure of the collective and the large number of believers. This in itself augments the faith of the individual at least on some level and even overrides or temporarily suspends his personal doubts. All this is conducive to healing. There is however one problem with these sessions: many of them create a very vital atmosphere, full of drama and excitement and induce a state of heightened suggestibility in that person. Such a state may bring a certain degree of dissociation from the symptoms, thereby leading to sudden though temporary relief. This is often the case where the very nature of illness/symptom is functional and there is no anatomical damage. In other words, it is usually more of a psycho-physiological rather than anatomical/physical lesion.
Such healing séances and mediumistic trances may well also attract vital entities in the atmosphere that are generally not good for one’s inner progress. Sometimes, it may be advisable and an even better strategy to go through with trust and equanimity what one needs to go through rather than exchange one’s soul strength for superficial rewards or barter one’s spiritual rights with some passing and temporary gain for the body.
Nevertheless, at the bottom of all this, what truly works is faith. It is the single common denominator in all therapies—physical, psychological, spiritual—and indeed an element acknowledged by each system. We can truly say that, “Finally, it is faith that cures.”
 Message given by the Mother to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Nursing Home