A Scientific Study of Prayer

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“Margaret Mead, the noted anthropologist, once said, ‘Prayer does not use any artificial energy, it doesn’t burn up any fossil fuel, it doesn’t pollute.’ Mead didn’t mention, which should be of interest to all healthcare professionals: It apparently works. An impressive body of evidence suggests that prayer and religious devotion are associated with positive health outcomes.”

- Larry Dossey, M.D.​

“Thoughts and prayers” is a common response to crises situation, but does praying work? Skeptics may assume that little more than wishful thinking is happening, but evidence is emerging that suggests this ancient practice may have real-world benefits. People of faith will readily mention how prayer works for any situation, especially when it comes to healing. Now, studies are beginning to investigate these claims. 

Dr. Randolph Byrd published one of the most famous accounts in the Southern Medical Journal in July of 1988. Byrd designed a double-blind study in which he gained consent from 393 patients in a hospital’s coronary care unit (CCU) to be included in one of two randomized test groups. One group would be put on a list to be the recipient of intercessory prayers (IP) said on their behalf without their knowledge. The other group would be used as the control and would not be prayed for.

During their stay, the amount of ventilation assistance, antibiotics, and diuretics needed were monitored. The study concluded that patients in th IP group scored statistically lower in severity when it came to their medical needs. This suggests a correlation that prayer, even from remote strangers said without the patient’s knowledge, could positively affect the outcome of their medical treatment.

Prayers in this study were said to the Judeo-Christian God, but people from all faiths report healing miracles. The faithful say they don’t need science to prove what they already know to work, but studies like this help provide evidence for what is typically only a word-of-mouth claim for this form of remote healing. Have you ever experienced the healing power of prayer? Let us know in our Facebook Group.

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