Recent research on the power of prayer.
you are easily offended when it comes to religious matters, delete this
the years and for various reasons, well meaning people tell me they will
pray for me. What should I say to this generous offer?
we are to believe the most recent research, I should decline these offers.
According to the latest research praying for someone's recovery, at least
from heart surgery, not only doesn't do any good, it actually may harm
least this is what a study on therapeutic prayer published in the April
issue of the American Heart Journal tells us.
study was conducted by Herbert Benson and Jeffery
Dusek at Beth Israel
. They followed 1802 patients undergoing
coronary bypass operations. One set of patients received prayers from
several Christian prayer groups, while another group received no prayers.
The patients knew they were in the trial but neither they nor their doctors
knew which of the groups they were in.
prayers made no detectable difference. In the first month after surgery,
52 per cent of prayed-for patients and 51 per cent of non-prayed-for patients
suffered one or more complications, the researchers found ( American
Heart Journal , vol 151, p 934).
you were being prayed for was a problem. A third group of patients received
the same prayers as the first group, but these patients were told they
were being prayed for. Of these, 59 per cent suffered complications -
significantly more than the patients left unsure of whether they were
receiving prayers. In hindsight one wishes the study had an additional
control group, one which had, “not a hope of a prayer,” that is knew they
were not being prayed for. [i]
all research speaks so negatively about this subject.
conducted at the Mayo Clinic and published in 2001 showed slightly better
but still dismal results. In this study 799 coronary care unit patients
were randomly assigned when they left the hospital to either a prayer
group or to a control group. The ‘prayer group' received prayers by one
or more persons on their behalf at least once a week for six months with
5 different people praying for each patient. During that six month period,
the patients were tracked for what the researchers called an endpoint,
or things they didn't want to happen or hoped to postpone through prayer.
The end point was any of the following: death, cardiac arrest, rehospitalization
for cardiovascular disease, coronary revascularization, or an emergency
department visit for cardiovascular disease. Patients were divided into
a high-risk group or a low-risk group. After six months, a primary end
point had occurred in 25.6% of the prayer group and 29.3% of the control
group. Among high-risk patients, 31.0% in the prayer group vs. 33.3% in
the control group experienced a primary end point. Among low-risk patients,
a primary end point occurred in 17.0% in the prayer group vs. 24.1% in
the control. At first look these numbers look good. In every case a higher
percentage of people in the control group, who weren't prayed for, reached
an “end point”, that is something unwanted happened, compared to the prayed
for group. Yet in none of these cases were the differences large enough
to reach statistical significance. Thus the study concluded that prayer
had no significant effect on medical outcome. [ii]
earlier study did show some slight but statistically significant benefit.
Published in 1999, the study followed 990 patients who were admitted for
heart conditions to a Kansas City , Missouri hospital. Patients were randomized
to either receive prayers or not. Outside prayer groups were given the
first names of the patients and prayed for them daily for a month. Patients
did not know they were being prayed for and the people doing the praying
did not know and never met the patients. At the time of discharge patients
were given a score by researchers who review the charts without knowing
whether the patients were in the prayer group or not. According to these
scores, the prayed for patients did slightly better. Prayer did not shorten
the length of stay in the hospital; this was the same for both groups.
study conducted in Florida and published in 2000 on patients with rheumatoid
arthritis showed some benefit from direct, in person, intensive prayer.
All the patients in this trial received a “3-day intervention, including
6 hours of education and 6 hours of direct-contact intercessory prayer.”
The “Patients receiving in-person intercessory prayer showed significant
overall improvement during 1-year follow-up.” In other words at least
for arthritis having someone pray a lot for you and in person, helps but
prayers from a distance don't. [iv]
the other hand a 2004 study on prayer to treat children with psychiatric
disorders conducted in Australia detected no effect. [v]
the most telling publication comes from the Cochrane Database. This British
group specializes in evaluating and drawing conclusions from already published
research. Finding and analyzing all published data in 2000, the group
in this review are too inconclusive to guide those wishing to uphold or
refute the effect of intercessory prayer on health care outcomes. In the
light of the best available data, there are no grounds to change current
practices. There are few completed trials of the value of intercessory
prayer, and the evidence presented so far is interesting enough to justify
further study. If prayer is seen as a human endeavour it may or may not
be beneficial, and further trials could uncover this. It could be the
case that any effects are due to elements beyond present scientific understanding
that will, in time, be understood . If any benefit derives from
God's response to prayer it may be beyond any such trials to prove or
course thinking about these different studies brings up all sorts of questions
that may not be considered polite to ask. A number of assumptions are
made in these studies. First that all prayers are equal. Yet you will
find many adherents to particular religions who deeply believe that their
beliefs and practices are more in tune than practitioners of other religions.
