data is in. One of the best-kept secrets in medicine is out of the bag.
Prayer works. In a landmark study, prayer was tested in heart patients
in a large hospital. Half the patients were prayed for...
Tap Into the Power of Prayer
By Bobbie Lieberman
The data is in. One of the best-kept
secrets in medicine is out of the bag. Prayer works.
In a landmark study in the 1980s, prayer
was tested in heart patients in a large hospital. Half the patients were
prayed for; half (the "controls") were not. The results revealed a
significant therapeutic effect from the prayer. Even more interesting,
the distant or intercessory prayer worked without the knowledge of the
recipient, reports Larry Dossey, MD, in "Healing Words: The Power of
Prayer and the Practice of Medicine."
The Faithful Live Longer Lives
And, in what may be the first national investigation of religion's link
to longevity, a nine-year study involving 22,000 people found that
regular worshipers (both Christian and non-Christian) lived 10% longer
than those who never attend services.
The life expectancy for those who attend
church weekly was 82 years. Another year of life was added for those who
attended more than once per week. In contrast, non-churchgoers lived an
average of 75 years.
Many questioned the validity of the study,
published in the May 1999 issue of Demography magazine, noting that
regular churchgoers tend to lead healthier lifestyles, therefore
increasing their longevity. Yet the researchers had adjusted their
findings for respondents' incomes, alcohol and tobacco use, marital
status and body mass and still came up with their clear conclusions:
non-worshipers have the highest risk of early death, and risk decreases
as church attendance increases.
"We think there is some cause and effect
going on here, beyond health and socio-economics," said Robert Hummer, a
University of Texas sociologist and one of the authors, quoted in a
story about the study in USA Today. "It does seem that behavior
is influenced by church or religious involvement, (and) that affects
What Is Prayer?
Traditionally speaking, prayer is a supplication—asking for something.
With prayer, we are usually asking God for something or wishing for
things to be different than they are. In meditation, by contrast, we are
listening for God to speak to us. Spiritual teacher Sharon Callahan of
Mt. Shasta, Calif., often invites her students to do both each day by
"asking and listening receptively."
Whether you pray or meditate, entering the
silence on a regular basis—in effect, giving yourself a "time out" from
the constant "doingness" of daily life—can help guide you toward
physical, emotional and spiritual health. When you stop to pray for the
answer to a question you can't solve, you may discover that the solution
shows up in the space you've created.
When you include prayer in your daily
life, says Catholic and cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, MD, "You may
become more open to life, more flexible, more centered. You may find it
easier to resolve your problems and cope with stressful situations. Your
relationships with others will deepen."
Dr. Sinatra often recommends that his
patients consult the book "The Miracle of Prayer" by Rosemary Ellen
Guiley and consider her seven essential practices to enrich prayer life.
Enrich Your Prayer Life: Seven
Be honest with yourself and God.
Make every thought a prayer—your thoughts
create your reality.
Make your life your prayer—in other words,
"walk your talk."
Pray regularly—not just when you have a
crisis or special need. Develop your own morning and evening prayer
Pray in a group—it's both comforting and
Be willing to trust and surrender
completely, turning the matter over to God. It may be difficult to
surrender, especially in the middle of a crisis, but the more you pray
that God's will—not yours—be done, and the more you are willing to
surrender, the more you can trust in your faith that all will be well.
Give thanks—every time you pray, be
grateful that you are blessed with your life and the continued
opportunities that you have to connect with others. When you experience
feelings of appreciation, your heartbeat becomes more rhythmic, skipping
Source: "The Miracle of Prayer," by
Rosemary Ellen Guiley.
Develop Your Own Prayer Rituals
Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., suggests developing
your own prayer ritual in the morning when you awake and again at night,
just before bedtime. It may be a very simple act, such as a morning
prayer or simple meditation. Keep it brief, but deeply meaningful for
you, she advises. "The moment I cover myself with a prayer shawl, for me
that's being wrapped in the wings of God," she says.
Borysenko, who for the last 35 years has
studied the world's spiritual and religious traditions, has been engaged
in an ongoing process of returning to her Jewish roots. She was recently
enchanted with a book and audiotape that a friend gave her called The
Busy Soul, by Rabbi Terry Buchman.
What Buchman has done is "extract the most
meaningful part of the Jewish morning prayers and create a tape 15
minutes long, so by the end of the 'spiritual workout,' I feel
completely centered in a tradition I'm slowly trying to return to. This
has been very grounding for me," reports Borysenko.
In designing your prayer practices,
involve as many of your senses as you can, advises Borysenko, who
regularly leads women's spiritual retreats. "When you can see, smell and
touch, so that it's not only visual, but tactile, you imbue it with your
intention. Then it becomes sacred."
Joan Borysenko's Three-Part Prayer
To complete the day, Borysenko uses a three-part practice from her
Jewish prayer book, which has much in common with all traditions and can
be adapted to your own.
First comes a "retrospection of the day,
where you look and see what is out of 'right relationship' in your life
and think about it. Can you correct it via an attitude, or do you need
to phone someone or write a letter? Once that is done, I recite an
affirmation that we are all one, that everything in the universe is
In the third part, she surrounds herself
with four archangels and calls down the feminine face of God over her
like a quilt, and gives her soul to God for safekeeping for the night.
In the morning, she again thanks God for returning her soul to her body.
While she believes that prayer and
mediation are quite different, an area of overlap can be found in
contemplative prayer—where your only prayer is for "union with the
divine. You're not asking for a darn thing," says Borysenko.
"Contemplative prayer is simply 'God-Union.' It's not about listening,
but being, and that is true of all forms of meditation.
"Don't worry about what it's called, or
whether you're 'doing it right.' Just pray from your heart. As the
practice becomes part of your daily life and 'first recourse,' you will
find that becomes as natural as breathing."
Another Way to Pray
If you're having difficulty settling into
prayer, you may want to try The Relaxation Response method developed by
Harvard researcher Herbert Benson, MD.
Here's what you do: Choose a simple prayer
or statement reflecting your spiritual roots. For example, you could use
the word "shalom" or "om," or the phrase "The Lord is my shepherd" or
"Hail Mary, full of grace." After you have chosen your phrase, close
your eyes, relax your body and mind and engage in deep breathing, by
inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Say your
word or phrase silently as you exhale. When stray thoughts come by,
gently release them and continue your mantra. To achieve relaxation, use
this technique for at least 10 to 15 minutes each day.
Reconnect with Your Religion of Origin
In all her years of study, Joan Borysenko has found that "What people
often do is discount their own religion of origin—they may still be
angry with it...yet the prayers, the music and ritual are deeply
embedded at the cellular level.
"So many people feel they have been
personally wounded by religion, or they see the wounds that religion has
dealt to other groups—everything from the Inquisition to patriarchy to
the kind of opinion that says 'my way is the only way.' Many people,
particularly Baby Boomers who are interested in spirituality, have to
heal their religious wounds and forgive the churches and synagogues of
their childhood before they can be spiritually open.
