Prayer heals, study finds

2010-08-06 08:03

Washington - Prayer heals when it's close-up and personal, and there's a study to prove it.

It's not just any kind of prayer, but "proximal intercessory prayer", or PIP - when one or more people pray for someone in that person's presence and often with physical contact - that was found by a team of doctors, scientists and religious experts to have remarkable results in healing some patients.

A team of medical doctors and scientists led by Indiana University professor of religion Candy Gunther Brown found in the study, conducted in rural Mozambique, that prayer brought "highly significant" improvements to hearing-impaired participants and significant changes to the visually impaired.

Fourteen hard-of-hearing and 11 visually impaired study participants were recruited at meetings of Pentecostal Christian groups in Mozambican villages and towns.

They were tested with a handheld audiometer or vision charts, depending on their impairment, before and after they took part in a prayer session.

Clinical effects

"There was a highly significant improvement in hearing across 18 ears of 11 subjects" and "significant visual improvements," says the study, which will be published in September in the peer-reviewed Southern Medical Journal.

Two of the hard-of-hearing study participants were able to hear sounds 50dB lower after the prayer session and three of the visually impaired subjects saw their vision improve from 20/400 or worse to 20/80 or better.

The study focused on the clinical effects of prayer and did not attempt to explain how or why some participants saw such remarkable improvements.

"This study shows that in some instances there are measurable effects that can be demonstrated using clinical studies," said Brown, whose interest in the study was to explore spiritual healing practices.

"I consider this very much a first step and an indication of the direction for where research needs to head. Much more needs to be found out about why these effects are noticed, what are the mechanisms, are there structural changes involved," she said.

"But one thing this study tells us is that a major reason that Pentecostalism is growing is the widespread perception that healing takes place."

The Pentecostals typically spent between one and 15 minutes administering PIP, but some spent an hour or more with a "patient".

Psychosomatic improvement

"They placed their hands on the recipient's head and sometimes embraced the person in a hug" while praying softly out loud, according to the study.

The study focussed on hearing and visual conditions because they allow improvements to be objectively and easily measured, and are less susceptible to perceived or psychosomatic improvement than conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Rural areas in Mozambique were chosen for the study because eyeglasses and hearing aids were not readily available there and Pentecostal groups who specialise in prayers for those with hearing and vision impairments were active there.

Brown and colleagues urged more studies "to assess whether PIP may be a useful adjunct to standard medical care for certain patients", especially in countries with limited care options.

"The implications are potentially vast given World Health Organisation estimates that 278 million people, 80% of whom live in developing countries, have moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears and 314 million people are visually impaired," the study says.

  • dracolusus - 2010-08-06 08:18

    "Prayer" helps, because of the underlying Zero Point Energy transfer. Read anything on Quantum Physics and you'll get a better understanding. The book "The Field" by Lynne McTaggart goes into depth about this, explaining the exact quantum mechanics behind this interaction. In essance it is "god" but its got nothing to do with religion. World needs to wake up from this self imposed religious blindness.

  • Corlett Joseph - 2010-08-06 08:24

    Oh for goodness sake. It certainly does not take a scientist to figure out what has been written in one of the oldest history books of our time - THE BIBLE. I can't stand scientists who want to play God.

  • jus - 2010-08-06 08:27

    a "study" of 14 people (they didn't say anything about the visually impaired), is HARDLY science.

  • peter - 2010-08-06 08:35

    In the 1980's, many of us in a Johannesburg church saw amazing healings as a result of prayer. Shortened legs grew visibly. In one case, a boy of 12 who was regarded as a cripple had his short leg grow by over 2cms in about a minute. His shocked headmaster visited the parents saying: "What's happened. He was crippled, now he's playing U-13 soccer and came second in the U-13 100 metres." The headmaster became a Christian as a result. The thing with visible healings like this is that they can't be ascribed to being 'psychosomatic' or 'remission'. A tough one for the sceptics!

