Poll: How Important is Prayer To Heal What Ails You?

A majority of U.S. adults (58%) say they pray at least once a day outside of religious services, and 75% pray at least once a week, according to one study. Is prayer a panacea for healing?


On Monday, a blogger for our Palo Alto Patch , suggesting studies confirm a very strong link.

Eric Nelson reflected on several anecdotal stories in the blog:

  • Gloria Giffords, the mom of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, said she remembered a verse from Psalms when she learned of the assassination attempt on her daughter in Arizona. “Be still, and know that I am God.” "This thing came over me, like a wash of warmth, like a blanket, and I wasn't afraid,” said Gloria Giffords in an interview with the Arizona Star “I thought, wherever she is, she's intact, she's perfect, she's whole, and whether on this plane of reality or somewhere else, she's God's perfect child."
  • A chaplain suggested Andy and Donna Copeland pray for the recovery of their daughter following an injury she received in a zip-lining accident. Bacteria had entered the girl's bloodstream, and she was on the edge of death. Our blogger suggests that this prayer – and many subsequent prayers – give the Copeland’s a great deal of comfort, and is credited for a turnaround in the girl's condition. Though she’s still in intensive care, her prognosis is good.

Writes Nelson: "According to Dr. Harold Koening, Director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health, of the more than 2000 studies conducted over the last 10 years in this area, the clear majority point to a positive relationship between the spiritually uplifted mind and body. Although the research is relatively new, the link between prayer and health can be traced all the way back to the Bible."

What do you think? Is there a tangible, or intangible connection between healing and prayer? Have you ever experienced an occasion where prayer was ultimately the best antidote for a cure? Or is healing best left to medical professionals, whether Western or Eastern in their philosophy?

Let us know in your comments. Then vote in the poll below.