"Just as forgiveness is such an important
part of your peace of mind in your relationship with individuals, your
relationship to God and your place of worship also needs to be healed.
I've done a lot of helping people to heal their religious wounds so they
don't throw the baby out with the bath water."
In this regard, prayer, along with music,
candles, incense and other rituals, can be bridges to healing these
wounds. Music is "prayers that are sung. You hear a song, and your heart
flies open. There is a place no deeper. Your cells can really drink
Does Anyone Have a Clue Why Prayer
Not yet. Ultimately, the answer may be found in quantum or subatomic
mechanics, a theory developed 100 years ago that attempts to describe
how matter behaves at its most fundamental level.
Says Larry Dossey, MD, also the author of
"Reinventing Medicine": "In quantum physics, which concerns itself with
the smallest dimensions of the physical world, several experiments in
the last two decades have revealed the existence of what are termed
nonlocal events. Briefly: If two subatomic particles that have been in
contact are separated, a change in one is correlated with a change in
the other, instantly and to the same degree, no matter how far apart
they may be. These distant events are said to be nonlocal."
He goes on to speculate that intercessory
prayer bears strong resemblance to the nonlocal events studied by
physicists. But that's just one possibility...and he concludes that we
may never know how prayer works until we understand how consciousness
itself works: "Science cannot measure the unmeasurable."
Dossey reminds us that the primary
function of prayer is not only to help heal the sick or lengthen our
lives, but to simultaneously remind us of our essential nature. Yet
imagine what modern health care would be like if we actually routinely
applied prayer in the treatment of illness and disease.
Prayer Meets Science
Scientific Evidence Finally Supports The Notion Of Prayer Changing
This is a story of modern medical technology meeting the ancient art
of prayer. University of Pennsylvania medical doctors led by Andrew
Newberg, author of "Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science & the
Biology of Belief," used medical imaging to map what happens to the
human brain during the transcendental state of prayer. The BBC's
Discovery reports that the scientists compared the brain images of
Buddhist monks who were deep in prayer with a baseline image taken
in a normal state. The result? During prayer, the monks' brains
underwent actual physical changes.
The activity in the frontal brain increased; this is the area we use
when we are concentrating on particular task. However, there was a
marked decrease in the activity in the back part of the brain that
controls the sense of being oriented to a location and place. This
is significant because the Penn scientists think this may explain
why those who are deep in prayer have a lack of spatial awareness
and an abiding sense of being elsewhere.
addition to understanding the power of prayer, this body-spirit-mind
research could also be used with hypnotherapy to help people cope
with long-term illnesses. Newberg told the BBC, "When someone has a
mystical experience, they perceive that sense of reality to be far
greater and far clearer than our usual everyday sense of reality."
don't think that this finding should come as any earth shattering
discovery as meditation has been employed by not only religion for
centuries, but drug users as well. Prayer and meditation does change
the body. But the studies have not proved that what is prayed for or
meditated about has ever come to pass. Or have they? See Below
U.S. government funds research on prayer and health By UWE
SIEMON-NETTO, UPI Religion Correspondent NEW YORK, Nov. 13 (UPI)
U.S. scientists launched a five-year study to determine if prayer
intervention can improve the health of cancer patients. The
enterprise was funded by the National Institutes of Health, a
federal agency, and was reported in the November issue of the
Research News journal.
The project was centered on black women in the early stages of
breast cancer. According to Research News, blacks were chosen over
whites because "African American women have a higher propensity to
use spiritual healing than white women."
Moreover, "They have been found to be more vulnerable to stress
associated with postoperative social functioning." The paper pointed
to scientific evidence that stress weakens the mechanisms of a
person's immune system. This increased the likelihood that a
patient's tumor will recur or spread.
One task of the research project was to learn if a statement from
the Epistle of James can be "scientifically validated," the journal
said, The text reads, "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the
elders of the church, and let them pray over him" (James 5:14). The
study was conducted by Dr. Diane Becker of Johns Hopkins University
in Baltimore, Md.; and Dr. Harold G. Koenig of Duke University in
Durham, N.C. Koenig, an associate professor of medicine and
psychiatry, has been studying the effects of religion on health for
Johns Hopkins research nurse was randomly recruiting 40 patients
with early breast cancer that has neither spread to other organs nor
infiltrated the fatty tissue, muscle or bone around the breast. The
study does not begin until one or two months after surgery and
radiation treatment, Research News explained.
The participants would then meet a "comfort leader." This is a
cancer survivor known for her strong religious convictions and
prayer life. She "has been specially trained to be a witness to the
women recovering from breast cancer."
The "comfort leader" will help the patient to organize and run a
prayer group that may include five to eight friends or members of
her church. For 24 weeks they were to follow a special prayer guide
containing messages from the Bible.
The patient and her group will then pursue an ancient
Judeo-Christian way of communicating with the Divine. It is called
Centering Prayer, was practiced in the Medieval Church and then
almost forgotten until three Trappist monks in Spencer, Mass.,
rediscovered it in the 1970s.
any given time, participants of a Centering Prayer session choose
only one sacred word from Scripture. This word -- for example,
grace, love, mercy, or Jesus -- would serve as a symbol of the
supplicant's consent to God's presence and action.
Becker's and Koenig's research project, the patients and their
groups were to meet twice a day at a quiet place for at least 20
minutes. They were to close their eyes and silently think the
Scriptural word they had previously agreed upon. The idea is that
they would be resting in God. Should their thoughts drift, however,
they would return to their chosen word to focus once again on the
The method differs from the ritualized and conversational prayers of
traditional Christianity and meditation as practiced by eastern
religions. In Centering Prayer sessions, participants "avoid
analyzing their experience, harboring expectations or aiming at some
specific goal such as repeating the sacred words continuously,
having no thoughts, making the mind a blank, feeling peaceful,
consoled, or achieving a spiritual presence," Research News writes.
"Those who guide centered prayer groups warn that often a person
will feel tingling as the body relaxes," the paper reported. "This
is just tension slowly oozing away. " Another attribute of "deep
spiritual attentiveness" is that one's extremities feel heavy.
Koenig hoped that in the long term the findings from this study
"will give women and their religious communities a powerful tool for
combating breast cancer." He said he believed that "getting the
patients' minds off their disease makes a big difference."Even more
important, though, is that Centering Prayer would battle stress
caused by cancer. It would do so by giving the patients "a sense of
hope, social and psychological support, a positive belief system,
and a sense of personal control through prayer."
While most religions teach that prayer intervention helps a patient,
trying to validate "extra-personal spirituality" scientifically is a
relatively new endeavor. One of its pioneers is Randolph C. Byrd, a
San Francisco cardiologist. In 1988, he chronicled the therapeutic
effects of intercessory prayer in a provoking study.It analyzed 393
coronary care patients who were divided into two sections. One group
was made up of patients who were not prayed for. But for the other
group's members prayers were said regularly. Byrd discovered that
the latter patients suffered significantly less from congestive
heart failure, had fewer cardiopulmonary arrests, used fewer
antibiotics and diuretics, had less pneumonia and were less
Even more surprising," wrote the journal, Science & Spirit, "is the
revelation that the patients...did not know that they were being
prayed for, nor did their doctors." Science & Spirit concluded,
"Byrd's study suggests that religiosity is a kind of antibiotic."
