Healing Prayer works, US study finds: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 13, 2010 p 6. August 17, 2010Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Health/HIV-AIDS.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
A study to be published next month in an American medical journal reports that “proximal intercessory prayer” (PIP) — when one or more people pray for someone in that person’s presence and with physical contact – has been found to have remarkable results in healing the sick.
The study, entitled “Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Proximal Intercessory Prayer (STEPP) on Auditory and Visual Impairments in Rural Mozambique,” measured improvements in vision and hearing in economically disadvantaged areas of rural Mozambique where eyeglasses and hearing aids are not readily available.
“We chose to investigate ‘proximal’ prayer because that is how a lot of prayer for healing is actually practiced by Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world,” Dr. Candy Gunther Brown of Indiana University, the study’s lead researcher, said.”
The study to be published in the September issue of the Southern Journal of Medicine is part of a larger research program conducted by medical and religion scholars funded by the John Templeton Foundation Flame of Love Project, on the cultural significance and experience of spiritual healing practices.
The success of Pentecostal Christians in healing the success was one reason for its explosive growth in the developing world, the authors said. “When people feel that they have a serious need for healing, they are willing to try almost anything,” Dr. Brown said. “If they feel that a particular religious or spiritual practice healed them, they are much more likely to become an adherent. This phenomenon, more than any other, accounts for the growth of these Christian subgroups globally,” she suggested.
The researchers joined healing prayer teams from Iris Ministries and Global Awakening in Mozambique and using an audiometer and vision charts evaluated 14 subjects who reported impaired hearing and 11 who reported impaired vision—before and after receiving proximal intercessory prayer (PIP).
Dr. Brown said the study chose to test hearing and vision as changes could be measured by hearing machines and vision charts, while other ailments provided a less subjective standard of measurement.
They found that the study subjects exhibited statistically improved hearing and vision after receiving PIP. Two with impaired hearing reduced the threshold at which they could detect sound by 50 decibels. Three subjects had their tested vision improve from 20/400 or worse to 20/80 or better. These improvements are much larger than those typically found in suggestion and hypnosis studies, the authors said.
One participant, an elderly woman named Maryam, initially reported that she could not see a person’s hand, with two upraised fingers, from a distance of one foot. An intercessor placed her hand over Maryam’s eyes, hugged her and prayed for her. The intercessor then held up five fingers before Maryam, who could count them and was tested on an eye chart and able now to read the 20/125 line on a vision chart.
Scientific research on the benefits of intercessory prayer has produced contradictory results in recent years. A 2006 Harvard Medical Schools study concluded that prayer had no effect on healing, but certainty of receiving prayer adversely affected health.
Critics of the Harvard study note that it focused on distant rather than intercessory prayer. Those offering the prayer differed from the Mozambique study as the Harvard study was a multi-faith enterprise, and included only one group of Protestant intercessors: Silent Unity, a group which rejects the efficacy of prayers of supplication or petition as “useless.”
“If empirical research continues to indicate that PIP may be therapeutically beneficial, then — whether or not the mechanisms are adequately understood — there are ethical and nonpartisan public policy reasons to encourage further related research,” Dr. Brown said.