Guest / Limited Access /

Should your doctor prescribe prayer as part of your treatment? According to a study of 1,134 physicians this past December by Health Care Direct Research, the majority of doctors (70 percent) believe miracles are possible today. Yet fewer than 29 percent believe that the outcomes of medical treatments are related to "supernatural forces" or "acts of God."

Studies on prayer in medicine have a way of demarcating the battle lines between saints and skeptics: Christians long for scientific proof of the efficacy of prayer. Critics, waiting for the opposite, hope to undermine religious faith. For better or worse, we have seen many attempts to measure the healing effects of intercessory prayer. The first known studies were published in 1873 by English polymath Francis Galton. He found no statistical evidence that prayer prolonged life or reduced stillbirths (though his findings would not meet today's criteria for a controlled prospective study).

More recently, various prayer experiments have caught the attention of evangelicals who are eager to show a positive connection between faith and science. One that generated particular excitement was Randolph Byrd's 1988 study, which observed 393 patients admitted to the coronary care unit of San Francisco General Hospital. About half of the patients were prayed for by "born-again Christians with daily devotional prayer and active Christian fellowship in a local church." The other half served as a control group (they received no prayer). In this study, the prayer group significantly outscored the control group.

Byrd's published report received criticism on a number of fronts, however, including possible unintentional unblinding (for example, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedSarah Young Still Hears Jesus Calling
Subscriber Access Only
Sarah Young Still Hears Jesus Calling
Not since “My Utmost for His Highest” has a daily devotional enraptured the English-speaking world, from cynical intellectuals to sweet grandmas, across the theological spectrum. How Young might change how we think about prayer.
TrendingPope Francis Learns What Rick Warren, Russell Moore, N. T. Wright Think about Marriage
Pope Francis Learns What Rick Warren, Russell Moore, N. T. Wright Think about Marriage
(UPDATED) Warren turns Vatican conference into 'revivalist meeting,' while Moore explains why marriage crosses theological boundaries.
Editor's PickWhat Forgotten Christmas Tradition Should Churches Revive?
What Forgotten Christmas Tradition Should Churches Revive?
Rooting our celebration of Christ’s birth more deeply in our lives.
Comments
Christianity Today
What Do Prayer Studies Prove?
hide thisMay May

In the Magazine

May 2009

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.