This is what Koenig trusted his research program would prove as
well. According to Research News, "He hopes that research such as
this will open the door to more studies on the effect that prayer
may have on other diseases influenced by immune system activity,
As a reasonably intelligent person, I find that this is evidence
that God does indeed exist and "The Big Bang Theory" should not be
able to occupy credible space in serious science. But then again,
I'll be long dead and buried by the time all the facts are in for
The Science of Prayer
Victor J. Stenger
Praying for yourself may help you. Or it
may harm you. Or it may do nothing at all. Each of these is possible, by
purely material brain-body interactions with nothing supernatural
required. And, praying for another person with his or her knowledge
might also help, again by purely material means, in reducing that
person's stress. But it can also hurt by adding more stress. Many
studies on prayer and health can be found in the literature and I do not
have the space to review them all. Instead I will focus on the popular
book Healing Words by physician Larry Dossey in which he reports on "an
enormous body of evidence: over one hundred experiments exhibiting the
criteria of good science, many conducted under stringent laboratory
conditions, over half of which showed that prayer brings about
significant changes in a variety of living beings."1 One wonders why he
would even count those that were not conducted under stringent
Dossey refers to a survey by Daniel J.
Benor, M.D., published in the journal Complementary Healing Research, of
experiments dealing with healing effects of prayer on enzymes, cells,
yeasts, bacteria, plants, animals, and human beings.2 According to
Dossey's summary of Benor's results, researchers have performed 131
controlled trials. Of these, fifty-six show "statistically significant
results at a probability level of <0.01 or better (that is, the
likelihood that the results were due to chance was less than 1 in 100)."
Another twenty-one studies "demonstrate results at a probability level
of 0.02 to 0.05 or better (that is, the likelihood that the results were
due to chance was between 2 and 5 chances in 100)."
Dossey is incorrect in his interpretation
of the statistical significance of these experimental results, making a
common mistake one finds in many papers and books. The "probability
level" quoted in most scientific papers is usually what statisticians
call the "p-value." For example, suppose an effect is reported with a
p-value of five percent. This means that in a long sequence of identical
experiments we would expect to observe an effect as great or greater
produced by statistical fluctuations in five percent of the cases. This
not the same as "the likelihood [or probability] that the results were
due to chance." In fact, it is always possible to get any observed
effect by chance. You simply have to repeat the experiment enough times.
In any case, Dossey informs us that "ten
of the studies are unpublished doctoral dissertations, two are masters'
theses, and the rest are published primarily in parapsychological
journals." He asserts that "these publications have peer review
standards as rigorous as many medical journals."
However, as I have mentioned before in
this column, the standards of medical journals are quite low compared to
other science fields such as physics. This is presumably necessary to
assure that useful therapies are not kept from needy patients for too
long. Unlike physicians, however, physicists and parapsychologists are
not in the business of saving lives but rather that of investigating
extraordinary phenomena. Those who search for evidence of psychic or
spiritual phenomena should be bound by the stricter standards of physics
and other fields which deal with extraordinary claims. After all, the
scientific confirmation of such phenomena would be of world-shaking
No respectable physics journal would
publish a result with a p-value of one percent. If it did, every
hundredth paper or so would contain a false claim that was only a
statistical artifact, wreaking havoc with the whole research enterprise.
In fact, the publication standard in physics is typically a p-value of
0.01 percent, that is, only one in 10,000 similar experiments would be
expected to produce the reported effect or a greater one as a
statistical fluctuation. If this standard were applied to Dossey's
sample, none of the 131 trials mentioned above would be published.
The same can be said for all the
intercessory prayer studies that have been published in medical
journals, accompanied by great media hype. For example, cardiologist
Randolph Byrd has claimed evidence that coronary patients benefitted
from blind, distant intercessory prayer. But his p-value is only five
percent.3 Such results would be expected from statistical fluctuations
alone every twenty experiments, on average. Another study along the same
line as Byrd's has been published in a major medical journal, Archives
of Internal Medicine, with nine coauthors.4 There, positive results are
reported at a p-value is four percent, but for different criteria than
Byrd's. In fact, they fail to confirm Byrd's specific results.
Dossey is simply wrong when he says the
evidence is "simply overwhelming that prayer functions at a distance to
change physical processes in a variety of organisms, from bacteria to
humans." Even without examining the detailed protocols of these
experiments, the statistical significance is insufficient to draw such a
conclusion. We have no idea how many experiments may have been done that
gave no positive effects and consequently were never published (the "filedrawer
effect"). These papers should not have been published either.
This article is abstracted from my latest
book, Has Science Found God? The Latest Results in the Search for
Purpose in the Universe, to be published by Prometheus Books. Thanks to
Bill Jefferys for helping me clarify the statistical issues.
Larry Dossey, Healing Words: The Power of
Prayer and the Practice of Medicine (San Francisco: Harper, 1993).
Daniel J. Benor, Survey of spiritual
healing research. Complementary Medical Research 4, no. 1 (1990):9-33.
Randolph C. Byrd, Positive therapeutic
effects of intercessory prayer in a coronary care unit population,
Southern Medical Journal 81, no. 7 (1988):826-29.
W.S. Harris, M. Gowda, J.W. Kolb, C.P.
Strychacz, J.L. Vacek, P.G. Jones, A. Forker, J.H. O'Keefe, and B.D.
McCallister, A randomized, controlled trial of the effects of remote,
intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients admitted to the coronary
care unit, Archives of Internal Medicine 159 (1999): 2273-8.
About the Author
Victor J. Stenger is professor
emeritus of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii and now
lives in the state of Colorado. He can be reached at
email@example.com His Web site is still located at
http://spot.colorado.edu/~vstenger/ He thanks members of
the Internet discussion groups and avoid-l discussion lists for their
comments on this column
SCIENCE AND PRAYER
GROWING SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE THAT PRAYER WORKS IN HEALING.
BELIEVE THE EVIDENCE FOR THE EFFECTIVENESS OF PRAYER IS GOOD AND
WILL CONTINUE TO GROW. TO STUDY THE EFFECTIVENESS IT IS,
HOWEVER, NECESSARY TO STUDY GROUPS. IT IS TO BE EXPECTED,
THEREFORE, THAT SCIENCE WILL BE ABLE TO SHOW JUST STATISTICAL
BENEFITS OF PRAYER THIS IS TO BE EXPECTED FROM THE PROCESS OF
STUDYING A COMPLEX GROUP OF ANY SORT AND IS EVEN TRUE IN PHYSICS
WHEN STUDYING COMPARATIVELY VERY SIMPLE NUCLEAR PARTICLE
LIMITATION OF SCIENCE IS A BASIC FACT FOR INDIVIDUALS ALONE OR
INDIVIDUALS IF THEY ARE PART OF A GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO HAS BEEN
PRAYED FOR. THE FACT THAT THE EFFECT ON INDIVIDUALS CANNOT BE
ADDRESSED BY SCIENCE SAYS NOTHING NEGATIVE ABOUT PRAYER. FOR ONE
THING, HUMAN BEINGS AND THEIR LIVES ARE TOO COMPLEX FOR SIMPLE
YES OR NO STUDY ANSWERS.
