The power of prayer?

June 17, 2009,

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.

Intercessory prayer has been the subject of scientific study since at least the nineteenth century, when an English scientist, assuming that kings were prayed for more often than others, sought to find out whether those prayers were answered. He concluded that they were not, but that prayer might be a comfort to the people praying anyway.

After talking with physicians who wondered about the power of prayer to heal patients, Brandeis sociologist Wendy Cadge, an expert on the intersection of religion and medicine in contemporary American society, set out to research medical studies of intercessory prayer going back to 1965, the first year such studies were published in the English language medical literature.

"This analysis in the Journal of Religion is the first to trace the social history of intercessory prayer studies and to situate them in their medical and religious contexts," said Cadge, who this year is the Suzanne Young Murray Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. While there she is working on her forthcoming book, Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine.

Cadge evaluated eighteen published studies on intercessory prayer that were conducted between 1965 and 2006. Collectively, the studies provide a fascinating snapshot of changing American religious demographics, evolving ideas about the relationship between religion and medical science, and the development of the clinical trial as the gold standard of biomedical research, said Cadge.

"I do not know why physicians and scientists conducted these studies," said Cadge, "but personal religious beliefs appear to have played a role, along with curiosity."

The earliest studies undertaken in the sixties were based exclusively on Protestant prayers, while more recent studies, reflecting growing social awareness of other religions, combine Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and other prayers, Cadge discovered. Some studies suggested that prayer worked, while others said it didn't.

The researchers leading the studies applied clinical scientific methodologies to the study of intercessory prayer, but Cadge found that even that approach was fraught with problems. For example, researchers asked whether the people not being prayed for by the intercessors were truly a control group, since their family members were probably praying for them. Researchers also asked what the right "dosage" of prayer would be, how prayers should be offered, and what to do about non-Christian intercessors.

"With double blind , scientists tried their best to study something that may be beyond their best tools," said Cadge, "and reflects more about them and their assumptions than about whether prayer 'works.'"

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."

Source: Brandeis University (news : web)

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VOR
4 / 5 (5) Jun 17, 2009
"We do not need science to validate our spiritual beliefs, as we would never use faith to validate our scientific data." .. spoken like like a bunch of ignorant sore losers. as in 'we dont need no stinking science anyway' . but there is a certain backwards wisdom to never using faith the validate scientific data. I don't know if some 'focused well-wishing' could ever do any good or not, but I do know some focused stupidity when I hear it.
Lazlor
5 / 5 (5) Jun 17, 2009
Positive thinking never hurts and it's obviously therapeutic to stay up beat about whatever ails you. I just wish people would be more rational about it and not convince themselves that talking to deities in the sky will solve their problems.
Simonsez
5 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2009
Studies were apparently conducted based on prayers for kings? Come on, even in the midst of a significant number of prayers for good health or whatever, there must also have been a sizeable slice of the population wishing the king ill or cursing his name for some perceived offense. I imagine this was not taken into account during these "studies".

I like the notion that science is not necessary (or useful, we'll say) in validating faith, as faith is not useful in validating science. I can only hope no great amount of money was wasted trying to verify the power of prayer, however, as there is very little quantifiable data yet discovered against which to measure, and that the studies were mostly for curiosity's sake. I understand the desire to validate faith with a "see, there's numerical proof" argument, but we as a species barely scratch the surface of knowing our own minds/brains - we haven't even (empirically) observed the surface of the world of faith.
patnclaire
3 / 5 (2) Jun 18, 2009
My Goodness! Aren't we Lucky that Brandon knows so much and is will to bestow it upon our heads? Maybe we should offer a prayer of thanks for Brandon.
freethinking
1 / 5 (4) Jun 18, 2009
My take on prayer is that God already has decided what will happen and when, in either sickness or health. Praying for one another, helps keep people in mind and allows us to figure out (with Gods help) what that person needs.

So praying for a kings health would do nothing... Gods already decided that persons fate... Praying for someone who you care for or know should lead you to do something, send a note, visit them, help them. If we are Christians we are Gods hands doing His work.

I'll ignore the flames of the unbelievers.... but for the few believers who are here... what do you think?
wiyosaya
not rated yet Jun 18, 2009
IMHO, you do not need to believe to entertain the possibility that prayer helps make people better.