Jim Clifford June 18, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Bren: Re first-last: Matthew 20:16, Mark 10:31 and Luke 13:30 for starters.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive June 18, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Actually Terry, many studies have shown the prayer does effect the outcome medically. Some of the studies show a negative affect. Others show positive. The conclusion, scientifically, is that no one really knows for sure, except those who have been affected. Using scientific methods to prove or disprove an issue of faith is a waste of time.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive June 18, 2012 at 03:48 PM
The most balanced article I've ever read on this was in Christianity Today in 2009 (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/may/27.43.html). It covers a landmark study by Harvard, that in a superficial reading (and the focal conclusion of most news articles at the time) said that prayer made people worse. However, the actual conclusion was that prayer was not controllable and therefore defied scientific study. God does what he wants and his reasons are his own. As CS Lewis said as his wife was dying of cancer. "I don't pray to change God's mind. I pray to change me."
Summer Hemphill June 19, 2012 at 01:33 AM
If you're delusional & gullible enough to buy into any of this religious nonsense you might as well go all in !
Lou Covey, The Local Motive June 19, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Summer, why must you insult people that have a religion different from yours?
Summer Hemphill June 19, 2012 at 05:59 PM
As Harry Truman said "I don't give them hell,I just tell the truth & they think it's hell" ! Those who believe in the power of prayer insult the intelligence of those who don't. Why wasn't there a fourth choice ? I would suggest - Anyone who thinks that their prayers can effect someone's health is divinely delusional ! "Jesus is easy,just get down on your knees,he's going to listen to your every prayer. Jesus is easy.just get down on your knees,he's everywhere Jesus Christ is everywhere" !!! - "Jesus is Easy" by Martin Mull. This catchy & sarcastic tune can be found on You Tube Music,maybe the choir can entertain your congregation with this timeless classic next Sunday morning !!!
Bren June 19, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Atheists: Winning hearts and minds with insults.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive June 19, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Bren, I have several atheist friends with whom I have very civil, instructive and mutually respectful discussions about faith. Summer's response is about as valuable to the discussion as some Christians' response to atheism. It's time we employed our minds to discussions like these rather than our prejudices.
Billy Mays June 19, 2012 at 10:03 PM
To each his or her own.
Bren June 19, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Lou, you can probably tell from my previous comments that I lean more toward the skeptic/agnostic/atheist end of the spectrum. I gotta say, though, that I don't generally observe Christians hurling invective at atheists on the Web the say atheists hurl it at Christians and religious folks in general. I understand and sympathize with the reasons somebody might find religion very frustrating, but atheists aren't helping their cause when they express that frustration in way that lacks compassion.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive June 19, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Being an evangelical and a social media guru, I do see it from my fellow Christians and it makes me cringe because our enemy is not supposed to be "flesh and blood." But I agree with you that it makes it difficult to take an atheist seriously when their entire argument is based on invective and bigotry. I don't hold it against someone's preference to believe in nothing as opposed to something, especially why my something can no more be proven scientifically than their nothing. I was, at one time one of the doubters. But it was an undeniable personal experience that changed my mind. Scientific reasoning puts a great deal of weight on observation and if a tree falls in a forest, and I am the only one present to see it, it doesn't mean that my experience is invalid because others refuse to believe my report of the experience. You can be skeptical, but you cannot deny it with integrity.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive June 19, 2012 at 11:08 PM
I have a young friend who is also religiously skeptical. He is also geographically skeptical. He states that he does not believe in the existence of Wyoming. He says when you look at Wyoming on a map it is perfectly square and no other state in the union has perfect borders. He also claims to have never met anyone from the state of Wyoming, nor believes anyone who tells him they have been to Wyoming. He states that the perceived existence of Wyoming is either mythical, conspiratorial or delusional. He uses, essentially, all the common arguments an atheist uses to "disprove" the existence of God. He has a warped sense of humor that I greatly appreciate, but he maintains an absolutely straight face explaining this belief and refuses to admit he is joking.
Summer Hemphill June 20, 2012 at 12:36 AM
I'm not prejudiced against anyone except bigots. I don't give a damn what diety you worship when I cast my ballot. If that were a consideration I needn't vote at all. When you have concrete proof of the existence of your Gods & provide evidence that their interpreted teachings are somehow relevant when imposing outdated moral standards on today's modern secular society we'll have something to discuss. Ironically those most concerned with the imposition of Sharia law in America are the very ones attempting to create a Christian theocracy here ! Believe whatever you want,I'm sure you find comfort in your faith & obedience to something that no one can prove exists. I find it amusing up to the point where it interferes in the lives of those who feel differently. I don't have the audacity to tell the pious how to live & extending that same courtesy to me is the Christian thing to do after all isn' it ?
Summer Hemphill June 20, 2012 at 12:40 AM
That's because they try to impose their religious agenda on society through legislation & then react with smug & condescending dismissal of any heathen with the gall to publicly question their right to do so !!!
Summer Hemphill June 20, 2012 at 12:49 AM