SECOND FACT IS THAT BY DEFINITION, IF THE PRAYER IS FOR AN
INDIVIDUAL (OR A GROUP), AS SOON AS THE PRAYER IS PRAYED, IT IS
NOT LONGER POSSIBLE TO KNOW WHAT THE OUTCOME WOULD HAVE BEEN
WITHOUT PRAYER FOR THAT
INDIVIDUAL OR INDIVIDUAL WITHIN A GROUP (IN EACH INDIVIDUAL
CASE.) THIS FACT ELIMINATE INHERENTLY ANY CERTAINTY THAT PRAYER
DID OR DID NOT WORK FOR AN INDIVIDUAL.
NEVERTHELESS, SCIENTIFICALLY MEANINGFUL TO PERFORM EXPERIMENTS
IN WHICH SOME GROUPS ARE PRAYED FOR (AS INDIVIDUALS OR AS A
GROUP) AND COMPARE THE FUTURE CONDITION OF THAT GROUP TO THE
CONDITION AT THE SAME TIME IN THE FUTURE OF ANOTHER GROUP WHICH
DID NOT RECEIVE PRAYER. ONE CAN THEN DO A MATHEMATICAL
STATISTICAL ANALYSIS AND LOOK AT THE GROUP AVERAGE AND WORST
CASE AND BEST CASE OUTCOMES OF INDIVIDUALS IN EACH GROUP.
IS REQUIRED IS TO HAVE SOME OBJECTIVE MEASURE TO USE WHICH IS
STRONGLY CORRELATED TO THE NATURE OF THE PRAYERS. THE MEASURE
CAN EVEN BE THE HEALTH OF A MOUSE.
CNN NETWORK REFERENCE TO SCIENCE
EXPERIMENTS ON THE HEALING POWER OF PRAYER EVEN ON MICE!
EVEN THIS AMAZING RESULT DOES
NOT RESULT IN CERTAINTY AND WOULD NOT BE EXPECTED TO DO SO, DUE
TO THE MANY FACTORS WHICH CAN EFFECT THE OUTCOME IN ADDITION TO
PRAYER. WITH SUCH TESTS, IT CAN, HOWEVER, BE SHOWN TO A
SIGNIFICANT DEGREE OF PROBABILITY THAT PRAYER IS BENEFICIAL IN
HEALING. MANY STUDIES HAVE
SHOWN THIS TO BE THE CASE <http://dir.ansme.com/science/834661.html><http://dir.ansme.com/science/834661.html>
EXPERIMENTS ARE DONE, IT IS GENERALLY NOT POSSIBLE TO AVOID
EFFECTING THE KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF THE
EXPERIMENT HAD NOT BEEN PERFORMED. IT IS FUNDAMENTALLY TRUE THAT
WHEN PRAYER IS INVOKED, THAT THIS AUTOMATICALLY REMOVES THE
INFORMATION OF WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED TO THAT INDIVIDUAL
WITHOUT PRAYER. INTERESTINGLY, THIS IS VERY SIMILAR TO
EXPERIMENTS DONE IN QUANTUM MECHANICS IN PHYSICS. IN QUANTUM
MECHANICAL EXPERIMENTS ON SUBATOMIC PARTICLES INDIVIDUALLY, THE
EXPERIMENTAL SETUP EFFECTS THE OUTCOME. THE EXPERIMENTAL SETUP
PRECLUDES CERTAIN RESULTS FROM OCCURRING. THE EXPERIMENTS WITH
NUCLEAR PARTICLES RESULT IN PROBABILITY CALCULATIONS VERY
SIMILAR TO THOSE FROM THE STUDIES ON PRAYER.
SCIENCE CANNOT VALIDLY ARGUE THAT A TEST OF THE
EFFICACY OF PRAYER IS INVALID BECAUSE THE EXPERIMENT CANNOT BE
DONE ON INDIVIDUAL. NOR CAN SCIENCE ARGUE THAT SINCE THE EFFECT
OF PRAYER CANNOT BE DETERMINED TO A HIGH DEGREE OF PROBABILITY
FOR AN INDIVIDUAL, THAT EXPERIMENTS ON GROUPS OF INDIVIDUALS IS
NOT A VALID EXPERIMENT. IF, AS IS THE
CASE, PRAYER IS SHOWN TO HAVE A POSITIVE STATISTICAL EFFECT ON A
GROUP, THAT IS VALID PROOF OF THE BENEFITS OF PRAYER.
On the Lake
by ~ Michael Sutton
I have done some research on the subject
of Prayer, its components (Thought, Feeling, and Emotion) and the
difference between Emotions and Feelings.
I cannot possibly convey all that I find
in this one article as it would be much too long. However, I can refer
you to Gregg Braden's book 'The Isaiah Effect', and ‘The Life and
Teaching of the Masters of the Far East’ by Baird T. Spalding.
Of the three components of prayer (a.k.a.
manifesting that which you desire in the physical realm), emotion and
feeling are the two most confusing. It would be easy to think that
emotion and feeling are one and the same. Finding a difference may seem
like splitting hairs or a matter of semantics. To complicate matters
further, in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language,
the word feeling is defined as "an emotional state or
disposition." Whereas emotion is defined as "a strong feeling."
While these definitions may serve the purposes of today's world, the
ancients recognized a distinction between them.
To change the conditions of our outer
world, we are invited to actually become the conditions of our
desire from within. For instance, to bring peace to those whom we love
in this world, we must first become that very peace. The authors
of the Dead Sea Scrolls even offer insights into the technology that
allows this healing quality of peace: it must occur in our thoughts,
feelings, and bodies (emotions). The Essene elders made clear
distinctions among emotion, thought, and feeling.
Here is an explanation of each of the
three components of the technology of prayer.
Emotion - may be considered the
source of power that drives us forward toward our goals in life. It
is through the energy of our emotions that we fuel our thoughts to make
them real. It is in the presence of thought that our emotion is given
direction, breathing life into the image of our thoughts. Ancient
traditions suggest we are capable of two primary emotions. Love is one.
Love's opposite is the second, often described as fear. The quality of
emotion determines how it is expressed. Sometimes flowing, at other
times lodged within the tissues of our body, emotion is closely aligned
with desire, the force that drives our imagination to resolution.
Thought - may be considered the
guidance system that directs our emotion. It is the image or idea
created by our thought that determines where our emotion and attention
are directed. Thought is closely associated with imagination. In itself,
thought has little energy; it is only a possibility with little
energy. In the absence of emotion, there is no power to make our
thoughts real. It is our gift of thought in the absence of emotion that
allows us to model and simulate the possibilities of life harmlessly, to
create possible future options in imagination only without creating fear
or chaos in our lives. It is only in our love or fear for the objects of
our thoughts that we breathe life into the creations of our imagination.