So studies of prayer's effect on people are flawed, but so is this study. "We don't know why, but we believe it was because of" is an assumption that they have not proven or disproven. IMHO, this study is really bad science.
getgoa
1 / 5 (1) Jun 18, 2009
Prayers we know don't help anyone as said in the bible, how many times have people got run over by saying prayers in the bible and then the agressors killing them? The bible is full of these stories of past kingdoms that fell,etc. What I truly want to know is when proverbs says this is the truth will that be the truth--Example Proverbs Chapter 30 verse 21 in the Douay-Rheims bible saying:

By three things the earth is disturbed and the fourth it cannot bear:

By a slave when he reigneth: by a fool when he is filled with meat: by an odious woman when she is married: and by a bondswoman when she is heir to her mistress. Will 2012 happen because a slave is reigning???
Devolution
not rated yet Jun 19, 2009
To LuckyBrandon,



I'm not offended by the use of the world delusional in relation to believers, but why do you assume that the majority of people are deluded and not the minority who don't believe? And why are you so upset about that majority getting peace and meaning in life from God?







Comparing Jesus Christ a.k.a. God to the tooth fairy is a very weak argument and it makes you sound less intelligent than you are.







Finally, babies are born with their eyes closed aren't they? How do they see tunnels of light. I think the white light thing is imaginary. People see it because they have heard that so many people see it.







To Freethinking,



Prayer for me is about a relationship with Jesus Christ a.k.a. God. Whether God answers my prayers or not (I believe he does) is almost beside the point.







To Getgoa,



The Bible actually states more times than you can count (unless you have a lot of spare time) that prayer does help people.







http://www.blogsp...irns.com
zilqarneyn
not rated yet Jun 20, 2009
LuckyBrandon,



If none would pass away, we would need some extra worlds, or stop the reproduction thing, entirely. Besides, this world is the test ground, not for remaining eternally. Mind the test, or else you might go to hell. That is the point.



This world is for accumulating our other-worldly rewards. A rushing spree (that is, you might lift anything from a supermarket, in the period you are let to). Would the religious doctor like you to quit that rushing-spree soon? That is your atheist opinion. Not Islamic. (Surely, if you are living sinfuly, that might be the opposite. But again, passing away is not wishable, because repentance is not available, then.)



The concept of sin, is from the religious thought. Atheists do not have that kind of thoughts. Thus, left to their own conscience (or, whim) about the rest of us -- if they might have that option. How do you think that is the opposite?!?



The Quran is responding to such mythologies flatly: "Do you have the proof for what you are telling tales about?" That applies to not only Zeus/Odin sorts of mythologies, but I would list "parallel evolutionism" (sequential contradictions), and mutationism ("omnipotent mutations" finding lots of options from essentially nowhere). Such stories have circular logic. Faith stuff justifying itself. The God, the Creator (Allah, Yahweh) is real. But your supposedly logical statement is not logical. Therefore, having the premise right, does not prove the existence of other entities -- other than the holy books (the Quran, and what we have remaining from the old holy books) list.



Faith and scientific data are supposed to not contradict. Truth is the truth. At times, though, we might not have sufficient scientific data to relate to some specific portion of the Quran. In those cases, the Quran suggests us to not interpret those portions. Subscribe to what you understand, not to what you think might be only figurative. (But I might warn, do not stretch that to accept absurd ideologies such as macro-evolutionism -- which suck.)



There tou confess that "we" (who?) "all" (truly?) thirsty "for wealth and power"? -- and without a faith that promotes altruism? (Oh, well, personally, I even do not think that is necessarily altruism, because lots of us (muslims) think that as business, when helping the needy. Then, Allah will pay back. Heaven sounds truly like where I would like to go.)



Yes, truly, all things have spirits. But only humans and genies have free-will -- so far as Allah allows choices. Others (angels, etc) strictly act on instincts, their nature. No options.



What is your Islamic base? Or, is Islam not in your study-list? What I'm listing so far, is regular Islamic knowledge.



Some things are not escapable. Not all. Besides, not all lives are so bad. Why are you painting the existence of the God, exclusively in the gothic horror view? Religious people think lots of responsibilities.

http://www.imame....faah.htm



Islam is mostly suggesting to pray for yourself. Request from Allah, even when you need some string for your shoe. That frees people, from seeing only the minor causes. The society is with a lot more feedom, when people do not worship heroes/"gods" as the most visible helpers. If Allah would not allow, none could.



Materially, surely, the sense of having the tool (praying) is a lot preferrable to helplessness. Good for your psychology. (Intercessory praying is good for that who is praying. That might (or, might not) help the target, too. Allah evaluates the request.) Thus, Allah has left no gift out. Praying is valuable, marvelously -- both in this world, and for the next.



(When the request we pray for, is not paid in this world, that is paid in the other world. The psychology is the bonus, we keep in this world, too.)