Could they be right? Could one religion's prayers work better than another?
is one study that stands out to me and is worth drawing some attention
study published n the British Medical Journal in 2001 which produced statistically
significant benefits and was conducted in Petah-Tiqva, Israel [vi]
This study was bizarre and I wonder what prompted the researchers
to even attempt what they did.
who presented at a university hospital with blood infections over a six
year period, from 1990-1996, were all selected for the study. The study
was conducted in 2,000; a full four years after the last patient presented
and ten years after the first patients arrived at the hospital. Following
classic double blind randomized protocols 1,691 of the total 3,393 patients
were put into an intervention group which was prayed for retroactively.
Catch that last word, “retroactively.” The patients had already come and
gone from the hospital. Patients were not singled out for prayer, instead
the entire intervention group was prayed for. When the codes were broken
and the data analyzed those prayed for had a lower mortality rate, 28%
vs. 30% and length of hospital stay and duration of fever were also significantly
shorter. In other words prayers for a group of people conducted in the
present positively improved health outcomes as much as a decade earlier.
This is the sort of study that is worth chewing over, even if the results
in time prove to not be true, the idea certainly is worth rumination over.
don't think we've seen the last of these prayer studies. Rest assured
that somewhere God is watching all this carefully and she's quite entertained.
Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory
Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: a multicenter randomized trial
of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer.
DW Jr, Jain
Mind/Body Medical Institute, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess
Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA. email@example.com
BACKGROUND: Intercessory prayer is widely believed to influence recovery
from illness, but claims of benefits are not supported by well-controlled
clinical trials. Prior studies have not addressed whether prayer itself
or knowledge/certainty that prayer is being provided may influence outcome.
We evaluated whether (1) receiving intercessory prayer or (2) being certain
of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with uncomplicated recovery
after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. METHODS: Patients at
6 US hospitals were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: 604 received intercessory
prayer after being informed that they may or may not receive prayer; 597
did not receive intercessory prayer also after being informed that they
may or may not receive prayer; and 601 received intercessory prayer after
being informed they would receive prayer. Intercessory prayer was provided
for 14 days, starting the night before CABG. The primary outcome was presence
of any complication within 30 days of CABG. Secondary outcomes were any
major event and mortality. RESULTS: In the 2 groups uncertain about receiving
intercessory prayer, complications occurred in 52% (315/604) of patients
who received intercessory prayer versus 51% (304/597) of those who did
not (relative risk 1.02, 95% CI 0.92-1.15). Complications occurred in
59% (352/601) of patients certain of receiving intercessory prayer compared
with the 52% (315/604) of those uncertain of receiving intercessory prayer
(relative risk 1.14, 95% CI 1.02-1.28). Major events and 30-day mortality
were similar across the 3 groups. CONCLUSIONS: Intercessory prayer itself
had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of
receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of
PMID: 16569567 [PubMed - in process]
Intercessory prayer and cardiovascular disease
progression in a coronary care unit population: a randomized controlled
JM , Whelan
SE , Hernke
DA , Williams
BA , Kenny
KE , O'Fallon
WM , Kopecky
Mayo Physician Alliance for Clinical Trials Coordinating Center, Mayo
Clinic, Rochester , Minn. 55902 , USA .
OBJECTIVE: To determine the effect of intercessory prayer, a widely practiced
complementary therapy, on cardiovascular disease progression after hospital
discharge. PATIENTS AND METHODS: In this randomized controlled trial conducted
between 1997 and 1999, a total of 799 coronary care unit patients were
randomized at hospital discharge to the intercessory prayer group or to
the control group. Intercessory prayer, ie, prayer by 1 or more persons
on behalf of another, was administered at least once a week for 26 weeks
by 5 intercessors per patient. The primary end point after 26 weeks was
any of the following: death, cardiac arrest, rehospitalization for cardiovascular
disease, coronary revascularization, or an emergency department visit
for cardiovascular disease. Patients were divided into a high-risk group
based on the presence of any of 5 risk factors (age = or >70 years,
diabetes mellitus, prior myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular disease,
or peripheral vascular disease) or a low-risk group (absence of risk factors)
for subsequent primary events. RESULTS: At 26 weeks, a primary end point
had occurred in 25.6% of the intercessory prayer group and 29.3% of the
control group (odds ratio [OR], 0.83 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.60-1.14];
P=.25). Among high-risk patients, 31.0% in the prayer group vs 33.3% in
the control group (OR, 0.90 [95% CI, 0.60-1.34]; P=.60) experienced a
primary end point. Among low-risk patients, a primary end point occurred
in 17.0% in the prayer group vs 24.1% in the control group (OR, 0.65 [95%
CI, 0.20-1.36]; P=.12). CONCLUSIONS: As delivered in this study, intercessory
prayer had no significant effect on medical outcomes after hospitalization
in a coronary care unit.