  • Gerhard - 2010-08-06 08:45

    Scientists are only now discovering / confirming what reborn Christians have known for ages!

  • CapeTownJunk - 2010-08-06 08:45

    So a team led by a "Professor of Religion" finds that people will say whatever you want them to say in order to avoid being swamped by unwanted attention. If only these findings could have come from a "Professor of Science", then this might be worthy of a place in the Science & Technology section. But seeing as they didn't, this study is utterly worthless. All this study shows is that nagging works.

  • fridge - 2010-08-06 08:47

    What a load of hogwash -- "The implications are potentially vast given World Health ..... " God heals and you need the faith in him to be healed .. Praise the Lord. May the world now also believe.

  • SomeBloke - 2010-08-06 08:47

    What was the control in this experiment? Did they try "fake" prayers as well and test the improvements? If prayer only works when it is conducted in the person's presence then this seems to indicate the healing effect of being cared for by somebody nurturing rather than any spiritual intervention since surely omnipotent beings wouldn't be hindered by physical proximity. There's still no evidence that the few positive side-effects of religion are anything more than a placebo.

  • Happy Chappy - 2010-08-06 08:51

    I knew it! Today is a great day! Prayer heals!

  • AndrewG - 2010-08-06 08:51

    No, prayer does NOT heal and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that this study is flawed.

  • Christian scientist - 2010-08-06 09:03

    I believe that prayer can have a healing effect. At last someone went and did a study on it! I was very excited until I realized the experiment is meaningless:They didn’t use single blind trials: subjects knew which sound they should hear, instead of identifying a sound as a dog’s bark or a bird’s song. Each subject simply says he or she hears the sound and that’s good enough.They didn’t use double blind trials: people conducting the experiments knew what they were doing (read about the Clever Hans effect). Also they weren’t medically trained.The selection of people wasn’t random and it was a fairly small selection.These measures are absolutely critical when conducting experiments.I am disgusted at News24. I know they can’t scrutinized every article they publish, but this is bad.I am disgusted at the Southern Medical Journal. Why did they publish this?

  • Boyisile - 2010-08-06 09:03

    The word of God is truth, our instruction to pray for the sick has never been renounced and it is as valid today as it was from the days of pentecost. Thank you Jesus!!!

  • Colleen Cloete - 2010-08-06 09:08

    This is not new! Jesus is alive and God is in control.

  • Kevin CHarleston - 2010-08-06 09:11

    Tiny study - 25 people, No Control group. No random selection. This is not a scientific trial - it is parody. It is irresponsible to report that "Prayer heals". No properly designed trial has ever concluded that.

  • Rose - 2010-08-06 09:17

    Jesus said that if we have the faith of a mustard seed (the smallest seed in all the earth) we CAN move mountains, so what is mere illness if your faith is in the Creator?

  • wesley - 2010-08-06 09:24

    Fourteen hard-of-hearing and 11 visually impaired study participants
    The study size is too small to be of any significance.

  • skeptic - 2010-08-06 09:35

    Sigh! Amazing how the Christians jump on this single badly designed and executed study and declare it as victory for their faith yet conveniently ignore many other properly conducted studies that show that prayer has no effect and can in fact make matters worse (patients refusing treatment, etc.) Yet another step along the slippery slope back to the Dark Age of Superstition.

  • Karen - 2010-08-06 09:39

    I agree with Kevin. 25 people is not much of a study group. Substitute the word prayer with visualisation,affirmation or mind power, THAT'S what its about.

  • Fiko - 2010-08-06 09:43

    I strongly believe that prayer works,Nothing its impossible if you pray.Prayer Heals indeed

  • J - 2010-08-06 09:43

    Christians / not Christians - whatever - if I see a cripple (with a medically proven damaged spinal cord) get up a walk - how dumb are you not to believe it. With this trial - my interest is whether the results are permanent or of long duration. I'm one of those people who are intelligent enough not to need a scientist with 4 degrees + to tell me whether something has worked or not - pending their "scientific" study. 30 yrs of medically trained twits couldn't pick up a simple infection that left me disabled for 2/3 of my life - so why would you think your word is the only one of any value.