Feeling - may exist only in the
presence of thought and emotion for it represents the union of the two.
When we feel, we are experiencing the desire of our emotion merged with
the imagination of our thoughts. Feeling is the key to prayer. To have a
feeling, by definition, we must first have both an underlying thought
and an emotion.
In Gregg Braden's travels to Tibet, he was
able to hold a private audience with the abbot of a monastery seldom
visited. Instead of asking the typical questions most people asked that
particular abbot throughout the years, Gregg asked him what was
happening within the monks and nuns as he witnessed the outward
expression of their prayers. The abbot responded with a single word:
feeling. Carrying his answer one step further, the abbot then said
that feeling was more than just a factor in prayer. He emphasized
that feeling is the prayer!
From these three brief and possibly
oversimplified definitions, it becomes apparent why it is impossible to
"think away" frightening and painful experiences. For instance, pain is
a feeling, the product of our thought fueled by our love or fear for
what our mind believes has occurred. With this formula in mind, the
Essene masters invite us to heal the memories of our most painful
experiences by changing the emotion of the experience itself.
The Gospel Q is an ancient basis for the
modern axiom "energy follows attention" which comes to light when
reading a parable from said Gospel that states: "Whoever tries to
protect his life will lose it." These deceptively brief words explain
why we sometimes attract into our lives those experiences that we least
choose to have. In this example, as we prepare and defend ourselves
against each possibility and every situation where we could lose our
lives, the model suggests that we are actually drawing attention to
the very experience that we are choosing to avoid. In the not
wanting, we create the conditions that allow it to be.
When we don't want something - an emotion
based in fear - our fear actually fuels what we claim not to want. The
laws of the universe, which the technology of prayer adheres to, invites
us to empower our choices by focusing upon the positive experiences that
we choose, rather than by preparing for the negative things that we
don't want. Creation simply allows us the consequence of our feeling.
Now, in an attempt to bring this article
to a conclusion, the question can be asked 'How do I pray'? Well, you
may read in Conversations With God that we should never pray a prayer of
supplication but rather a prayer of gratitude. What does this mean? This
implies that that which you seek to manifest already exists. Thus, your
prayer is one of gratitude. Through our new understandings of time and
choice points, quantum physics allows for the possibility of apparent
miracles as outcomes that already exist. That is, the key is to shift
our perspective of life by feeling that the 'miracle' has already
happened (even before you pray) and our prayers have thus been answered.
The secret is that when we ask for something, we acknowledge what
we do not have. Continuing to ask only gives power to what has never
come to pass.
We must first have the feelings of what we
wish to experience. This is how we plant the seeds of a new way. From
that point forward, our prayer becomes a prayer of thanks. Our prayer
becomes a prayer of thanks for the opportunity to choose which
creation we experience. Through our thanks, we honor all possibilities
and bring the ones we choose into this world.
Neville described bringing our dreams
alive through the use of feeling by inviting us to "make our future
dream a present fact by assuming the feeling of our desire fulfilled."
Once we have created the image of our desire in our mind and felt the
feeling of our desire fulfilled within our heart, then it has already
happened! Though the intent of our prayer may not have appeared in full
view of our immediate senses, we assume that it is so. The key is to
acknowledge that when we feel, the effect of our feelings has occurred
somewhere, upon some level of our existence.
At this moment in time, you are all aware
that we are on the precipice of possible war. Terrorist activities
proliferating. Personalities clashing. Egos bruised. We hear White House
rhetoric stating that war is right around the corner with the next
misstep. Ground rules are such that any hiccup can be used as cause for
invasion. An all-around lack of a peaceful situation, right? So, how can
it be avoided? What do we as individuals do?
We Pray Peace. Do not Pray for
Peace, but rather Pray Peace. If you Pray for Peace, you are
acknowledging that it is non existent. However, by Praying Peace, then
you acknowledge that it already exists and you thank (prayer of
gratitude) the Universal God for providing peace. In your praying, you
must employ the three components of the technology of prayer described
above. That is, feel the peace. Let your emotion of
Love power your thoughts to take you to the point wherein you are
imagining the peace around you and every individual in every land
throughout the Earth. You must employ all three components. Again,
feel the peace and imagine it within and without you.
above methodology with all of your desires and you will employ a
Universal Law that works!
Prayer and Medical Science
Commentary originally appeared in
"It is fatal to dismiss antagonistic
doctrines, supported by any body of evidence, as simply wrong." Alfred
North Whitehead, 1948 1
THE RANDOMIZED, controlled trial by Harris
et al2 on the effects of remote intercessory prayer on outcomes of
patients admitted to a coronary care unit evoked several comments from
Several respondents implied that the
attempt to study the remote effects of prayer is wrong in principle.
This is because, according to Dr Sandweiss,3 science deals with facts,
not "miracles." Yet, if events occur in controlled laboratory studies,
as suggested by evidence cited below, these happenings presumably follow
natural law and are not considered miraculous.
We should be cautious in calling events
miraculous or mystical, because the subsequent course of history may
reveal that these terms reflect little more than our own ignorance. For
example, when Newton invoked the notion of universal gravity in the 17th
century to explain his observations, he was charged by his
contemporaries with surrendering to mysticism, as prayer researchers are
often accused today.
As philosopher Eugene Mills4 describes,
"[Newton's critics] disapproved of his failure to explain why bodies
behaved in accordance with his laws, or how distant bodies could act on
one another . . . This sort of worry no longer bothers us, but not
because we have answered it."
Today we are as baffled by the remote
effects of prayer as Newton's critics were by the distant effects of
gravity. But, just as the dispute over gravity gradually abated, the
debate surrounding intercessory prayer may also diminish with time, even
though our ignorance about the mechanism involved may remain.
Dr Van der Does5 dismisses the effects of
intercessory prayer because they would be indistinguishable empirically
from the effects of clairvoyance and telepathy, which he implies are
nonsense. (He presumably means not clairvoyance or telepathy, which are
forms of anomalous cognition, but psychokinesis, the anomalous
perturbation of distant events.) However, there is considerable evidence
that neither telepathy nor psychokinesis is nonsense,6 in which case the
indistinguishability between prayer and psychokinesis would not
Dr Sandweiss3 also refers dismissively to
psychokinesis, apparently unaware of the evidence favoring this
phenomenon. For example, in Foundations of Physics, one of physics' most
prestigious journals, Radin and Nelson7 reported a meta-analysis of 832
studies from 68 investigators that involved the distant influence of
human consciousness on microelectronic systems.
They found the results to be "robust and
repeatable." In their opinion, "Unless critics want to allege wholesale
collusion among more than sixty experimenters or suggest a
methodological artifact common to . . . hundred[s of] experiments
conducted over nearly three decades, there is no escaping the conclusion
that [these] effects are indeed possible."
While these hundreds of studies do not
involve actual prayer, they nonetheless deal with whether human
intention can, in principle, affect the physical world at a distance.
