Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Proof of the Healing Power of Prayer

For the devout, there never has been any question that prayer has the power to heal. Now, more and more medical research from leading hospitals and universities across the United States has shown conclusively that a belief in God really is good for you, and can make you healthier, happier, and induce you to live longer to boot.

"Studies have shown prayer can prevent people from getting sick, and when they do get sick, prayer can help them get better faster," Duke University's Dr. Harold G. Koenig tells Newsmax.

An exhaustive analysis of more than 1,500 reputable medical studies "indicates people who are more religious and pray more have better mental and physical health," Koenig says. And out of 125 studies that looked at the link between health and regular worship, 85 showed regular churchgoers live longer.

Dr. Koenig, director of Duke's Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, and the author of several authoritative books on faith and healing, says a striking study published in the Southern Medical Journal last year demonstrated that prayer has a remarkable effect on patients with hearing and visual deficiencies. After prayer sessions, "They showed significant improvements based on audio and visual tests," Koenig says.

What's more, he says, "The benefits of devout religious practice, particularly involvement in a faith community and religious commitment, are that people cope better. In general, they cope with stress better, they experience greater well-being because they have more hope, they're more optimistic, they experience less depression, less anxiety, and they commit suicide less often." He adds, "They have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and probably better cardiovascular functioning."

"The proof of the power of prayer is overwhelming", says researcher and writer Tom Knox, a one-time atheist who became a regular worshipper after doing in-depth study of the medical benefits of faith. "What I discovered astonished me. Over the past 30 years a growing, and largely unnoticed, body of scientific work shows religious belief is medically, socially, and psychologically beneficial".

Study after study backs up the benefits of having faith, especially in prolonging life.

In 2006, population researchers at the University of Texas discovered that the more often you go to church, the longer you live. "Religious attendance is associated with adult mortality in a graded fashion", says Knox. "There is a seven-year difference in life expectancy between those who never attend church and those who attend weekly."

The American Journal of Public Health studied nearly 2,000 older Californians for five years and found that those who attended religious services were 36 percent less likely to die during that period than those who didn't.

A study of nearly 4,000 older adults for the U.S. Journal of Gerontology revealed that atheists had a significantly increased chance of dying over a six-year period than the faithful. Crucially, religious people lived longer than atheists even if they didn't go regularly to a place of worship.

Prayer intercession also has been shown to have a positive impact across a wide range of diseases and disorders.

The American Society of Hypertension established in 2006 that churchgoers have lower blood pressure than non-believers. Scientists have also revealed believers recover from breast cancer quicker than non-believers, have better outcomes from coronary disease and rheumatoid arthritis, and are less likely to have children with meningitis.

A massive 12-month study from a Kansas City hospital showed patients admitted with heart trouble did better when somebody was praying for them. Amazingly, the patients were not told people were praying for them. Volunteers from a local church were given the first name of a patient on a piece of paper and asked to pray for that person.

Those patients had fewer complications than those who weren't prayed for. Researchers said they did not have a scientific explanation for the outcome.

Research at San Francisco General Hospital looked at the effect of prayer on 393 cardiac patients. Half were prayed for by strangers who had only the patients' names. Those patients had fewer complications, fewer cases of pneumonia, and needed less drug treatment. They also got better quicker and left the hospital earlier.

Two studies at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center showed prayer could be a positive benefit for AIDS victims, too. Patients not prayed for spent six times as long in hospital as those who received prayers and got three times as many illnesses.

An arthritis treatment center in Florida used prayer sessions to try to help patients suffering pain. A study says they showed significant overall improvement for up to one year later.

In a study of nearly 92,000 people in Maryland, people who attended church once or more a week had 50 percent fewer deaths from coronary artery disease, 56 percent fewer deaths from emphysema, 74 percent fewer deaths from cirrhosis, and 53 percent fewer suicides.

Concluded Knox: "Atheists can sneer at faith all they like, but they can't assume science is on their side".


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