The Power Of Prayer in Healthcare - page 2

by TheCommuter 10,027 Views | 46 Comments Senior Moderator

According to Oxford Dictionaries, prayer is defined as a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or another deity. Although people usually associate praying with organized religion, prayers can... Read More


  1. 3
    As a nonbeliever, I don't accept any "power" of prayer, but I do accept that the meditative aspect of it is beneficial to the one "praying". I don't think one's mental actions affect others at a distance. What I do think is that those who believe in prayer predispose themselves to believe that their prayer was contributory when they get the result they want, and are in denial when they don't. I have always wondered how the "believers" think that opposing prayers are processed by the alleged deity--each side in a dispute prays for the other to lose, so is there a cosmic referee in the sky who decides who wins by who prays better?? Nonsense! On the other hand people do so many other silly things that praying can't be one of the worst, and as long as nobody forces me to be involved, I could care less.
    leslie :-D, dimpledRN, and Pistachio like this.
  2. 4
    Quote from VickyRN
    "Studies have actually shown that those who pray are physically and emotionally healthier than those who do not (Miller, 2008)."

    An ezine article and a Huffington Post article? Studies? Where are the studies?
    Quote from VickyRN
    Excellent article, TheCommuter. Anecdotally speaking, I have witnessed the power of prayer times too numerous to count. One of the most recent involved my husband, who had to undergo major surgery as an extremely high risk candidate. A churchfull of people were praying for him, and he went through the surgery without incident and recovered amazingly well without complication.
    We provide evidence based care. But then, when it comes to religious belief, we don't? We practice faith-based care? Would you like to fly in an airplane designed on faith, or would you rather fly on an airplane designed on evidence-based principles?

    Anecdotes mean little. We call all think of a hundred anecdotes to support any idea, from alien abduction to the effectiveness of intercessory prayer. We also tend to suffer from confirmation bias we forget about the many people who are prayed for, but who have bad outcomes. We also tend to think that the occurrence of an unlikely event is a miracle, when unlikely events happen all the time.

    Intercessory prayer is for the benefit of the one reciting the prayer. It gives people a sense of purpose when there is nothing they can actually do (and in some cases, they don't wish to do anything that costs them time or money).

    Long-Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer (New York Times, 2006):
    Prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people who were undergoing heart surgery, a large and long-awaited study has found.

    And patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of post-operative complications like abnormal heart rhythms, perhaps because of the expectations the prayers created, the researchers suggested.


    Because it is the most scientifically rigorous investigation of whether prayer can heal illness, the study, begun almost a decade ago and involving more than 1,800 patients, has for years been the subject of speculation.
    Quote from TheCommuter
    Some people believe in the power of prayer and others do not. The beauty of living in America is the fact that we are allowed to disagree with any expressed opinions that seem specious or rub us the wrong way. Thank you for your feedback.
    Some people believed bleeding out the bad humours when a person had an infection, some do not. Some people believe that, for a child with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, prayer is sufficient. Others believe that chemotherapy is a better idea.

    We're talking about people's lives here. If praying comforts them, or rubbing a rabbits foot does, whether they're the patient or the family, then by all means, they can do as they like. I am concerned about validating magical thinking, though.

    There may be a physiological benefit for oneself in doing meditation, or praying, which might have the same effect meditation, but there is not a single shred of good empirical evidence that it does anything at all for anyone else. And it's a curious thing among those who adhere to God-based religions. They are telling God what to do, as if he's a child who knows no better, or a tyrant at whose feet they must throw themselves in order to receive mercy. Is it a matter of popularity, and God will help those who can get a church-full of people to pray for them, but the person without friends is screwed?

    Get back to me when a church-full of praying people get God to regenerate a lost limb.

    I am very curious over the amount of spirituality on display on this Web site, and I mean all over. I've never seen anything like it among any group of professionals, much less, among those practicing a science-based, evidence-based profession. Is it a function of the personality types attracted to the profession, or to helping professions involving personal care? Is it a function of gender?

    Those questions deserves further study.
    malamud69, kabfighter, Maseca, and 1 other like this.
  3. 1
    Quote from That Guy
    Im not an atheist but I dont believe in prayers/praying. however if a family asks for my prayers I offer it to them. If it provides them some comfort in what they are going through, I will help. I have no desire to try and make them see the way I do. So I guess it can count.
    What is the purpose of going through the motions if you don't believe in it? Does the family see you closing your eyes, clasping your hands, and moving your lips? Or do you just tell them that you'll do it?