A randomized, controlled trial of the effects of
remote, intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients admitted to the coronary
WS , Gowda
M , Kolb
JW , Strychacz
CP , Vacek
JL , Jones
PG , Forker
A , O'Keefe
JH , McCallister
Mid America Heart Institute, Saint Luke's Hospital, Kansas City , MO ,
CONTEXT: Intercessory prayer (praying for others) has been a common response
to sickness for millennia, but it has received little scientific attention.
The positive findings of a previous controlled trial of intercessory prayer
have yet to be replicated. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether remote, intercessory
prayer for hospitalized, cardiac patients will reduce overall adverse
events and length of stay. DESIGN: Randomized, controlled, double-blind,
prospective, parallel-group trial. SETTING: Private, university-associated
hospital. PATIENTS: Nine hundred ninety consecutive patients who were
newly admitted to the coronary care unit (CCU). INTERVENTION: At the time
of admission, patients were randomized to receive remote, intercessory
prayer (prayer group) or not (usual care group). The first names of patients
in the prayer group were given to a team of outside intercessors who prayed
for them daily for 4 weeks. Patients were unaware that they were being
prayed for, and the intercessors did not know and never met the patients.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The medical course from CCU admission to hospital
discharge was summarized in a CCU course score derived from blinded, retrospective
chart review. RESULTS: Compared with the usual care group (n = 524), the
prayer group (n = 466) had lower mean +/- SEM weighted (6.35 +/- 0.26
vs 7.13 +/- 0.27; P=.04) and unweighted (2.7 +/- 0.1 vs 3.0 +/- 0.1; P=.04)
CCU course scores. Lengths of CCU and hospital stays were not different.
CONCLUSIONS: Remote, intercessory prayer was associated with lower CCU
course scores. This result suggests that prayer may be an effective adjunct
to standard medical care.
Effects of intercessory prayer on patients with
DA , Marlowe
SM , MacNutt
Arthritis/Pain Treatment Center, Clearwater , Fla , USA .
BACKGROUND: Many individuals pray during times of illness, but the clinical
effects of prayer are not well-understood. METHODS: We prospectively studied
a cohort of 40 patients (mean age, 62 years; 100% white; 82% women) at
a private rheumatology practice. All had class II or III rheumatoid arthritis
and took stable doses of antirheumatic medications. All received a 3-day
intervention, including 6 hours of education and 6 hours of direct-contact
intercessory prayer. Nineteen randomly selected sample patients had 6
months of daily, supplemental intercessory prayer by individuals located
elsewhere. Ten arthritis-specific outcome variables were measured at baseline
and at 3-month intervals for 1 year. RESULTS: Patients receiving in-person
intercessory prayer showed significant overall improvement during 1-year
follow-up. No additional effects from supplemental, distant intercessory
prayer were found. CONCLUSIONS: In-person intercessory prayer may be a
useful adjunct to standard medical care for certain patients with rheumatoid
arthritis. Supplemental, distant intercessory prayer offers no additional
Pilot study investigating the effect of intercessory
prayer in the treatment of child psychiatric disorders.
J , Bourne
Royal Children's Hospital Mental Health Service, Parkville , Vic. , Australia
OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether intercessory prayer had an effect on
the outcomes of a group of children with psychiatric conditions, using
a triple blind randomized study design. CONCLUSION: This study was unable
to show any additional benefits for patients who received intercessory
prayer compared to those who received treatment as usual.
Effects of remote, retroactive intercessory prayer
on outcomes in patients with bloodstream infection: randomised controlled
Department of Medicine, Beilinson Campus, Rabin Medical Center , Petah-Tiqva
49100 , Israel . firstname.lastname@example.org
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether remote, retroactive intercessory prayer,
said for a group of patients with a bloodstream infection, has an effect
on outcomes. DESIGN: Double blind, parallel group, randomised controlled
trial of a retroactive intervention. SETTING: University hospital. SUBJECTS:
All 3393 adult patients whose bloodstream infection was detected at the
hospital in 1990-6. INTERVENTION: In July 2000 patients were randomised
to a control group and an intervention group. A remote, retroactive intercessory
prayer was said for the well being and full recovery of the intervention
group. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Mortality in hospital, length of stay in
hospital, and duration of fever. RESULTS: Mortality was 28.1% (475/1691)
in the intervention group and 30.2% (514/1702) in the control group (P
for difference=0.4). Length of stay in hospital and duration of fever
were significantly shorter in the intervention group than in the control
group (P=0.01 and P=0.04, respectively). CONCLUSION: Remote, retroactive
intercessory prayer said for a group is associated with a shorter stay
in hospital and shorter duration of fever in patients with a bloodstream
infection and should be considered for use in clinical practice .
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