Comments about ‘Prayer has science on its side’

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Published: Friday, Sept. 16 2011 10:17 p.m. MDT

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Vanka
Provo, UT

Not too many years ago, the most comprehensive study of the efficacy of prayer produced results that contradict this story. Prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people who were undergoing heart surgery. And patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of post-operative complications like abnormal heart rhythms, perhaps because of the expectations the prayers created, the researchers suggested.

This was the most scientifically rigorous investigation of whether prayer can heal illness. Tthe study, begun almost a decade ago involved more than 1,800 patients.

Prayer is wishful thinking at best, superstition at worst, and a psychological and emotional crutch that weakens the innate rational abilities of the human mind and soul.

atl134
Salt Lake City, UT

@Vanka

So basically... placebo effect.

L Kaiser
REDMOND, WA

If the placebo effect did in fact occur; which would mean that since someone believed in a higher power and were aware of the prayers, it affected the outcome of their illness but nonetheless they got better right? So, while the debate remains as to whether a higher power had an influence on the outcome, Can either side really argue that prayer doesnt work if it yields positive results? Even in a very small group? Even if the patient requires belief in a higher power and knowledge of the prayer, it still worked right? Thus from what I can conclude its useful and whether its god, the placebo effect, or just a patients reinforced wishful thinking it seems to deserve a place in modern medicine if it brings about positive results.

ForeignCougarFan
WASHINGTON, DC

I heard a particularly troubling argument against prayer and faith by a non-believer friend of mine. The same argument can be made against LDS Priesthood blessings I suppose. I had no good response after I really thought about it.

He asked if I noticed that basically all instances of healings from prayer, faith and blessings are for ailments that cannot physically be observed? He asked if I had ever heard of someone growing a severed limb back or a compound fracture being restored? His point was that the healings are of the type that cannot be watched - like the growing back of a limb.

As Mormons we all know stories of children illnesses or fevers subsiding. Has a soldier who lost a body part ever had it restored? Why does it seem that only a certain category of ailments can be healed by prayer, faith and blessings whereas the more observable types apparently cannot?

That was and is a tough one for me to answer.

Bill in Nebraska
Maryville, MO

What does it mean when someone says in a blessing that you will be healed. Foreigncougarfan brings up a point but what is being healed have with loss of limb. Is being healed also being able to cope with the loss and getting on with a normal life? Is being healed being able to overcome adversity even though life is difficult? Healing is much more than replacing a limb or even replacing a life. When a lame man is told to stand and walk then he does was he healed by the priesthood leader or was he healed by faith. In all of the scriptures and especially the miracles of Christ they were told, your faith has made thee whole. I feel when a person has overcome their blindness, loss of limb and able to continue to live a productive life their faith healed them. The thing to remember is that in the next life all limbs, mental capacity, hair shall be restored in its perfect form.

Faith is what heals though some will say it is the doctor or the procedure, but it truely is faith either in the doctor or a higher being.

Vanka
Provo, UT

atl134,

Actually, this was a strange type of placebo effect. Those who knew they were being prayed for had INCREASED rate of post-operative complications (arhythmia, etc.).

In other words, the results showed a NEGATIVE effect of knowing that you were being prayed for.

By the way, this study was funded by a religious organization, which spent over a million dollars on this study.

Some claim that prayer has a positive effect, even if only in the mind of the person praying (L Kaiser, for instance). But such positive effects have not been found in rigorous studies. Although mixed results have been reported (by methodologically flawed studies), in general prayer seems to serve as a psychological and emotional "crutch" that undermines otherwise normal coping abilities.

It also serves as a form of denial and escapism that is counterproductive when people rely on "faith" and prayer rather than seek appropriate treatment or professional help. And the tendency for those who believe in prayer to seek and find "illusory correlations" with spontaneous remissions, and other healing events (as ForeignCougarFan points out) serves to reinforce such denial and escapism.

Prayer is not only impotent, it can often be downright dangerous.

L Kaiser
REDMOND, WA

You answered my question very well thank you Vanka, I was always under the impression it helped if they believed it would, but never considered the stress it would cause from the more then likely occurance of the expectation failing. In light of what you supplied and I googled to verify was in fact true, One could argue clergy altogether should no longer be allowed in hospitals for patient safety.

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