I understand your opposing ten-millenia earth hypotheses. But that is a lot more sensible, when cotrasting to evolutionist (circular) nonesense such as "parallel evolutionism." Such a gibberish has no justification "except"having faith in evolutionism, a priori. Ptolemaic system had probably less hacks then evolutionism.





Islam is with the Quran, and lots of hadiths. They hold in scientific matters, too. (Actually, what is left from the true Bible, is now in the category of hadiths, too.) Lots of wisdoms are distillable from hadiths, too. (The Quran is literally kept. Hadiths approximately.) Rather than concentrating on what might not seem to hold, look at the piling evidence that, Allah knew what the Universe was/is. That is a proof -- as far as science goes. (Telling lots of things, and not contradicting the science (more than science contradicts itself) 14 centuries after first revelation, is marvelous. People like having constancy. The Quran is keepable.)



zilqarneyn
not rated yet Jun 26, 2009
Starting from a religious point, then keeping the morals is the popular argument about (godless, or deist) ethicism. But (especially in the godless case), the practical thing in the next generations, might more likely be trimming that bunch of morals.

In Islam, there is no re-incarnation. That is Hindu/etc faith. Islamic immortality is mainly in the other world.
http://www.zilqar...rtal.htm

After posting the last time, I thought the case of hadiths telling that three types of people do not rot in their tomb. Not turning to skeleton. Preserved. (Not explicitly how Egyptian mummies are preserved, but naturally, the body is not rotting.)
1) evliya (muslim (& old judaist/christian) saints)
2) true shehids (martyrs, not likely the suicidal jerks, and you would not find the corpse of the suicidals intact, anyway :-)) )
3) the (muslim or not) just rulers. They opened the tomb of a pre-Islamic just-ruler (Noosh-ee-reh-wun of Persia), and verified that hadith, the reports from decades/century after his death report (13 centuries, ago).

Some corpses will rot, some won't. Thus, a (less horrible) case of lost-weight might be some preserving essence. Perhaps, the non-rotting type of people do not lose weight in the firts moment, either. This hypothesis (seemingly) differentiates the soul vs the preservatory essence. (Not all shehids die of bleeding, thus testable, when you find some.)




Rushing/shopping spree is a gift -- legal, only after you won some lottery to grab whatever you might (in limited time), from their market (and carry that yourself). That is their advertisement/promotion/fun. If you were the lucky one who won that lottery (perhaps, the millionth shopping there), you might run that spree. (Others might gift a fixed gift, such as a TV set.) That metaphor is what I'm relating to living in this world, for gathering the other-worldly (heavenly) points. In our naturally limited lifetime, we need to rush (or, think well, that is) to maximize our winning. (This world is the test/opportunity time.) The religious doctor, would like you to win more, rather than prematurely quit gathering the goodies. But atheist would see no difference, because if there is no gift to accumulate, why live more (or, less)? Atheists might be neutral about people's length of living. (Some tie the issue to pain or meaninglessness, and commit suicide.) Thus, your point about a strict preference of living vs. null, is not with some non-religious consensus. (The religious thought is promoting living, abhorring suicide.)




The word "sin" is not left to personal negotiation, mostly. In cases, there is the context of something that would be sin otherwise. But sin is a well-structured thing, mostly. In contrast, for atheists, the concept of "wrong" is anarchic. You might have been raised in a religious society, thus with a couple of naturally/culturally inherited mores. That is the point of interhange, you see. (& Your costume is not the pygmie outfits, right?)

Last month, I blogged to twitter that, to take that path, sounds similar to how T.C. (the country I live), changed ( http://www.zilqar...peak.htm ) the "old" Istanbul words (mainly Arabic & Farsi), but the replacement words have not become so popular, either. First, there was the generation gap. New generations were not understanding the old/international words, the old were not talking with the new words. Then, the young have not got up to speed with the new words. Thus, people have been noticed to talk with less words.

Thusly, several generations later, when there is no religious context of mores, the ethics might have less similarity to the starting optimism of atheists/deists. The structure of religious thought, is a high standard. The structure/hierarchy of one church, or another might be not so optimal. But that is not invalidating the need.

Your having a religious father, is fitting to what I'm telling about generations of lessening interchange. Your grandsons might way less likely think that "sin" corresponds to "wrong." They might think that "sin" is some "odd" concept of "other people."