In recent years, researchers have also
studied the effects of mental efforts to change biological systems.8
Scores of controlled studies have examined the effects of intentions,
often expressed through prayer, on biochemical reactions in vitro, on
the recovery rate of animals from anesthesia, on the growth rates of
tumors and the rate of wound healing in animals, on the rate of
hemolysis of red blood cells in vitro, and on the replication rates of
microorganisms in test tubes.
Testing prayer in lower organisms makes
sense for the same reason we test drugs in nonhumans. We share
physiological similarities with animals and bacteria; if prayer affects
them, it may affect us as well.
These studies are too often ignored, even
by researchers interested in the effects of intercessory prayer in
humans. This is unfortunate because many of these studies9 have been
done with great precision and have been replicated by different
investigators in different laboratories. They make up the basic or bench
science underlying the objective study of prayer.
Dr Sandweiss3 says that since we know that
prayer cannot operate remotely, taking this possibility seriously
requires us to "suspend natural law," which results in "pseudoscientific
mischief." But, as there is no agreement among scientists about which
natural laws govern consciousness, it is imprudent to declare which laws
might be violated and what mischief might result.
Several outstanding scholars have
emphasized our appalling ignorance about the basic nature of
consciousness. John Searle,10 one of the most distinguished philosophers
in the field of consciousness, has said, "At our present state of the
investigation of consciousness, we don't know how it works and we need
to try all kinds of different ideas."
Philosopher Jerry A. Fodor11 has observed,
"Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious.
Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about
how anything material could be conscious. So much for the philosophy of
Recently Sir John Maddox,12 the former
editor of Nature, soberly stated, "The catalogue of our ignorance must .
. . include the understanding of the human brain . . . What
consciousness consists of . . . is . . . a puzzle.
Despite the marvelous success of
neuroscience in the past century . . ., we seem as far away from
understanding . . . as we were a century ago . . . The most important
discoveries of the next 50 years are likely to be ones of which we
cannot now even conceive."
If these observers are anywhere near the
truth, we should be hesitant to declare emphatically what the mind can
and cannot do.
Dr Sandweiss3 states that Harris et al
have taken "a P value out of context" and that their P value is "out of
control." He implies that the beliefs and practices of physicians depend
strongly on statistically valid studies and that P3D.04 is too weak to
justify a change in "current theories." Do P values determine what we
physicians believe and how we practice medicine?
This is a noble sentiment, but evidence
suggests we are not as objective as Dr Sandweiss implies. Yale surgeon
and author Sherwin B. Nuland13 states, "Unlike other areas in which fads
come and go, medical styles [of practice] are meant to be supported by
irrefutable evidence. That assumption is so far off the mark that the
term 'medical science' is practically an oxymoron."
Referring to a 1978 report by the
Congressional Office of Technology Assessment,14 Nuland states, "no more
than 15 percent of medical interventions are supported by reliable
Richard Smith,15 editor of the British
Medical Journal, agrees, stating, "only about 15% of medical
interventions are supported by solid scientific evidence. . . . This is
partly because only 1% of the articles in medical journals are
scientifically sound and partly because many treatments have not been
assessed at all."
And David A. Grimes16 of the University of
California-San Francisco School of Medicine states, "much, if not most,
of contemporary medical practice still lacks a scientific foundation."
These observations suggest that a double
standard is perhaps being applied to prayer research, according to which
levels of proof are demanded that may not be required of conventional
therapies-the "rubber ruler," the raising of the bar, the
ever-lengthening playing field.17
Do serious scientists really believe that
the effects of intercessory prayer are fantasy, as several letter
writers imply? No doubt some do.
But in a recent survey18 of the spiritual
beliefs of American scientists, 39% of biologists, physicists, and
mathematicians said they not only believed in God, but in a god who
The highest rate of belief was found in
the field of mathematics, which is generally considered the most precise
of all the sciences. Many distinguished scientists favor prayer. A long
list of individuals, including Nobelists, who have been cordial to
consciousness-related events, such as distant, intercessory prayer, has
been assembled by philosopher David
Should the empirical study of intercessory
prayer be abandoned, as several letter writers imply? More than a
century ago, a similar debate took place among British scientists about
telepathy, clairvoyance, and psychokinesis, which, like prayer, presume
that consciousness can operate remotely.
Nobelist Sir William Crookes (1832-1919),
the discoverer of thallium, contrasted his own approach with that of his
fellow physicist Michael Faraday (1791-1867), famous for his work in
electricity and magnetism. Crookes20 stated:
Faraday says, 'Before we proceed to
consider any question involving physical principles, we should set out
with clear ideas of the naturally possible and impossible.'
But this appears like reasoning in a
circle: we are to investigate nothing till we know it to be possible,
whilst we cannot say what is impossible, outside pure mathematics, till
we know everything. In the present case I prefer to enter upon the
enquiry with no preconceived notions whatever as to what can or cannot
The spirit of open inquiry would seem to
validate Crookes' stance. Scientific puzzles do not solve themselves
unaided. How are the mysteries of consciousness and prayer to be
resolved unless researchers take a stab at them?
Dr Sandweiss3 suggests that the lack of an
accepted theory underlying intercessory prayer diminishes the
respectability of this area of investigation. In the history of
medicine, however, we have often tolerated ignorance of mechanism and
absence of theory. Examples include the use of aspirin, colchicine, and
quinine, as well as the use of citrus fruits in scurvy, as Harris et al
point out. The mechanisms of action of most general anesthetics are
still a mystery, yet that does not preclude their use.
While it is true that there is no
generally accepted theory for the remote actions of consciousness, many
mathematicians, physicists, and biological and cognitive scientists are
currently offering hypotheses about how these events may happen.
Hypotheses that are compatible with the
distant effects of intercessory prayer have been advanced by Nobel
physicist Brian Josephson,21 physicist Amit Goswami22 of the University
of Oregon's Institute of Theoretical Science, mathematician and
cognitive scientist David J. Chalmers,23, 24 systems theorist Ervin
Laszlo,25 mathematician C. J. S. Clarke,26 and many other respected
These models of consciousness generally
advocate a nonlocal view of the mind-a view in which consciousness is
not localized or confined to specific points in space (such as the
brain) or time.
Levin28 has developed a theoretical model
of how prayer may heal that takes several of these hypotheses into
account. I have described the implications of a nonlocal model of
consciousness for medicine.29 Dr Hammerschmidt30 suggests that Harris et
al are "putting God to the test" in their study. Are tests of prayer
blasphemous, and are prayer researchers heretics?
I have found that investigators in this
area approach their subject with reverence and respect; indeed, I have
not found a single exception. They seem to epitomize the view of chemist
Robert Boyle,31 the 17th-century author of Boyle's Law, who suggested
that experimental scientists are "priests of nature" and that science is
so sacred that scientists should carry out their experiments on Sundays
as part of their Sabbath worship.
