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An Effective Health Care Tool: Prayer

Over the years while writing about the efficacy of prayer in healing, I have encountered many who personally experienced the power of prayer. What follows is one such story. A medical doctor wrote up his first-hand account, which was read by a pastor during a Dallas sermon. This is a condensed version:

In April 2011, I was working in the emergency department at Parkland Hospital, and the paramedics brought in a fairly young guy in cardiac arrest. Basically, it appeared he’d had a massive heart attack, and…he was essentially dead… I spoke to his wife and let her know that he had less than a 5% chance of having any meaningful neurological recovery. She…called a friend to pray for him… This friend promised her she would pray for him, and their family as well. The next morning…he opened his eyes and began to squeeze his wife's hand… God had mercy on their family and healed him in a miraculous way.


Can prayer heal someone? David Larson, MD, MSPH, president of the National Institute for Healthcare Research, writes: “NIHR studies show that participation in religious worship can reduce stress, decrease the potential for addiction disorders, high blood pressure, and cancer, and reduce psychiatric symptoms in those suffering from mental disorders. NIHR has found that prayer and religious commitment can improve recovery rates and shorten the length of a patient's hospitalization.”

Diane McNaughton presents an in-depth discussion of spirituality and healing, as well as another “miracle” story, in “Faith and spirituality may play a big role in staying healthy.” One way she explains how scientists view prayer is “at its most elementary level, all forms of prayer, with its repetition of words and sounds, evoke a relaxation response that calms stress and promotes healing…” My own concept of prayer goes beyond reducing stress to a quiet sense of listening to God’s voice and the turning of my thought to God for a clear sense of the divine Presence.

Views have continued to shift from the strictly physical healing methods to more support of the spiritual, pointing to the importance of prayer in healing. Increased attention has been directed toward the effects of spirituality and prayer in caring for one’s health. Dr. Mitchell Krucoff at Duke University Medical Center has studied the links between health, prayer, and spirituality for decades and he confirms a positive connection.

Many view prayer as a thought-changer that opens one to the presence of good. This good is described by Dr. Krucoff: “All of these studies, all the reports, are remarkably consistent in suggesting the potential measurable health benefit associated with prayer or spiritual interventions.”

This view in current research tends to support the findings of Mary Baker Eddy, a health researcher and theologian, who was a pioneer in this modern day exploration of spiritual healing in the late 19th century. Even though there are many ideas on exactly what prayer is and how much can be accomplished through prayer, the effectiveness of prayer is gaining ground with the public and the scientific community.

© GLOW IMAGES Model used for illustrative purposes

Don lives in Laguna Beach with his wife and they are both Christian Science practitioners. He brings his years serving the public in education to his work as a liaison of Christian Science, where he maintains contacts with the media and legislative offices. Don blogs on health and spirituality and you can read more at www.csinsocal.com.