You seem to like polytheism (because they are "politically correct" as they "send none to hell" :-)) ?), as they would like to contain. From the Islamic point of view, only Judaism/Christianity are in the full-merge category. (Islam is acknowledging the old books (but reporting that they were not kept as they had been), and acknowledging the old prophets (a.s.), but Muhammed (s.a.s.) is the final prophet. That is, "Islam" is actually all three of Judaism/Christianity/Islam, but Islam is the fresh & authentic.)
BTW, some suggest Buddha might have been one of the hundreds of thousands of old prophets, but at this moment, I'm not looking up the pointers those people found in old books of India. The current India, is known to have not one but lots of "gods" (even "godmen") -- (or, is that Hinduism and not Buddhism? but Buddhists kneel to Buddha, thus they might be lacking cosmology but have some sort of worship, right?). If you would need to contain all such religions and cults, then you would have trouble, there. Conspicuous consumption? For example, to whom would you pay your money, if lots of cults want money? :-)) Not to mention your time.
((BTW, Islamic zekat is to the poor/needy [in your neighborhood]. http://www.zilqar...taxz.htm ))


The Quran is suggesting not to interpret what you do not understand, but now, that is what science is telling, too. Furthermore, you ignore that the Quran was sent almost 14 centuries ago, yet now having miraculously fitting, scientific points (discoveries in this last century). People of previous centuries were not in a point to test the Quran, mostly. Until the Copernicus thing, people probably found nothing trying to oppose that. Then, was that in some fault? Again, no. The Quran is not telling us about sun orbiting the earth, but sun running in some orbit (and that is true). The keep-on-hold was necessary, because we would not know what the sun is orbiting, until we came to know that, the sun is orbiting in the galaxy. The Quran is accurate. That is a point. After fourteen centuries, keeping that up, is marvelous.

(BTW, materialist people think the genesis from Torah/Bible is wrong, but genesis tells us that whales were created before humans, right? Where would people know that, with no fossil records available, then?)

That six-days is one example of necessarily postponing, until we know what that truly corresponds to. Why is that a problem? (The Quran and hadiths from Muhammed (s.a.s.) tell of lots of "days" (such as the Judment Day, most famously, that is hundreds of millenia, or more), then Einstein told of relativity. Why would you like to have the formula upfront? If that were so, all atheists would have memorized that the last millenia, and now they would see the Quran as "known stuff" (how you opt for keeping the mores but want to get rid of the Creator). Discovering incrementally, is awesome.




The religious point about acts-of-God is multiple. (Your father might have told you, too?)
1) Allah gave you that baby. If He would take that away, He is not like grabbing what had been yours, "before Him." Thus, on the Judment Day, when you open your case, you would see your mountains of unpaid bills. (What was the cost of the nose you have? Eyes? Limbs? Thinking ability? All for free?)
2) Sorry but, now that you like polytheism, and if you would like to raise that kid as a polytheist, then he/she would go to hell, too. If cancer is not on your wish-list, then how is hell sounding so neutral? (For yourself, or your kid.)
3) If satans have some messing influnces in our systems, then that is the free-will of the satans, you see. Praying, is good for invoking Allah to protect yourself & family. (Humans & genies have free-will, while the rest of the Universe pray Allah, continuously. You chose not to pray.)
For praying: http://www.imame....ying.htm & http://www.imame....vacy.htm




Oh, people do exorcism with Islamic praying, too. The satan is given some time, until the last times (but fightable). But genies are burnt, for centuries.
Genies info: http://www.zilqar...nies.htm
But that is a behaviorally-witnessing case (not registering to test equipment, probably). You would believe only if you know the patient beforehand.

Furthermore, this week, I've got just the hope that (see tweeting, [url]http://twitter.com/zilqarneyn[/url] ), we might track&kill the satan/genies with gadgets. That is, the technology is on the way of witnessing satans talking to our heart (through nanowires/hooks), toward our brain. Then, like hadiths told, first we will not do what satan tells because we will know what is told (otherwise subliminally), and next, we might develop the killing gadgets, then 70000 high-tech people track the satan all around, to finally kill -- when its time is up.




Jesus (a.s.) was a prophet almost two millenia, ago. All muslims love Jesus (a.s.), but as a human. The Quran is telling that Jesus (a.s). Allah (Yahweh) is the exclusive God, the Creator, not born, and had no offsprings.
http://www.imame....esus.htm
Hadiths tell that Jesus (a.s.) will be one of the three kings of last times. The last, and openly known, [world-wide,] tax-levying king. (I sometimes guess, antichrist might have been the king peaking mainly in 2001 or so, through thought-control. http://www.zilqar...rist.htm )

BTW, Jesus (a.s.) knew the Torah & Bible, in their intact forms.




