Prayer May Speed Heart Patient's Recovery

Prayer may reduce the number of complications experienced by hospitalized heart patients, researchers report. Heart patients who were prayed for by others, but were not aware of being the object of prayers, had an 11% reduction in medical complications or the need for surgery or medication while in hospital, according to the investigators. The authors examined the medical charts of nearly 1,000 heart patients, following their health histories between hospital admission and discharge.

All patients in the study received standard medical care. But unbeknownst to the patients, the researchers provided the first names of about half the patients to 15 teams of five self-identified, practicing Christians. These individuals prayed daily for the healthy recovery of selected patients for a period of 4 weeks. The remaining patients were not prayed for as part of the study.

The authors report that the prayed-for patients had significantly lower complication rates than those not prayed for in the study. The research team effectively ruled out patient bias as a possible factor behind the benefits associated with prayer, since both patients and hospital staff were completely unaware of the very existence of the trial.

Indeed, they say they have no "mechanistic explanation" as to how the prayers of strangers might have helped speed patient healing. The odds that chance might explain the findings are about 1 in 25, according to the authors.

Instead, they refer to the theories of those who believe that "natural or supernatural" causes may be behind the 'healing power of prayer.' Believers in the 'natural causes' theory propose that some as-yet-undiscovered natural force is "'generated' by the intercessors and 'received' by the patients," according to the researchers.

On the other hand, those subscribing to a supernatural explanation point to the existence of God or some force beyond the ken of science. A 1988 trial involving 339 San Francisco patients also found results remarkably similar to those of the current study.

Archives of Internal Medicine October 25,1999;159:2273.

Dr. Mercola's Comment:

I believe it is malpractice in the highest level to not advocate prayer for patients. The research is out there and there is no question that it works. Why not use it?  I have been able to learn and implement some powerful natural interventions and improve people’s health as a result of that. However, I am working at a very primitive level.

There is no question in my mind that prayer is the absolute most powerful intervention one could possibly have for one’s health.  This study proves that intercessory prayer works.

However, the most powerful prayer is one’s direct prayer to God.  Unfortunately, that study is much more difficult to perform in the scientific paradigm as it is impossible to do it in a blinded fashion. The other even more important variable is the authenticity of the prayer. 

These are impossible to control for. So, this study has some powerful practical recommendations. One is to pray for your sick friends and relatives. It works. Even more importantly is to pray regularly for your own health and relationship with God.

I would recommend doing it twice daily, first thing in the morning and before bed. More ideal, but more difficult, would be throughout the day. It is far more important than any dietary supplement you could ever hope to take.

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