  • Mark - 2010-08-06 09:46

    Yes, and I also believe in Santa, the fairy Godmother, the Easter bunny, and that this is a load of hogwash! It is all in the mind...

  • TALIFHANI - 2010-08-06 09:54

    god have now revealed it prayer heals

  • Templeton Foundation - 2010-08-06 10:01

    How did this nonsense get past peer review and who is the science editor at News24?

  • MikeT - 2010-08-06 10:02

    Peter, if it's so tough for the sceptics, how come no ones ever filed or taken pictures to document such an amazing phenomena? Surely someone had a camera phone or something ... nope, we'll jst have to have fiath in YOUR word.

  • Cheryl - 2010-08-06 10:34

    Faith in Jesus Christ heals, restores and forgives our sins, Praise God! Ask and you shall receive ....

  • Chris N - 2010-08-06 10:44

    What a load of rubbish. Firstly, no mention was made whether there was a control group in this study ie. a group that was subjected to a sham prayer or even just a group that was tested twice without a prayer. I seriouly question the validity of this study and the so called "Scientific" evidence presented. This is just another example of pseudo-science.

  • kered - 2010-08-06 10:50

    What a pity some people continue to deny themselves the value and truth of prayer. I was one of you but have have seen prayer at work and it has changed my life radically.

  • Disflippant - 2010-08-06 11:02

    I don't understand, if god's in control, why did he blind and deafen them in the first place?

  • Mike - 2010-08-06 11:18

    Finally some conclusive proof. Somebody go tell the Muslims, Jews and Scientologists the bad news...

  • Cynick - 2010-08-06 11:29

    So let me get this straight a barely scientific study with a tiny sample has the religious crowing in victory, but the same people will not accept evolution with its TONS of evidence and many studies. Go figure.

  • Cynick - 2010-08-06 11:31

    @MikeT There were no camera phones in the 1980's. However since it hasn't happened(or been recorded) in the era of camera phones I guess god must be shy.

  • shine for God - 2010-08-06 11:35

    Faith Faith Faith Faith Faith Faith, if we don't have that the devil won... don't let him win. God can heal anything. Because nothing is impossible with him.

  • Majesty - 2010-08-06 11:41

    Strange though that God discriminates against amputees. Countless prayers for the restoration of lost limbs have been made, but never in the history of man has an amputee ever got a limb back. God can do anything, right? So why does he/she ignore amputees? Its not right. And dont tell me God works in mysterious ways!

  • Wesley - 2010-08-06 11:50

    I think a good negative control is to pray to Satan?

  • Horst - 2010-08-06 11:52

    surely it's the Placebo effect at work here.

  • Dave - 2010-08-06 12:02

    You have to depend on the word of the person being prayed for in the case of sight and hearing. They can easily pretend to be afflicted by either.

    Rather, hook up a blood pressure monitor to a person with high blood pressure and a glucose monitor to a diabetic with high blood sugar and then pray for those people. Let's see if scientific instruments record any benefit from prayer. If so, a $1000,000 prize awaits the person who demonstrates a lowering of both readings while praying for those people and, permanent good readings thereafter.

    The usual excuse for not taking up that challenge is because, "God does not work that way". Yeah, right!

  • Heather - 2010-08-06 12:07

    Okay, so you know you are going to be tested, people will pray over you and then you are tested again. You want to please the people making such a fuss of you, so maybe, just maybe, you try to hear or see a bit harder the second time. We did a similar thing at a conference (no religion involved), swinging our arms behind our backs, then visualing how we would swing our arms further back next time, and amazingly, the next time we tried we were all bowled over by our success. I seriously doubt god intervened to make the lecturer look good, more like we tried a bit harder the second time as we knew what the aim of the exercise was. Why didn't they try to grow people's legs here, people would not have been able to doubt the outcome if that had happened? Surely that should be a breeze for god?