Ironically (and this one is a teaser from the rebuttal (that I'm writing) to NAS (their evolutionism vs. creationism booklets/propaganda), that "flood theorizing" is sufficient to have highschool kids understand critical-thinking. Is the Bible truly telling that the world geology was "shaped" by the flood? If not, then that was a Bible-derived hypothesis. Then, when that is proven wrong, that is a treasure for discussing how to test theories and refuting. Why bother with evolutionism? :-))

Again, from the prospective rebuttal to NAS (that I wish posting @ http://www.I-slam.info/ ), is this: Arabic has the word "arD" (or, "arz" in Istanbul tongue), to refer to "land" as well as the world. A piece of land (a farm, or so), a continent or all contnents, or all of the globe. That is, the problem of right-sizing, you see. When "all of the land was" covered to punish the tribe of Noah (a.s.), why would that necessarily cover all of the rest of the world, too? What is the sense?

(A pet hypothesis out of nowhere: Oceans are salty. If electrifiable/magnetizable (or, a massive object out of the world would pull the waters up), you would have waters up all around the world. It might be fun to test the pet hypothesis I've written now. But like I have said, what is the need? Now that science is telling that, that was probably local, all right. Actually, I could guess that, probably. You see, that tribe was killed, massively.)



Science does not work by momentary loss of faith in all of the fitting data. A portion is refit, something is refined, mostly. But actually, all of the "excuses" I'm listing so far (all the time) to opt out if need be, is for some poential future, when some fabricated data, or some false-context, would seem to contradict the Quran. Otherwise, so far, there is no contradiction with the Quran, that I know, at all.

Therefore, I'll keep with Islam. I have seen more than the fair-share of scientific miracles. Worse, I have seen lots of simpletons who falsely relate issues to unthinkable contexts. I would not like to be like those. If I'm wrong at one point, then somebody would need to prove how we were in fault in finding all of the rest of fitting stuff, too. The burden of proof is on that who wants to make the sweeping generalization. If I have lots of fitting data, then how would you justify ignoring/neglecting those, upon the 10000st phenomenon not fitting the data we guessed it would relate to?
For example, see what people list @ http://www.qurana...nce.com/ Try your teeth, there.

((Warning: The Quran is in Arabic. A translation is the translator's best guesses. Not necessarily the true thing.))




BTW, even the most famously "figurative" thing in the Quran (that is, what is a "hand" of Allah), starts to make sense. (That is in the tweet list ( [url]http://twitter.com/zilqarneyn[/url] ) of mine, too.) That is, from a hadith, the hint is that Allah's hand is managing the waves (the raising-up-&-down is fitting waves-universe model, and the fluid that His throne is on, hinting the waves, too). Thus, we make scientific progress, and what was not thinkable, now finds the context. (And who cares if I'm wrong in guessing? If the Universe turns out to be not waves but cupcakes, then I would revise the theory I have. This would then list in the proven-wrong theories.)
zilqarneyn
not rated yet Jun 27, 2009
Oops. There was a typo, in what I posted, yesterday.

The Quran is telling that Jesus (a.s) is a prophet, and that Jesus (a.s.) denies the offspringness claim. Allah (Yahweh) is the exclusive God, the Creator, not born, and had no offsprings.

http://www.imame....us.htm"



The U.S. Navy text, lists four major faiths -- Judaism/Christianity/Islam & Buddhism.

http://www.tpub.c...ndex.htm



Thus, with that four, for what LuckyBrandon would like, we need to mix Buddhism into Judaism/Christianity/Islam, too? Well, sufi people kind of provide that. (Islamic sufism, mysticism.) Depending on what you like in Buddhism, probably you would find that in some sufi sect.



That is, if Buddhism is without a "god" concept, then that is a philosopy. If re-incarnation is not your favorite portion from Buddhism, the rest is probably containable, that is. Islamic sufism is quite fittingly thus. (But, find a good sheikh, because charlatans love that business.)









I wonder the qualities of the intercessory praying study list that this PhysOrg news is referring to. How were they studying?

1) Truly standardizing the qualities of who were praying? (Family, saint, lab assistant, etc. Who?)

2) Some studying that, such that the target is not knowing (single-blind), while others told to the target? (The first-person praying might help, whether formally thinking that as praying, or merely wishing that the Creator will help. Merely, having a person wishing good to you, is good for your psychology, too.)









BTW, the Islamic point that when you are praying, angels reciprocate "for you, too", might suggest the intercessors who were praying might have seen personal rewards, too. (Perhaps, more than their help to the target.) Has any study been looking at that aspect? :-)

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