Healing Through Prayer
Is there a link between prayer and heart health? Lots of researches are delving into this area and they are not finished yet. Researchers consider this time as the early stages of understanding scientifically the importance of prayer and its relation to healing and a component of a holistic approach to having a healthy lifestyle.
Prayer effects on people
Around 748 people waiting for a heart procedure (cardiac catheterization – to check for blocked arteries) were involved in the study. Other procedures in reopening the arteries are also to be applied on three out of the four patients.
Congregations with varied faiths around the world were made to pray for 371 of the patients, while the rest (377 patients) are not included in the official prayer lists.
Everyone receive standard medical care and extra perks like bedside music, imagery, or touch therapies were provided as well to some patients. Follow-up was made after six months.
Basing on the study’s main measurements, these were the results: a combination of major in-hospital heart problems, rehospitalization within the next six months, or death. But other measures presented possible benefits.
The positive result on prayer was not part of the main results but in specific areas, it does suggest some benefits. It was observed that emotional distress before the heart procedure and death six months after the procedure were lower in the music/imagery/touch group.
It can be considered as one of the world’s most ancient healing traditions, but clinical science sees its potential in using prayer in evaluating the most modern of therapeutics.
Typically, real science helps people to learn something to conduct studies and finally come to understand the role of the human spirit in relation to high-tech cardiovascular care.
Use of various methods and groups
Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian congregations were involved and the patients’ names were designated to their respective prayer group (varying congregations) within 30 minutes.
Congregations were free to intercede whenever, whatever, and however they choose to. Lengths of time dedicated to prayer ranged from five days to 30 days.
The study deliberately enrolled different denominations and different religions who were physically in different time zones, each of whom say prayers with different syntax during the day for different durations over a different number of days.
The content, timing, and duration of prayer were left up to the routine practice of each congregation. No dictations were done.
Prayers were different. Some prayed, “Thy will be done.” Some prayed, “Subhanallah walhamdulillah walailahaillallah wallahuakbar.” Others prayed about having a good outcome of the procedure. All patients were covered across these prayer groups and their own friends, family, or acquaintances can participate too.
Layers of Prayers
Last years’ study involved a second group of congregations. That two-layered therapy appears to have an effect on the rehospitalization (for 6 months) and death that suggests that it may behave differently than just the prayers for a certain patient.
The patients weren’t told who was in the prayer group and who wasn’t. About two thirds of the patients thought they were in the prayer group when in fact they were not. This belief could have affected the results.
This outcome is one of the exciting things about real, structured clinical data. There are lots of unique descriptors and ways in observing that will prove to be helpful in understanding these data and guide future trials.
Knowledge of a real mechanism is absent. No one really knows which is better: Praying for 30 days or what about five days? Or if praying in a religious mode is the best thing to do during the whole study.
Each congregation basically has a dosing schedule for interceding the sick. Praying can either be once a week, or for a month, or five times a day – once alone and once in vespers together with the whole congregation.
It is unknown if prayers made before the procedures were complete really had an influence.
Science trying to understand prayer?
Limitations still abound, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There is a lot of work in religion and health – spirituality and health – that needs to be done. But some are skeptical about the efforts to measure prayer and study it with standard empirical methods as employed by many of the prayer intervention studies. Definitions of prayer and study methods are important.
The findings simply inform those who are working at the area of spirituality, religion, and health about the challenges of this study. Faithful persons or whatever tradition in any way in their understanding of prayer should not be affected by the outcomes.