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The Power of Prayer Works... If You Believe

By Randall Fitzgerald
Phenomena Magazine

An intriguing link has emerged between intensity of belief and the power of prayer to heal at a distance.

Three medical researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio this summer released the results of their randomized trial investigating the role played by personal beliefs, in particular the belief that prayer can be effective in both physical and emotional healing.

If you have followed the prayer experimental field over the past 15 years, you know the study results have often been mixed and open to interpretation. While numerous medical reports have demonstrated a relationship between prayer intervention and health recovery, including a study of cardiac patients in 1988, diabetes in 1994, alcoholism in 1997, and separate studies of infection and fertility in 2001, the usual critics continue to assail the methodology and experimental standards of any study showing positive results.

The role of hope, belief, faith, and attitudes has always been taken for granted by many researchers as helping to explain why prayer seems to work for some people with health problems. Now, for the first time, a reputable medical team has demonstrated a specific connection between belief and the efficacy of prayer.

In this most recent study, 86 male and female participants were randomly assigned to either treatment (prayer intervention) or control groups. Their health problems involved either physical or emotional ailments and distress. Of these volunteers, two-thirds were members of church congregations, the rest were not. Each had filled out a questionnaire to assess the degree to which they believed that prayer could heal.

Eight volunteers from a local church’s prayer group, along with four women living in a Christian retirement home, prayed twice a day for three minutes at a time for people in the intervention category. The praying volunteers only knew the names and health concerns of those in the intervention group, and no one in that group knew they were the subject of prayers.

After a month, the results were compiled for publication. Here is a summary:

1. Pain scores were significantly lower in the prayed for group than in the control group.

2. Among those who had the most intense belief in prayer, there were “significant improvements in physical functioning” in contrast to the control group.

3. Those in the intervention group with a lower belief in the power of prayer “had a signficiantly worse physical function outcome.”

The authors of this study were quite perplexed by their findings and raised some questions for the direction of future research. “While belief or hope is a significant factor in the recovery from illness, why would belief modify the treatment effect in a randomized trial of intercessory prayer? Patricipants in the study did not know they were being ‘treated’; nonetheless, their belief was a condition under which intercessory prayer demonstrated an effect.”

While conceding that only “an unknown theoretical framework” can explain the effects of prayer on healing, these three scientists do trot out what, for many of you, will be a familiar explanatory theme - an undiscovered quantum reality beyond the known laws of physics. “This unknown quantum space might be influenced by thought (under certain conditions), which in turn, may influence the physical realm.”

If you want to know more about this theoretical possibility, I would urge you to read a book the study doesn’t mention, The Field: The Quest For The Secret Force Of The Universe, by Lynne McTaggart, which I will be reviewing in the next issue of Phenomena magazine..

Source: Phenomena Magazine

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