Data were analyzed was done based on the results from the double-blind studies. (Please refer to Table 1 below for comparison of results from various studies. ) The question then is, can Prayer be Scientifically Examined? The Hastings Center, who issued a report on the use of prayer in medicine, used Byrd’s study as a springboard to analyze if intercessory prayer studies even have the potential of being viable. Listed below are just a few of the numerous problems that an intercessory prayer study must face: How do you to measure prayer?
At what level is prayer successful and at what level not? How do you measure effectiveness in a non-fatal medical problem? Does the faithfulness of the prayer matter? If so, how do you control that all the prayers have equal faith? Does the type of prayer matter? Does it matter how many people pray? Do the prayers of priests or saints have a stronger effect than that of a layperson? Is more prayer better? Is the intensity of prayer a factor? How can the experiment control the quality and intensity of an individual person’s prayer?
How can the experiment account for prayers from family or friends that the untargeted group may be receiving? With the above being merely the beginning of a long list of experimental problems, the Hastings Center Report concludes that the effort to find empirical evidence on the efficacy of prayer is “grounded in impossibility” (Cohen et al. 10). Thus the differences found in Byrd’s study between the control group and the experimental (less ventilator assistance, fewer antibiotics and fewer diuretics) cannot be concluded to be significant because too many variables were uncontrolled.
Even if some of the above factors could be controlled, it could never be sufficiently established that the control group was receiving no prayer whatsoever while at the same time the experimental group receiving only prayer from the assigned prayers. The following table illustrates the comparison among the different studies done on this subject. Table 1: Main characteristics of randomized clinical trials of healing for human disease/symptoms.
The trials are in order of Jadad methodological quality score. Author (s) Sample size (no.of study groups) Author’s description of intervention Condition treated Number of healers Treatment duration (n sessions x length if known; duration) Control group (n) Main outcome measure main outcome (treatment vs control) Were statistics described? Jadad score (maximum 5) Byrd 1988 393 (2) IP coronary disease 3-7 Daily prayers during hospital stay standard care (201) Medical course to discharge S Y 5 Harris et al 1999 990 (2) IP coronary disease 75 daily over 28 days ‘usual’ care (524) Medical course to discharge S Y 5.
Sicher et al 1998 40 (2) DH Advanced AIDS 40 daily for 10 weeks no distant healing (20) AIDS defining illness and severity S Y 5 Wirth et al 1993 21 (1) DH post-op gum pain ‘a group’ 6 x 15-20 min; over 6 hours No healer (21), crossover VAS score for pain S Y 5 Simington and Laing 1993 105 (3) TT anxiety (institutionalised elderly) 1 1 x 3 min TT rub without intention (37); Control rub (34) Anxiety (STAI) S Y 5 Abbot et al 2000 120 (4) H chronic idiopathic pain 5 8 x 30 min; over 8 weeks mimic healing (30); no healing (30) Pain score (MPQ) NS Y 5 Beutler et al 1988 115 (3) PH essential hypertension.
12 15 x 20 min; over 15 weeks ‘distant’ healing (37); no healing (38) BP level NS Y 5 Harkness et al 2000 84 (2) DH peripheral warts 10 daily over 6 weeks no healing (43) Presence and size of warts NS Y 5 Joyce and Whelldon 1965 38 (2) IP range of chronic conditions 19 Daily x 15 min; over 6 months standard care (19) General clinical state NS Y 4 O’Laoire 1997 406 (3) IP undifferentiated conditions 90 Daily for 94 days no IP (146) Psychology testing NS Y 4 Quinn 1989 153 (3) TT pre-op anxiety 1 1 x 5 min mimic TT (NK); no treatment (NK) Anxiety (STAI), BP,heart rate NS Y 4.
Gagne and Toye 1994 31 (2) TT anxiety (psychiatric elderly) NK 2 x 15 min; over 2 days relaxation therapy (12); mimic TT (9) Anxiety (STAI), motor activity NK Y 4 Gordon et al 1998 25 (3) TT osteoarthritis of knee 1 6 (NK); over 6 weeks mimic TT (11); Standard care (8) Pain score (MPI) S Y 3 Turner et al 1998 99 (2) TT pain and anxiety 3 5 x 5-20 min; over 5 days mimic TT (37) Pain score (MPQ) S Y 3 *Dixon 1998 57 (2) H ‘chronic symptoms’ 1 10 x 40 min; over 10 weeks Waiting list (24) General symptom scores S Y 2 Keller and Bzdek 1986 60 (2) TT tension headache 1 1 session only Simulated TT (30) Pain scores (MPQ) S Y 2.
