The Power Of Prayer in Healthcare
Research indicates that patients who pray and meditate experience increased health benefits. Some of these benefits are measurable, while others cannot directly be observed. The purpose of this article is to explore the power of prayer in healthcare.
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 incorporate spirituality without necessarily being religious. Prayer is also rather versatile because an individual can pray aloud, silently, alone, with a group, at a place of worship, or in the privacy of one's home.
In recent years, research has indicated that prayer might result in a multitude of beneficial outcomes for patients in healthcare facilities and in the community. According to Schiffman (2012), regular prayer and meditation has been shown in numerous scientific studies to be an important factor in living longer and staying healthy. Growing evidence suggests that prayer might positively impact pain levels, stress and anxiety, severity of symptoms, recovery time, emotional well-being, interpersonal relationships, longevity, and other important aspects of patient's lives.
Studies have actually shown that those who pray are physically and emotionally healthier than those who do not (Miller, 2008). Praying might very well be the driving force that helps some patients live longer and with enhanced quality of life. A recent survey reported in the Journal of Gerontology of 4,000 senior citizens in Durham, NC, found that people who prayed or meditated coped better with illness and lived longer than those who did not (Schiffman, 2012). Moreover, praying can sometimes ward off illnesses associated with stress or unhealthy living. In one National Institutes of Health funded study, individuals who prayed daily were shown to be 40 percent less likely to have high blood pressure than those without a regular prayer practice (Schiffman, 2012).
Prayer can be utilized as a powerful technique for drug-free stress reduction. According to Schiffman (2012), a wide variety of spiritual practices have been shown to help alleviate the stress levels, which are one of the major risk factors for disease. In general, patients are in relaxed states during times of prayer and meditation. Perhaps it is this meditative process that gives prayer one of its most outstanding benefits (Miller, 2008).
Furthermore, prayer may have an effect on patients' responses to disease processes. A 2011 study of inner city youth with asthma by researchers at the University of Cincinnati indicates that those who practiced prayer and meditation experienced fewer and less severe symptoms than those who had not (Schiffman, 2012). Also, research suggests that patients who are religious have speedier recovery times after major medical procedures. Research at Dartmouth Medical School found that patients with strong religious beliefs who underwent elective heart surgery were three times more likely to recover than those who were less religious (Schiffman, 2012).
Another positive aspect regarding the power of prayer is that it helps patients' social and interpersonal bonds with people become stronger. When we pray for those we know and love, it helps us to understand that person a little bit better (Miller, 2008). Prayer can be the glue that forges that intangible connection with people.
Science strongly indicates that patients who engage in prayer and meditation experience health benefits. Some of the benefits of the power of prayer are measurable, while others cannot directly be measured or observed. These findings are exciting and certainly warrant further study. In summary, if our patients feel spiritually and emotionally at peace while praying, who are we to stop them?Last edit by Joe V on Jul 29, '12
About TheCommuter, BSN, RN Moderator
TheCommuter is a moderator of allnurses.com and has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a registered nurse.
Joined: Feb '05; Posts: 38,034; Likes: 69,280
CRRN, now a case management RN; from US
Specialty: 11 year(s) of experience in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psychJul 29, '12"Studies have actually shown that those who pray are physically and emotionally healthier than those who do not"
I think you meant to say, "Some people believe that those who pray..."
There are no evidence-based studies that could make such a claim. And believing something is true is mere opinion, not fact.Jul 29, '12Excellent 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.Jul 29, '12At 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?
I will quickly be labeled a "nonbeliever" so that my perspective can be rendered irrelevant...just someone who either "doesn't get it" or is "a lost soul."
You can be be either scientists or a witch doctors...but not both.Jul 29, '12Quote from interleukinHello, and good morning! I am the author of the article. I shall start things off with a disclosure that I am nonreligious and do not attend church. However, I am spiritual and do believe in the power of prayer."Studies have actually shown that those who pray are physically and emotionally healthier than those who do not"
I think you meant to say, "Some people believe that those who pray..."
There are no evidence-based studies that could make such a claim. And believing something is true is mere opinion, not fact.
I am pleased that we all have differences in opinions regarding this matter. After all, the diversity of viewpoints is what keeps things interesting. If we all held the exact same beliefs, humankind would be overly boring.
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.Jul 29, '12I certainly believe in the power of prayer at work. I pray every day for the staff, patients, and me.Jul 29, '12Quote from brownbook"I believe atheists giving "good thoughts" works the same as prayer to a large extent. it is all positive energy being directed at the one who needs itIf an atheist says, "I will pray for you" does it count?Jul 29, '12Quote from brownbookIm 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.If an atheist says, "I will pray for you" does it count?Jul 29, '12As 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.Jul 29, '12Quote 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 VickyRNWe 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?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.
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 TheCommuterSome 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.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.
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.Jul 29, '12Quote from That GuyWhat 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?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.
The latter I can understand. I might say something like, "I'll keep him in my thoughts," which would certainly be true.