Dr Goldstein32 is "concerned with the
potential effect of [the Harris et al] study and its publication on the
reputation of hospitals involved and on the integrity of health care
organizations in general." The reputation of any healing institution is
precious and should be protected, but the suggestion that a hospital's
reputation will be endangered by the indiscriminate use of prayer is
It is more likely that the widespread
application of prayer will enhance the reputation of healing
institutions, in view of the facts that nearly 80% of Americans believe
in the power of prayer to improve the course of illness,33 and nearly
70% of physicians report religious inquiries for counseling on terminal
illness34 yet only 10% of physicians ever inquire about patients'
spiritual practices or beliefs.35
In a survey36 of hospitalized patients,
three fourths said they believed their physician should be concerned
about their spiritual welfare, and one half said they believed their
physician should not only pray for them but with them. It is unlikely
that prayer could threaten the reputation of hospitals to the extent of
many conventional therapies.
A recent meta-analysis of prospective
studies by Lazarou et al37 found that more than 100,000 persons die in
US hospitals each year from adverse drug reactions, "making these
reactions between the fourth and sixth leading cause of death." A recent
survey38 of American adults asked about their concerns before checking
into a hospital or other health care facility.
Sixty-one percent were "very concerned"
about being given the wrong medicine, 58% about the cost of treatment,
58% about the negative interaction of multiple drugs, 56% about medical
procedure complications, 53% about receiving correct information about
medications, and 50% about contracting an infection during their stay.
Concerns about being indiscriminately prayed for did not make the list.
Dr Pande39 suggests that the analogy by
Harris et al with James Lind's discovery of the healing potential of
citrus fruits in scurvy is inappropriate. A person deprived of vitamin C
will develop scurvy, whereas a person deprived of prayer or believing in
God's existence, he states, will not become unhealthy.
There is evidence to the contrary. Scores
of studies40, 41 suggest that, on average, individuals deprived of
religious meaning live shorter, less healthy lives than people who
follow some sort of religious path, which almost always includes prayer.
Drs Sloan and Bagiella42 question whether
Harris et al are justified in suggesting that intercessory prayer be
considered an adjunct to conventional medical practice, since there is
no consensus in medicine about this controversial intervention.
There is indeed no consensus, but whether
this is because of a lack of data or ignorance of current evidence is a
valid question.43 Certainly further investigation of intercessory prayer
is warranted, but we need not wait until all the answers are in before
employing prayer adjunctively. This view is represented by Lancet editor
Richard Horton44 in his "precautionary principle."
Horton states, "We must act on facts and
on the most accurate interpretation of them, using the best information.
That does not mean that we must sit back until we have 100 percent
evidence about everything. When the . . . health of the individual is at
stake . . . we should be prepared to take action to diminish those risks
even when the scientific knowledge is not conclusive."
Although skepticism is an invaluable
component of scientific progress, it can shade into a type of dogmatic
materialism that excludes intercessory prayer in principle,45 as when
Newton's critics condemned universal gravity as occult nonsense without
weighing the evidence.
Both true believers and committed
disbelievers in intercessory prayer might heed the view of mathematical
physicist and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead,46 who coauthored
Principia Mathematica with Bertrand Russell:
" The Universe is vast. Nothing is more
curious than the self-satisfied dogmatism with which mankind at each
period of its history cherishes the delusion of the finality of its
existing modes of knowledge. Sceptics and believers are all alike. At
this moment scientists and sceptics are the leading dogmatists. Advance
in detail is admitted: fundamental novelty is barred. This dogmatic
common sense is the death of philosophical adventure. The Universe is
There appears to be no question that
prayer works. We have many studies now that document that. The science
is very solid in excellent peer-reviewed publications. The science is so
solid, that it is criminally negligent for physicians not to recommend
And talk about cost-effective; there is no
cost to prayer except for time. It makes no logical sense to me why
someone would not utilize this resource.
For those who are interested in further
reading on this subject, I have read and can recommend Dr. Larry
Dossey's excellent reviews of the subject of prayer and distant healing.
A must for those interested in this area.
Healing Words : The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine
Be Careful What You Pray For...You Just Might Get It
Can Prayer Heal?
Scientists Suggest Recovery May Be the Hand of God at Work
Halfway around the world, American Sufi
Muslims join in. Fundamentalist Christians add their
prayers, as do Orthodox Jews at Jersualem's Western
"Jimmy P," a heart patient at Duke
University Medical Center in North Carolina, is part of
a global scientific experiment trying to find out: Does
The experiment was launched by Dr. Mitch
Krucoff, a cardiologist at Duke University Medical
"If in addition to all the prayer
routinely going on all the time, we were to add prayers
from religious groups all over the world focused on one
individual's recovery, is there a measurable incremental
benefit?" he wondered. So he is putting prayer to the
test in a global scientific study that is scheduled to
be completed next year.
Putting Faith to the Test
In the meantime, other scientists are
taking a look at the 191 studies that have already been
done on what they call "remote healing."
One such study was conducted at the Mid
America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Mo. At first,
Dr. William Harris had a hard time persuading a fellow
cardiologist, Dr. James O'Keefe, to participate in the
prayer experiment on heart patients.
"From a purely scientific standpoint, I
thought it was illogical," says O'Keefe. "I don't really
think of spirituality normally as playing a role in
scientific, rigorous, double-blind placebo-controlled
scientific studies. It's two different realms."
A previous study by some other scientists
had gotten positive results, and Harris wanted to study
remote healing for himself. But he, too, was skeptical.
"We were even doubtful that the phenomena
itself was real," he says, "that prayer could do
So Harris wanted to make his experiment
impervious to any placebo effects. He did not tell
patients they were being prayed for — or even that they
were part of any kind of experiment. For an entire year,
about 1,000 heart patients admitted to the institute's
critical care unit were secretly divided into two
groups. Half were prayed for by a group of volunteers
and the hospital's chaplain; the other half were not.
All the patients were followed for a
year, and then their health was scored according to
pre-set rules by a third party who did not know which
patients had been prayed for and which had not. The
results: The patients who were prayed for had 11 percent
fewer heart attacks, strokes and life-threatening
"This study offers an interesting insight
into the possibility that maybe God is influencing our
lives on Earth," says O'Keefe. "As a scientist, it's
very counterintuitive because I don't have a way to
Miracle or Simply Chance?
Dr. Elizabeth Targ, a psychiatrist at the
Pacific College of Medicine in San Francisco, has also
tested out prayer on critically ill AIDS patients.
All 20 patients in the study got pretty
much the same medical treatment, but only half of them
were prayed for by spiritual healers. Ultimately, 10 of
the prayed-for patients lived, while four who had not
been prayed for died.
In a larger follow-up study, Targ found
that the people who received prayer and remote healing
had six times fewer hospitilizations and those
hospitalizations were significantly shorter than the
people who received no prayer and distant healing.
"I was sort of shocked," says Targ. "In a
way it's like witnessing a miracle. There was no way to
understand this from my experience and from my basic
understanding of science."
Dr. Deepak Chopra, who is well-known for
his insights on science and spirituality, says these
prayer experiments are proving what he's been saying all
along: There are healing forces in nature that science
is only beginning to understand.