Miller 1982 96 (2) RMH hypertension 8 NK No healing (NK) Systolic BP S Y 2 Peck 1997 82 (2) TT Chronic arthritic pain 5 6 x 20 min; over 5 or 6 weeks progressive muscle relaxation (37) VAS score for pain NS Y 2 Meehan TC 1993 108 (3) TT acute post-op pain 1 1 x 5 min Mimic TT (36); injection (36) VAS scores for pain NS Y 2 Sundblom et al 1994 24 (2) SH chronic idiopathic pain 1 3-8 x 40 min No active treatment (12) Pain scores, and VAS NS Y 2 Castronova and Oleson 1991 37 (3) H chronic back pain NK 8 x 50 min; over 8 weeks Psychotherapy (13); no treatment (12) VAS score for pain NS Y 1
Collip 1969 18 (2) IP ‘leukemic’ children 10 families daily over 15 months Standard care (8) Survival NS Y 1 Key: Author’s description of intervention:TT= Therapeutic touch; SH= Spiritual healing; H = ‘Healing’; AH = absent/distant healing; IP= Intercessory prayer; PH=Paranormal healing; RMH=Remote mental healing. Statistical significances: NK= key information not reported; NS= treatment group not significantly improved compared with control, as reported by the authors; S== treatment group significantly improved compared with control, as reported by the authors.
Outcome measures: STAI=state-trait anxiety inventory; MPQ=McGill pain questionnaire; VAS=visual analogue scale; MPI= multidimensional pain inventory. *=study described as ‘quasi-randomised’. All trials, except Collip 1969, gave some form of description of the method followed by the healers. (Source: The Research Council For Complementary Medicine http://www. rccm. org. uk/static/Review_healing. aspx) Results The results of the study are not surprising to those of us who believe in the power of prayer. The patients who had received prayer as a part of the study were healthier than those who had not.
The prayed for group had less need of having CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) performed and less need for the use of mechanical ventilators (Astin , 2000). They had a diminished necessity for diuretics and antibiotics, less occurrences of pulmonary edema, and fewer deaths. Taking all factors into consideration, these results can only be attributed to the power of prayer Conclusions These studies have shown conclusive evidence of the power of prayer. Time after time the outcomes of these tests have shown the reality of the force of a higher being and our ability to communicate with Him.
We have also learned from viewing the results of these studies that the expectations we have while praying factor into the outcome of our prayers. Though the faithful will always believe that there need not be any physical evidence of the power and effects of prayer, science has come a long way toward showing just that-prayer is real, and it works. Recommendations William Dempsey, Jr. , an emergency department physician, expresses the modern concept that doctors “should consult with the clergy for individuals who require greater spiritual intervention just as we would with any specialist.
The time has come to bring down the wall between science and religion and together work toward resolving much of the suffering that we have seen in the daily lives of our patients” (Prayer as Therapy 11). Ultimately, the job of a doctor is to care for a person’s health, regardless of whether that involves religion or not. Correspondingly, the job of a theologian is to care for faith, whether or not medicine is involved. Though the two fields have the ability to be exclusive, the current trend sees them working together with increasing occasion and depth.
At heart, medicine and religion are trying to do the same thing: care for a person. Though they approach this task from different sides, the current theory is that healing methods will improve if science and religion work together. Prayer can be used as an effective means of healing without causing a conflict between since and religion. Religious views of the efficacy of prayer are based on faith in God, something that science can never deny or affirm with empirical evidence (Inbody, 1999).
On the other side of the argument, empirical research proving the efficacy of prayer is not affected by religious conceptions of God. Empirical scientific research stands valid whether or not there is a God and whether or not this God is involved in healing. As Dr. Tan says, “faith doesn’t go against reason (and the studies are showing that), but it goes beyond reason” (Kofi, 6). Whether or not a scientist deems the argument for god valid or necessary, the status of faith is not affected. Science cannot prove the existence or non-existence of god not that god does or does not answer prayers.
Whether or not the ‘god’ argument for prayer is valid or necessary is up to the individual to decide. Since faith does not rely on medicine for its justification and medicine does not rely on faith, the two fields can stand alone or together without conflict.
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