The real power of prayer
Distance healing is rather like religion; the believer and the non-believer will not be swayed.
Researching this concept has been fascinating. It is understandable that sceptics, especially the medical profession, may find this type of healing hard to stomach. Some of the concepts that distance healing encompasses are prayer, reiki,therapeutic touch (TT), and others I don’t have the space to explore today.
Interestingly, the Australian Aborigines who use bush medicine and traditional healing, have a saying: “If you don’t believe it, it won’t help you” (J. Ethnobiol. Ethnomed., 2010) and this is the key to the whole concept of distance healing. Belief in its success.
I have written before about the power of prayer; it is especially problematic because it involves three entities: the person doing the praying, the person being prayed for and the assumed existence of God.
However, in one study regarding prayer it was found that it helped cardiac patients achieve a 10 per cent reduction in symptoms. Cardiologist Mitch Krucoff carried out studies by recruiting 150 cardiac patients who were due to have angioplasty and stents to clear their blocked arteries.
The group was split into five subgroups; one would receive conventional treatment only, whereas the remaining four groups had the standard treatment plus one mind/body therapy, such as relaxation, healing touch, guided imagery or prayer.
All of these groups enjoyed as much as a 50 per cent improvement in health during their hospital stay compared with the standard treatment-only group. Within the groups receiving therapies, the most effective results were from the prayer group. These prayer groups included monks in Buddhist monasteries, messages placed in the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and Carmelite nuns (Am. Heart J., 2001).
Randolph Byrd, a cardiologist based in San Francisco, conducted one of the best-known studies in 1988. He discovered that patients in a coronary care unit had far fewer symptoms, and needed fewer drugs and interventions if they were prayed for (South Med. J., 1988).
However, many studies have been carried out on the power of prayer with as many results, both good and inconclusive. In one of these studies researchers discovered that prayer only helped those who believed that the problem could be resolved. The most positive results were among those with the highest belief in prayer.
Although most studies have examined the effectiveness of praying for someone else, praying for yourself seems to have merit too. Surveys have found that around three quarters of people who pray do so as a coping mechanism to deal with bad relationships or negative emotions.
Finally, on prayer, people aren’t just praying for each other in church these days. They do it on the web too. Online support groups for women with breast cancer are beginning to appear and even using text messages to mobile phones to reinforce the message. Researchers found that online praying reduced anxiety and stress levels (Psycho-oncology, 2007).
Alternatively, a group of women who had recently undergone a C-section had significantly lower heart rates and blood pressure readings because they had been the target of a reiki healer who was 100 km away.
The researchers from the University of Toronto had not even been testing for cardiovascular effects; they wanted to see if a distance reiki healer could lower the women’s pain levels after the C-section. The healer was unable to relieve the pain of 40 women in the trial, but clearly there were other health benefits.
It was a double blind study, so none of the women knew they had been selected for healing; despite this, all the women in the reiki group had a significantly lower heart rate and reduced systolic blood pressure over the three days following surgery. These findings replicate those of three earlier studies involving distance reiki healing.
TT is an energy-healing therapy that, despite its name, does not usually require the healer to physically touch the person being healed. The practitioners say they can detect and manipulate the patient’s energy field, unblocking blockages and allowing the body’s own immune system to start the healing process.
Despite these findings many sceptics have shown a lack of belief in the power of healing in this manner. This retreat into scepticism is understandable. To suggest that there is any effectiveness from any form of distance healing which encompasses prayer, reiki, faith healing, intention, TT and spiritual healing, throws into question much of modern medicine, biology and medicine. Any positive outcome is invariably dismissed as the result of wishful thinking or the placebo effect, a poorly constructed study or even miscalculated data.
Meta-analyses suggest that distance healing works more often than not. Researchers have also discovered that something other than the placebo effect is happening, but what? Some researchers believe that natural laws rather than supernatural ones can explain it and are to be found in the realms of quantum rather than classical physics.
Until we fully understand the enigma of human consciousness, and its reach and power, a cavalier rejection of the whole concept cannot be accepted.