  • Anil - 2010-08-06 12:22

    A very poorly designed and poorly administered study. (sample size, control group). There has not been a single, verifiable, scientifically controlled study that shows that prayer works. Stop waiting for one and get on with your life.

  • Mark - 2010-08-06 12:43

    Sorry to have to disappoint you, but there was a story on Carte Blanche about this. They tested and it did not work - it's all in the mind.

  • zulumoose - 2010-08-06 12:58

    So a 'study' led by a professor of religion, conducted on a very small group of volunteers from churches, revealed that the believers treated by the believers under the guidance of believers, believed they had been helped.

    Why am I not surprised?

    How is this any different to a happy-clappy service where every 2nd person experiences a miracle, laughed at by anyone with some common sense.

  • Passing by - 2010-08-06 12:58

    I don't read anything in there saying the study was conducted on Christian prayers.... lol

  • MR - 2010-08-06 12:59

    Yes, prayer works. So does placebo's. As another reader pointed out, there is no science here. Just a bunch of christian pseudo-scientists trying to save their failing religion.

  • A.D - 2010-08-06 13:02

    This is monkey science, I will rather stick with proper western medicine. Come on people do you really believe you can pray for someone and their leg will suddenly grow longer? Check out there is a $1m up for graps for anyone who can perform any super natural or paranormal activies. What happened to rationalism?

  • QT @ MikeT - 2010-08-06 13:14

    MikeT he said it was in the 1980s? Lol @ camera phone.

    Why if there is an article with any form of mention of God or a god does every person who is an athiest jump on the bandwagon.

    Let people live the lives they choose. There is in no way any possible way anyone can be certain of anything without all of the facts. We as a human race will never have enough information to know everything.

    I dont think anyone is in a position to judge any other groups religion.

  • Candice - 2010-08-06 13:43

    I am a Christian and think the article is a load of hog wash. Science does not prove God exists though it tries. It's actually up to each one of us to decide if we believe the universe made up of the most mathematically precise calculations and wonders was actually a chance cesspool of mud deciding to get clever ... or the workings of a mastermind. Although it sounds crazy - I don't choose the mud.

  • Nic - 2010-08-06 13:50

    I have a prayer request. Please intercede for ALL those who question "prayer healing"

  • Paul - 2010-08-06 13:51

    Great story: thanks for placing it! Healing by faith is a daily occurence, yet we hardly ever see it reported -- unless tinged with skeptisicm. "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" ... there's no sickness in heaven. Anybody can be healed: simply believe God's word and ask Him sincerely. Try it, you'll like it!

  • @Peter - 2010-08-06 15:47

    I also see crippled people get up and walk, every night at about six on the street corners after a hard days' begging...

  • Darwin - 2010-08-06 16:46

    From Candy's home page at Indiana University: "The issue is not whether any particular treatment is a good or bad option, but whether therapies are consciously or unreflectively selected. At times, the drive to relieve pain has led people to do things they otherwise would not choose to do and to believe things they otherwise would not choose to believe." She is a previous recipient of the Templeton prize - aka the "buying off academics to make them say nice things about religion" - prize. She is plain and simply a *Liar for Jesus*(TM)

  • Zac - 2010-08-06 16:46

    This is not a real study.
    - 14 people with at least two conditions? What kind of a sample is that?
    -Study lead by someone who has a history of arguing in favour of faith healing? So much for objectivity.
    - The Southern Medical Journal? I've been following medical research for years and i have never heard about it.
    - Control group? Attempt at control? None.

    It is fine if you want to believe in prayer healing, but don't pretend it is science. Shame on AFP and News24 for not being able to filter out nonsense.