    The latter I can understand. I might say something like, "I'll keep him in my thoughts," which would certainly be true.
    kabfighter likes this.
  4. 2
    In my opinion, any effects that these studies show should be attributed to the calming and self-regulating effect of "prayer" (which was not defined-- is meditation or tai chi or yoga included in this, or do you have to pray to the right god for it to work?). Major depression alone has been shown to have a wide range of deleterious consequences in nearly every condition from recovery from cardiothoracic surgery to chronic renal failure to IBS to wound healing times.

    I think a positive attitude, mindful behavior, and meditation definitely are great things to cultivate. They have been shown to have positive effects on mental and physical health. Prayer, for some people, may be a part of this (though very infrequently, from what I've observed in my own life). As an ex-Catholic, ex-monastic atheist, I am also aware that people use these sorts of findings to infer existence of a supernatural deity: something that is not, can not, and will never be supported by any literature.
    Tragically Hip and tokebi like this.
  5. 4
    This could've been a very interesting and thought-provoking article but lost its credibility when it's referenced to the likes of ezinearticles.com or huffingtonpost.com. In general, using secondary sources to support your claim is not a good idea because it can appear as a lazy way of writing. If you analyzed the data from primary sources and synthesized your argument systematically, we might be having a nice discussion on interesting studies and interpretations and what it could all mean, instead of devolving into a typical religious vs. atheist mud-flinging.

    I think a topic of this nature would be more convincing and impressive as a reflective essay, rather than trying to present it as evidence-based.
    Not_A_Hat_Person, leslie :-D, Maseca, and 1 other like this.
  6. 5
    Quote from VickyRN
    Excellent article, TheCommuter. Anecdotally speaking, I have witnessed the power of prayer times too numerous to count. One of the most recent involved my husband, who had to undergo major surgery as an extremely high risk candidate. A churchfull of people were praying for him, and he went through the surgery without incident and recovered amazingly well without complication.
    No, his successful surgery and uncomplicated recovery were the result of the skill of the doctors and nurses involved.

    There is no empirical evidence that intercessory prayer does ANYTHING other than make those doing the praying feel better.

    Nursing and medicine are science and evidence based professions. Let's keep them that way.
    brownbook, kabfighter, dimpledRN, and 2 others like this.
  7. 1
    Quote from interleukin
    At risk of being barraged with hate mail, I offer the following;

    First , if prayer makes you, or someone else, feel better then by all means do it. After all, prayers can't hurt.

    But suggesting that praying for someone's recovery, from a remote location, can actually contribute to that recovery is magical thinking that undermines the integrity of the Western nursing profession.

    I wonder how many doctors maintain such beliefs?

    Prayer is hope, and hope is a good thing...as long as there's a reasonable chance. Otherwise, we end up prolonging suffering "waiting for miracles."

    People pray everyday for recoveries that never happen. Was it, then, just a matter of too few people praying or not praying loud enough?
    If I may, offer one perspective on your question here listed. In the Christian Lord's Prayer, there is this phrase given, "Thy will be done". Thereby, the one praying commits their request to the will of God. The loudness of prayer, or number of prayers said, or the will of the one making intercession is irrelevant. By doing this, the one praying submits themselves to whatever the outcome is. One might say that to pray is not to "gain points" or make some attempt to win favor, but to bring in line one's own will in order to submit to the power of the One to whom they pray. Sometimes, that means accepting what we cannot change (borrowed that line from the AA serenity prayer.)
    TheCommuter likes this.
  8. 2
    needless to say,sometimes you hear someone say, "we've done all we can, the only thing we can do now is pray"...just saying ~
  9. 2
    I am a reformed agnostic. I have been blessed by a divine intervention. I came across an article that actually documented an increase in a cancer patients blood supply to the affected area by the power of prayer from the congregation. I am so sorry I cannot share that link.
    There are many things we cannot see or document. Nurses are scientific minded.

    We should NOT let that close our minds or hearts to a higher power.
    TiddlDwink and TheCommuter like this.
  10. 3
    Quote from Been there,done that
    I am a reformed agnostic. I have been blessed by a divine intervention. I came across an article that actually documented an increase in a cancer patients blood supply to the affected area by the power of prayer from the congregation. I am so sorry I cannot share that link.
    There are many things we cannot see or document. Nurses are scientific minded.

    We should NOT let that close our minds or hearts to a higher power.
    I would not change my life-stance based on one medical study you can't reference, and which has been refuted by other studies, including the large, comprehensive study I referenced above.

    "increase in a cancer patients blood supply to the affected area by the power of prayer from the congregation"

    Wow. I have a Loch Ness monster I can sell you.

    "We should NOT let that close our minds or hearts to a higher power."

    I'm waiting for first shred of decent empirical evidence for it. Is there an apologia for why it choses to be so elusive?
    dimpledRN, Maseca, and apocatastasis like this.


Top