"What physicists are saying to us right
now," he says, "is that there is a realm of reality
which goes beyond the physical … where in fact we can
influence each other from a distance."
But the final verdict on prayer is still
not in, says Dr. Gary Posner, a skeptic of remote
healing who says most prayer studies to date have been
sloppy and untrustworthy.
"I suspect that 50 years from now people
looking back at this genre of prayer research will kind
of shake their heads and call it junk science."
Chance alone, he says, might account for
the effect that they thought was due to the prayer.
But Chopra says he is just glad science
is taking the belief seriously enough to want to study
"At the moment, I would agree that some
of these studies are tentative, that we should be
cautious in the way we interpret the results," says
Chopra. "But the studies are encouraging enough that we
should pursue them, because if we don't, we may have
missed one of the most amazing phenomena in nature.
Probing the power of prayer
(WebMD) -- When Aretha
Franklin crooned the words "I say a little prayer for
you" in the hit 1960s song she probably didn't imagine
that the soulful pledge would become the stuff of
serious science. But increasingly, scientists are
studying the power of prayer, and in particular its role
in healing people who are sick.
Most research in the
field looks at how people who are sick are affected by
their own spiritual beliefs and practices. In general,
these studies have suggested that people who are
religious seem to heal faster or cope with illness more
effectively than do the nondevout.
But a few scientists
have taken a further step: They're trying to find out if
you can help strangers by praying for them without their
A recent, controversial
study of cardiac patients conducted at St. Luke's
Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, concludes that this
type of prayer -- known as intercessory prayer -- may
indeed make a difference. "Prayer may be an effective
adjunct to standard medical care," says cardiac
researcher William Harris, Ph.D., who headed the St.
Luke's study. The study was published in the October 25,
1999 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Harris and team
examined the health outcomes of nearly 1,000 newly
admitted heart patients at St. Luke's. The patients, who
all had serious cardiac conditions, were randomly
assigned to two groups. Half received daily prayer for
four weeks from five volunteers who believed in God and
in the healing power of prayer. The other half received
no prayer in conjunction with the study.
The volunteers were all
Christians. The participants were not told they were in
a study. The people praying were given only the first
names of their patients and never visited the hospital.
They were instructed to pray for the patients daily "for
a speedy recovery with no complications."
Using a lengthy list of
events that could happen to cardiac patients -- such as
chest pains, pneumonia, infection, and death -- Harris
concluded that the group receiving prayers fared 11
percent better than the group that didn't, a number
considered statistically significant.
embarked on his study to see if he could replicate a
similar 1988 study of intercessory prayer conducted at
San Francisco General Hospital. That study -- one of the
only published studies of its kind -- also found that
prayer benefited patients, but by a different measure:
The patients were able to go home from the hospital
sooner. In Harris' study, the length of the hospital
stay and the time spent in the cardiac unit were no
different for the two groups.
Still, Harris says, his
study bolsters the evidence that prayer works. "To me it
almost argues for another intelligence, to have to
redirect this very vague information."
At the very least, he
says, his results validate the need for more research.
"It strengthens the field. The more studies done in
independent, different places, the closer you are to the
truth," he says.
Fans and critics
The Harris study, like
its predecessor, has attracted both fans and critics,
and plenty of each. Some critics say that adding up
health events to judge a patient's outcome is
subjective, open to bias, and therefore scientifically
invalid. Others say not informing people they were in a
study is unethical and disrespects personal religious
"This was a reasonably
well conducted study, [but] I think they made some
mistakes," says Richard Sloan, Ph.D., a cardiovascular
researcher at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in
New York who closely follows research on spirituality
Sloan has trouble with
several aspects of the Harris study. The prayers were
for a "speedy recovery" but there were no measurable
differences in hospital stays for the two groups, he
says. "Half of their predictions failed at the offset."
But supporters say the
work is careful. "They're not claiming they are
identifying how this occurred; they're just saying maybe
we should take a closer look," says Harold Koenig, M.D.,
a doctor and professor of medicine and psychiatry at
Duke University who has written about prayer and
percent of difference in the outcomes of the two groups
was small, Koenig says, but the Harris study used sound
methodology and produced intriguing results. "Many, many
people pray. Many people would like to know if their
prayers are being heard."
Nothing gives the human mind so much strength and
confidence as prayer based on
faith it is this
faith that cures incurable diseases, not the object of
Bhajana bina sukh
Hari nama bina anand nahi
(Without worship there is neither comfort nor
there's no bliss greater than the chanting of Hari's
That enchanting song frequently heard in Prasanthi
Nilayam—abode of peace—Sathya Sai Baba's base in
Puttaparthy in Andhra Pradesh, India, conveys a message
of far greater import than what poet Tennyson conveyed
when he said that "more things are wrought by prayer
than this world dreams of". Acts of worship, whatever
the faith and whatever the method, through collective
singing and chanting perform a profound social function.
They act as bridge-points between a religion and the
community, drawing in both young and old and believer
and non-believer in a manner rarely achieved during
normal times of the year. The involvement of all people
in the Indian celebrations of Deepavali, Durga
puja in West Bengal and Ganesh Chaturthi in
Maharashtra is ample proof that such events and
occasions are defining moments in proclaiming faith in a
cynical world. more on
by Hector Avalos
Prayer has become a new
cottage industry. Within the last five years the New
York Times has listed as best-sellers at least a
half-dozen books extolling the value of prayer in some
form. Cover stories have appeared in popular magazines
like Newsweek, and television programs such as
"Dateline NBC" have devoted entire shows to this
subject. In particular, physician Larry Dossey in his
Prayer Is Good Medicine: How to Reap the Healing
Benefits of Prayer (1996) and Healing Words: The
Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine (1993)
has popularized the notion that there is scientific
evidence that prayer does work.
Prayer is our communion with God, whether
it be a petition made to God, worship, repentance,
praise, or thanksgiving. It doesn't have to be a
laid-out patent prayer, but words from the heart. God
wants all of us, he knows our minds and hearts, so why
not talk to him as if he already knows the situation.
James 5:16 Confess [your] faults one to
another, and pray one for another, that ye may be
healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man
One of the errors of
Pelagianism was the assertion that prayer is not
necessary for salvation. Pelagius, the impious author of
that heresy, said that man will only be damned for
neglecting to know the truths necessary to be learned.
How astonishing! St. Augustine said: 'Pelagius discussed
everything except how to pray,' though, as the saint
held and taught, prayer is the only means of acquiring
the science of the saints; according to the text of St.
James: If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who
gives to all abundantly, and upbraides not (James 1,5).
Prayer can double the
success rate of IVF treatments, according to a double
blind study published in the respected Journal of
THE NECESSITY OF PRAYER
Prayer Is a Means Necessary to Salvation.
Without Prayer It Is Impossible to Resist Temptations
and to Keep the Commandments
Invocation of the Saints
The Intercession of the Blessed Virgin
THE POWER OF PRAYER
Excellence of Prayer and Its Power With God
Power of Prayer against Temptation
God Is always Ready to Hear Us
We Should Not Limit Ourselves to Asking for Little
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