Prayer for the sick is as effective today as in Bible times.—The divine Healer is present in the sick-room; He hears every word of the prayers offered to Him in the simplicity of true faith. His disciples today are to pray for the sick, as verily as did the disciples of old. And there will be recoveries; for “the prayer of faith shall save the sick.”

Gospel Workers, 215

ScienceDaily (Apr. 10, 2007) — More than half of physicians believe that religion and spirituality have a significant influence on patients' health, according to a report in the April 9 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. Physicians who are most religious are more likely to interpret the influence of religion and spirituality in positive ways.

The relationship between religion and health generates controversy in the medical world, according to background information in the article. "Consensus seems to begin and end with the idea that many (if not most) patients draw on prayer and other religious resources to navigate and overcome the spiritual challenges that arise in their experiences of illness," the authors note. "Controversy remains regarding whether, to what extent and in what ways religion and spirituality helps or harms patients' health."

Farr A. Curlin, M.D., and colleagues at the University of Chicago mailed a survey in 2003 to a random sample of 2,000 practicing U.S. physicians 65 years or younger from all specialties. The survey included questions to determine physicians' religious characteristics, general observations and interpretations of religion and spirituality and potential positive and negative influences of religion and spirituality.

The response rate was 63 percent (1,144 of 1,820) and the average age for respondents was 49. According to the study, two-thirds of U.S. physicians believe that experiencing illness often or always increases patients' awareness of religion and spirituality issues. A majority of physicians (56 percent) think that religion and spirituality has much or very much influence on health and 54 percent believe that at times a supernatural being intervenes. The majority of physicians (85 percent) believe that the influence of religion and spirituality is generally positive, but few (6 percent) feel that religion and spirituality changes medical outcomes.

The study also found that 76 percent of physicians believe that religion and spirituality helps patients cope, 74 percent believe that it gives patients a positive state of mind and 55 percent report that it provides emotional and practical support through religious community. Few physicians (7 percent) believe that religion and spirituality often causes negative emotions such as guilt and anxiety, 2 percent think it leads patients to decline medical therapy and 4 percent report that patients use it to avoid taking responsibility for their health, but about one-third believe it has these harmful influences sometimes.

Physicians' observations and interpretations are strongly influenced by their religious beliefs, according to the authors. "Physicians with higher intrinsic religiosity are much more likely to (1) report that their patients bring up religion and spirituality issues, (2) believe that religion and spirituality strongly influences health and (3) interpret the influence of religion and spirituality in positive rather than negative ways."

These findings lend support to recommendations that physicians recognize how their own beliefs influence how they provide care, the authors note. "Physicians' notions about the relationship between religion and spirituality and patients' health are strongly associated with physicians' own religious characteristics," they conclude. "Future studies should examine the ways physicians' religious (and secular) commitments shape their clinical engagements in these and other domains."

This study was funded by a grant from the Greenwall Foundation and by the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program. Dr. Curlin is also supported by a grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health.

Journal of Clinical Oncology 2003 Importance of faith on medical decisions regarding cancer care. Family and friends ranked “faith in God” as #2 ( ahead of effectiveness of drugs). Oncologists ranked it last.

Scientific Research of Prayer: Can the Power of Prayer Be Proven?

By Debra Williams, D.D.

1999 PLIM Retreat, (c) 1999 PLIM REPORT, Vol. 8 #4

Theme: Inner Journey, Part 5

Feel free to copy and circulate this article for non-commercial purposes provided the Web site and author are mentioned.



Throughout time, the power of prayer has been questioned by science. The analytical mind of the scientist calls for proof of the existence of a higher being. These scientists, both the faithful and nonbelievers alike, have produced studies into the affects of prayer on our physical as well as spiritual well being. Although most of us, who possess the belief that prayer can and does work, do not require physical, quantitative proof of the power of prayer, it is interesting to read the results of these studies.

Was a scientific study of prayer and its effect on heart patients done?

One of the most quoted scientific studies of prayer was done between August of 1982 and May of 1983. 393 patients in the San Francisco General Hospital’s Coronary Care Unit participated in a double blind study to assess the therapeutic effects of intercessory prayer. Patients were randomly selected by computer to either receive or not receive intercessory prayer. All participants in the study, including patients, doctors, and the conductor of the study himself remained blind throughout the study, To guard against biasing the study, the patients were not contacted again after it was decided which group would be prayed for, and which group would not.

It was assumed that although the patients in the control group would not be prayed for by the participants in the study, that others-family members, friends etc., would likely pray for the health of at least some of the members of the control group. There was no control over this factor. Meanwhile all of the members of the group that received prayer would be prayed for by not only those associated with the study, but by others as well.

The results of the study are not surprising to those of us who believe in the power of prayer. The patients who had received prayer as a part of the study were healthier than those who had not. The prayed for group had less need of having CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) performed and less need for the use of mechanical ventilators. They had a diminished necessity for diuretics and antibiotics, less occurrences of pulmonary edema, and fewer deaths. Taking all factors into consideration, these results can only be attributed to the power of prayer.

Did prayer lower blood pressure?

The August 31, 1998 issue of Jet Magazine questioned whether prayer could lower blood pressure in high blood pressure sufferers, Again the obvious conclusion was reached. The magazine reported of a study conducted by Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC. This study had over 4,000 participants over the age of 65. The study found that those who pray and attend religious services on a weekly basis, especially those between the ages of 65 and 74, had lower blood pressure than their counterparts who did not pray or attend religious services. They found that the more religious the person, particularly those who prayed or studied the Bible weekly, the lower the blood pressure. According to the study these people were forty percent less likely to have high diastolic pressure or diastolic hypertension than these were who did not attend religious services, pray, or study the Bible.

Dr. David B. Larson, president of the National Institute for Health Care Research in Rockville, MD, who co-authored the study, also says that prayer can lower high blood pressure. "The at-risk population of people with illnesses, such as the elderly seem to be helped if they have faith and religious commitment." Dr. Larson states: "Faith brings a calming state which helps decrease nervousness and anxiety with coping with day to day stress."

How does prayer effect people who lack health care?

In the Essence Magazine May 1997 issue, Allison Abner writes that African-Americans have historically turned to faith in times of illness and other crises. She cited Luisah Teish who states: "Because of limited access to quality health care and our distrust of the medical establishment we have occasionally relied on spiritual healing through such practices as prayer and the laying on of hands, Most of us, at some time have used prayer chanting or proverbs as ways to guide, direct, and heal ourselves." "Now," states Allison, "Our beliefs are being backed by medical research," Science is setting out to prove what most of the faithful already know--prayer does work.

Has a prayer study been done on the life of twins?

The December 1998 issue of Mc Call’s Magazine raised the question: How does prayer heal? The article notes a study done at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, which studied 1,902 twins. They found that those who were committed to their spiritual lives tended to have less severe depression and a lower risk of addiction to cigarettes or alcohol. The healthful lifestyles of the spiritually rich and faithful clearly contribute to their well being, They tend not to smoke or drink or not do either excessively. Their marriages are more stable and their spiritual communities form a network that can catch and support people when they are ill.