Following my earlier post about scientific studies being conducted on the subjects of meditation and prayer, my guest post is by Eric Nelson, who goes deeper into the subject. The US seems to be in the lead on the subject! Let me know if you disagree, I’d really like to know. Thank you, Eric – this is a most interesting article…
Stanford Hope on the Health Benefits of Prayer
According to Dr. Candy Gunther Brown, religious studies professor at Indiana University Bloomington, “It is a primary privilege and responsibility of medical science to pursue a better understanding of therapeutic inventions [e.g. prayer] that may advance global health, especially in contexts where conventional medical treatments are inadequate or unavailable.”
I was intrigued by the idea that prayer could be particularly helpful in situations “where conventional medical treatments are inadequate or unavailable.” When you think about it, this could apply to just about anyone, anytime, anywhere.
For instance, a good friend of mine was cured of medically diagnosed cancer solely through prayer after medical treatment proved to be inadequate. And I can think of more than a few times when I found myself in situations where medical treatment was definitely unavailable and I was able to rely on prayer, not just for comfort, but for quick and complete physical healing as well.
When you’re through reading this post, feel free to share instances of how you’ve used prayer for healing in the “comments” section [Eric's blog here].
Prayer can be unimaginably beautiful – or just really, really awkward, a la Ben Stiller’s dinner grace in the film Meet the Parents:
“We thank you, oh… sweet, sweet, Lord…of hosts. For the…ah…smorgasbord you have so aptly laid at our table this day. And each day. By day. Day by day, by day.”
But can prayer be healing?
A new study, which looked at the efficacy of proximal prayer in relieving auditory and visual impairments, suggests the answer might be a (very) qualified “yes.”
Researchers led by Candy Gunther Brown, PhD, from the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University Bloomington observed the activities of two Christian groups, Iris Ministries and Global Awakening, in Mozambique and Brazil. They used an audiometer and vision charts to evaluate 25 rural subjects before and after they received proximal intercessory prayer, or PIP. Per the study release:
“Subjects exhibited improved hearing and vision that was statistically significant after PIP was administered. Two subjects 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 study did not seek to explain the mechanisms by which PIP might work.
Whether scientific research should address prayer has been vehemently contested in recent years. Brown argues it should:
“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… It is a primary privilege and responsibility of medical science to pursue a better understanding of therapeutic inventions that may advance global health, especially in contexts where conventional medical treatments are inadequate or unavailable.”
For any COMMENTS, please go to Eric Nelson’s post