There is scientific evidence that faith heals. A 1995 issue of The Mind/Body Medicine Newsletter cited a study by Thomas Oxman of Dartmouth Medical School. Oxman investigated the role faith plays in health. The study of 232 patients who had open heart surgery found that patients who gained strength and comfort from their religious beliefs were three times more likely to survive than those who had no comfort from religious faith. In addition, those who participated in social and community groups had three times the survival rate of those who didn’t take part in any organized activity. Those who had both protective factors - religious and social support - had a ten fold increase in survival.
The researchers don’t understand how faith extends life. They speculate that faith is physiologically calming and prevents problems during recovery. Also, faith gives meaning to life which is medically helpful. In contrast, the person without faith leads a more stressful life due to the lack of purpose he attributes to life.
Larry Dossey, M.D., in his book Healing Words presents evidence that prayer heals. Dossey cites a double-blind controlled study of 393 patients assigned to two groups. 192 patients were prayed for and 201 patients were not prayed for. The results were dramatic. The group that was prayed for were five times less likely to require antibiotics and three times less likely to develop pulmonary edema. He says “It is simply a fact that patients sometimes improve dramatically following prayer.”
A Columbia University study reported in the New York Times Magazine, December 9, 2001, found that women in a fertility clinic were almost twice as likely to get pregnant when, without their knowledge, strangers were praying for them to conceive. Women in the prayed-for group had a pregnancy rate of 50 percent versus 26 percent for women in the control group.
Those of us who have experienced the healing power of prayer are not surprised by these findings.
“Is anyone of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is anyone of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.” James 4:13-15