By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
Many of us put prayer in one category, and medicine in a totally separate category. What if they could work together to help people become healthier? There are a few misguided people who have suggested that we should only rely on prayer, and not go to medical doctors. They forget that two of the books of the Bible were written by a medical doctor, St. Luke the Physician. Luke included many specific medical terms in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. Other people think that with advances in medical science that prayer is no longer relevant. Both attitudes are short-sighted. When we are battling serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, we need all the resources working together for our healing.
Many churches regularly pray for those who are sick. At St. Simon’s NV, we often give thanks for answered prayer, particularly in the area of healing in body, mind or spirit. Healing prayer is mysterious in its effect. In recent years, there have been a number of studies on the effects of healing prayer. Dr. Candy Brown wrote a ground-breaking book entitled “Testing Prayer” which gave preliminary indications that there is a measurable impact in healing prayer. Her research involved the ethnographic approaches of participant-observation, written surveys and oral interviews, clinical measurements and statistical tests, and narrative analysis and archival research. Dr. Brown’s team of researchers used audiometers and vision charts to test hearing and vision before and after times of healing prayer. Many but not all participants in healing prayer showed significant improved function in the post-prayer diagnostic tests. Dr. Brown suggested that the empirically observable effect deserves more research and followup, involving larger-scale more-refined clinical trials of the effects of healing prayer.
Science cannot prove why healing prayer works, but it can measure its effects in helpful ways. The founder of Christianity, Jesus, was consistently involved in teaching, preaching and healing the sick. His early followers regularly participated in healing prayer. For over two thousand years, healing prayers have been offered up for those in need. It is encouraging that careful research is being done, indicating that healing prayer makes an empirical difference. My expectation over the next number of years is that many more scientific tests will be done, that will teach us a lot more about the empirical nature of healing prayer.
Through decades of healing prayer, I have seen many people transformed in body, mind or spirit. My prayer for those reading this article is that many of us will see similar breakthroughs in our areas of need.