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jim B. December 02, 2013 at 04:10 PM
Nice anecdote. Prayer also happens to be the Republican health care plan. So how do you explain the countless deaths presided over by praying loved ones?
James Gordon December 02, 2013 at 06:14 PM
Jim B.: Your comment reflects a deliberate misreading of the article. The article very clearly advocates that prayer -- in combination with western medical techniques -- can improve a person's health and speed recovery from illness. Moreover, death (currently) is inevitable. We all die. Millions have died while insured and receiving state of the art medical care. Does that mean insurance and western medicine are both to blame for these deaths? Of course not.
Ron Selkovitch December 02, 2013 at 07:43 PM
James, would you like to compare the statistical evidence (not anecdotal ) of the cures by medicine with that of prayer.
James Gordon December 03, 2013 at 12:56 AM
Ron: I am not advocating prayer. I was merely pointing out that Jim B. was attacking a straw man. That being said, there is a wealth of statistical evidence showing that prayer and meditation improve health. The following link cites to some studies showing these results: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-schiffman/why-people-who-pray-are-heathier_b_1197313.html
Surf's Up December 03, 2013 at 01:21 AM
James - I am sorry, but if you read Mr. Ingwerson's blogs he advocates forgoing medical care (against medical advice) and relying on prayer for cures of illnesses and physical trauma caused by accidents. Mr. Ingwerson is a public relations spokesperson for Christian Science. He fails to state this in his articles. Mr. Ingwerson constantly cites medical studies which show a health benefit from prayer - to prove his beliefs - that prayer can replace science and medicine. Mr. Ingwerson misquotes from these studies and find connections that scholars and physicians never intended nor portrayed.
Carl Petersen III December 03, 2013 at 09:36 AM
James Gordon December 02, 2013 at 06:14 PM "The article very clearly advocates that prayer -- in combination with western medical techniques " ___________________________________________________ So, in your personal life you use both in maintaining your health?
Kevin McManus December 03, 2013 at 10:24 AM
James Gordon: "...The article very clearly advocates that prayer -- in combination with western medical techniques..." I'm afraid you'd have to point out where this takes place in the article as two readings have left me unable to see this assertion at work.
Charlie B December 03, 2013 at 12:01 PM
Like the good book says, "Nothing fails like prayer," and "I wouldn't bet my life on prayer," and later on "There's nothing like a good prayer to take your mind off the bad news."
James Gordon December 03, 2013 at 06:29 PM
Surf's Up: You seem to be saying that it's acceptable to attack the messenger when you cannot attack a disagreeable message. Carl Peterson III: I decline your invitation to discuss my own practices. Kevin McManus: From the article - "NIHR has found that prayer and religious commitment can improve recovery rates and shorten the length of a patient's hospitalization." Western medicine and prayer working together. QED.
Carl Petersen III December 03, 2013 at 06:37 PM
James Gordon December 03, 2013 at 06:29 PM "I decline your invitation to discuss my own practices." ___________________________________________________ Does not sound like you are being very up front with the purpose behind your blog.
James Gordon December 03, 2013 at 06:59 PM
Carl Petersen III: I'm not posting on my blog. I'm posting comments on Mr. Ingwersons' blog. But, let me clarify the purpose of my comments: I called attention to the fact that Jim B's attack on Mr. Ingwersons' article was unsupported.
Carl Petersen III December 03, 2013 at 07:03 PM
My mistake.
CHK December 03, 2013 at 08:34 PM
Who needs Obamacare???
James Gordon December 03, 2013 at 08:49 PM
carolkeene: Everyone who lost their insurance because of Obamacare.
Surf's Up December 03, 2013 at 09:17 PM
Mr. Gordon - I attacked the misuse of cites by Mr. Ingwerson. I attacked mischaracterizations by Mr. Ingwerson that run counter to facts. Again Mr. Ingwerson advocates prayer over science - he does not advocate the use of both. I refer to almost every article he has written prior to this one for Patch as proof. Mr. Ingwerson is unabashed telling story after story about people who went against medical advise and were cured of some illness or some physical harm caused by an accident. This even include's Mr. Ingwerson's own story, when as a young man he removed a cast when he believed his arm was broken - against medical advice and soon after the cast was put on his arm. Let's be clear about something else. Each of our opinions or beliefs is sacrosanct. However, when we publicly quote something and misconstrue other people's research - our credibility comes into play. Mr. Ingwerson is not quietly advocating a personal position - he is broadcasting it all over California - and simply making correlations up. For instance read Wikipedia or any of her biographies - Mary Baker Eddy was not a health researcher or theologian. Ms. Eddy believed in spirituality and interpreted the new testament in her own fashion. This neither makes her a "health researcher" nor a "theologian." Though I may be able to wire a lamp - I cannot hold myself out as an electrician. Why? Because each of us has a normative and legal understanding of what an electrician is.
James Gordon December 03, 2013 at 09:24 PM
Surf's Up: Thank you for the information about Mary Eddy Baker. That's the only substantive criticism of Mr. Ingwerson's article (this one) yet.
Surf's Up December 03, 2013 at 11:02 PM
Mr Gordon, I can go line by line in Mr. Ingwerson's article to show a lack of scholarship or fact attribution. A journalist or blogger cannot portray a fact by simply saying - a person in a hospital "appeared to have" some ailment. It is not reasonable. Most doctors know regularly recognized and diagnosed medical conditions. Perhaps not the cause - but the medical diagnosis would be plain. In Mr. Ingwerson's article, he mention's being in an ER with a young man who appeared to have had a "massive heart attack". Medical science knows when a massive heart attack has occurred. It is an area of science with a long history of success in testing, diagnosis and treatment. One indicia of a massive attack would be heart tissue damage... etc. Yet, Mr. Ingwerson somehow has no definitive knowledge about the diagnosis. How can that be? At the same time Mr. Ingwerson is certain the young man is "essentially dead" with a "5% chance of having any meaningful neurological recovery." I am sorry, there are neurological and physiological tests that determine brain wave activity and brain damage. Again, I am not talking about diagnosing the cause of an illness - just determining if damage has occurred. This example of prayer in action by Mr. Ingwerson - lacks almost complete foundation in fact. It is more like a fairly tale or children's story. Were this a story told among friends, I would give the teller a great deal of latitude. I might even be amazed. However, here Mr. Ingwerson is writing a piece in a online paper meant to influence others. He is talking about truth and quoting facts and a factional situation. Yet, his story lacks credibility. It is mostly conclusion, no accountability of any type. None. This is not the first time Mr. Ingwerson has written in this inartful fashion. Every article of his - misquotes scholarly texts, and makes conclusions based on unproven observations that the author claims are facts.
James Gordon December 04, 2013 at 02:37 AM
Surf's Up: Your comment is reasoned and specific in order to make your point. It is everything that Jim B.'s comment was not. His initial comment was the verbal equivalent of a monkey throwing feces. Again, I am not an advocate for prayer.
Surf's Up December 09, 2013 at 01:04 AM
I will readily admit I am troubled that Mr. Ingwerson habitually conflates opinion as fact and cites out-of-context information as proof of his own belief system. This once superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education, an office serving 84 school districts knows what the term scholarship means. He just chooses not to apply that standard to his own writing or advice he gives others. The reason I am so vociferous in my posts - has to do with the dissemination of opinions asserted as fact - which the public may rely on, while forgoing medical attention. Many people, intelligent people adopt "magical thinking" when faced with life threatening illnesses. Steve Jobs is the most recent and notable example. Instead of choosing medical treatment for a low stage pancreatic cancer - the Apple company founder opted for non-traditional (i.e. medically unproven treatments), the cancer progressed, metasticized and Steve Jobs died. Needlessly. I do believe in prayer and meditation when confronting an illness. However, I believe it foolhardy to hamstring oneself by having to adopt an either/or proposition. Proven medical care and medical treatments work hand-in-hand with spiritual and mind based approaches.

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