Many – if not most people – believe that prayer will help Health and religion have always been intertwined, most obviously through prayer on behalf of the sick. Does intercessory prayer for sick people actually help heal them? For thousands of years some people have believed so. But new Brandeis University research in the Journal of Religion this month shows that over the last four decades, medical studies of intercessory prayer—the prayer of strangers at a distance—actually say more about the scientists conducting the studies than about the power of prayer to heal.
… Reflecting a recent shift toward delegitimizing studies of intercessory prayer, recent commentators in the medical literature concluded: “We do not need science to validate our spiritual beliefs, as we would never use faith to validate our scientific data.”
Many – if not most people – believe that prayer will help you through a medical crisis such as heart bypass surgery. If a large group of people outside yourself, your family, and your friends joined in intercessory prayer, that should be even more helpful, so such reasoning goes.
Researchers have been trying to prove this and even to measure the effect. So far, two studies found that third-party prayers bestow benefits, but two others concluded that there are no benefits. Now, the largest study to date, covering 1,800 people who underwent coronary bypass surgery at six different hospitals, supported the latter research.
Not only that, but patients who knew that others were praying for them fared worse than those who did not receive such spiritual support, or who did but were not aware of it.