Tuesday, March 1, 2011

prayer and healing

Photo: MorgueFile

People all over the world pray that God will help them in their time of need, including when they are sick. But is there any evidence that their praying achieves anything? It may surprise you to know that dozens of medical research studies have been undertaken in recent years to answer this question.

It is well established by research that faith, or religious belief, is commonly associated with improved rates of recovery from illness, and higher levels of mental and physical health. It is therefore not surprising that the medical profession has looked at the possible effectiveness of prayer to assist in its work, including recovery after operations. Many studies have been undertaken, not without criticisms from both sceptics (who tend to think the idea is nonsense) and believers (many of whom think God is unlikely to respond to such impersonal and mechanical prayer).

Some high profile studies have received coverage in the press, but most people may not be aware of the large range of studies, or the overall results.

what the studies show

I have searched the internet and discovered 20 separate medical studies, and 4 reviews. The studies examined whether prayer assisted in a wide range of medical conditions (including coronary care, AIDS, mental health, alcoholism). 13 of the 20 studies found significant positive benefits of prayer while 7 (including perhaps the most rigorous one) found no significant benefits. 2 of the reviews concluded positively, 2 others negatively.

Overall, the results do not clearly support one view or the other, although the sceptic may be less happy with the results than a christian might be. It is no surprise then that some sceptics criticise and minimise the positive results while emphasising some of the higher profile negative results. The main criticisms question the methodologies used (not always convincingly), or argue that without any physical mechanism for prayer to affect patients, it is unscientific to even investigate this matter.

Nevertheless, medical professionals, always looking for any way to help their patients, generally seem to think the studies are worth continuing.

read more

Check out the full list of studies at intercessory prayer and healing or read further discussion at can prayer assist healing?

Or read a sample of the criticisms from sceptics, the views of a doctor who believes in what many would term psychic or new age healing, or read the comprehensive review of prayer studies conducted by David Hodge of Arizona State University.

1 comment:

  1. I've always found it interesting that people who may not see themselves as religious or associate with any faith respond well to the idea of prayer, may even pray themselves in times of need, and are touched when you pray for them.


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