It's those who believe they're going to heaven that make life hell for the rest of us here on earth ! Trust me,unless they rocket your cremated remains into space you've reached the final frontier !! No one has proved me wrong yet & my theory certainly appears much more plausible than yours !!! Pray for me if it makes you feel better about yourselves !!!!
Summer Hemphill June 20, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Sorry to hear about your ODing on cocaine,I really enjoyed your infomercials ! Maybe you can answer a question for us,are you in Heaven or Hell ?
Lou Covey, The Local Motive June 20, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Who, Christians or atheists? Remember Maddy O'Hare? Was she pushing her religious agenda through legislation? No matter what way you believe, there is someone who believes differently from you trying to push some agenda through legislation. That's called democracy. The Scopes Monkey Trial was about a group of Christians trying to use the courts and legislation to stop the teaching about evolution and teach creationism. What was the result? Evolution is the norm and creationism is the excluded. Why? because democracy works for the most part. But ridiculing someone for standing up for what they believe is counterproductive. Honest debate is the correct approach.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive June 20, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Summer, great. I admit we don't have any proof of the existence of God or the efficacy of prayer. Now give me your proof that God does not exist and prayer does not work. I am really willing to listen.
Bren June 20, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Summer, do you think people who believe in Heaven are making life hell for the rest of us when they use their religion as a reason to feed hungry people or put roofs over the homeless?
Bren June 20, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Also, I have never met anybody from Wyoming either.
Summer Hemphill June 20, 2012 at 02:10 AM
I used to belong to a fraternal organization which prided itself on these sort of endeavors. I rose through the ranks & volunteered hundreds of hours of my time in doing community service & helping the children & the elderly. As Abraham Lincoln said "A man (saying woman never crossed his mind ?) never stands as tall as when he stoops to help a child". The motivation religious or otherwise isn't an important consideration for joining of doing good deeds. It turns out that this organization wasn't that fraternal a place after all,what they say about politics & personalities is true so I moved on.
Summer Hemphill June 20, 2012 at 08:30 AM
Now that you mention it I used to work with a guy who said he was moving to Wyoming & I never saw him again !
Cris June 21, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Lou, "Now give me your proof that God does not exist and prayer does not work. I am really willing to listen" It is not up to the non-believer to prove your hypothesis. You put forth the extraordinary claim that a being created and maintains the universe. It is up to you to put up the evidence for this claim. Just like if I claimed it was all fairies, I would have to come up with repeatable, verifiable and cross-feild evidence to support this claim (By cross-field, I mean that is uses more than one field of science, such as optics and physics and biology...). The burden of proof lays at the feet of the claimant. Imagine if I said gremlins are making your car not start. We should exorcise your car instead of replacing the alternator. Would you say, "Hmmm... I suppose you don't have to prove your claims, I will go through and check out the electrical system in the car to disprove it." Or would ask for evidence that there are indeed gremlins? Or perhaps you would take the a-gremilist approach and scoff at the very idea and take your car to real mechanic.
Eric Nelson June 23, 2012 at 04:02 PM
I'm the one who wrote the original article upon which this poll was based. After watching the back-and-forth conversation over this past week or so (thank you all!!!), I thought it was time for me to chime in as well. However, rather than leaving my comments here, I'd invite you to follow this link to a follow-up article I wrote on the importance of defining "prayer" – http://paloalto.patch.com/blog_posts/polling-and-proving-the-practicality-of-prayer
Anonymous June 24, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Facts of science are not settled by polls. It is a tyrannical dictatorship. Reality is the arbiter of truth, and nobody else gets a say in the matter. We asked reality, and its answer is no. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16569567
Brash Brazen June 24, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Religious freedom gives you the right to pray for me,not prey on me. Repent sinners !
Reed J January 03, 2013 at 07:10 AM
I too am struggling these days with the reason for all of "this". I am turning to sites that reference prayer because when I pray for strength, or peace or something that has to do with something internal to me I am comforted. I don't know God's name or his story like so many others, I only hope to know his grace. To Quasi Interested and Bren your analysis and comments don't seem to account for free will, St. Augustine's contribution to the dilemma. I am reminded of a documentary on suicide and the fact that almost every survivor to jump off the Golden Gate bridge all shared the same thought right after leaping... 'wish I didn't just do that'. How is God suppose to protect you from harming yourself when it's your choice? Evil? Nature is not evil, evil is what people do to other people. People make choices, sometimes hurtful choices. If you make it out of some dire situation, like a home invasion or a mugging then count yourself lucky. It happens, some people win the lottery and some people are pushed in front of subways. This will never change. This isn't God's will. I'll venture that God willed this isolated world into existence for us to be born, live our lives and die our deaths in. If God exists, and I do believe this, he provided us with the ability to know right from wrong and the freedom to choose and a conscience to reflect on our choices. What more do we need? We are all in this together I just wish we would act like it more often.
Barb Valley January 03, 2013 at 03:29 PM
I have seen and experienced things which cannot be explained. i have known Atheists, Druids, Wiccans and others who do not share my beliefs who are moral,ethical people. My beliefs are mine. I do not need to explain or defend them.
Barb Valley January 03, 2013 at 03:30 PM
Also, I HAVE met folks from Wyoming.
Jo Tog January 03, 2013 at 06:18 PM
Praying, like meditation, is a powerful way to heal what ails you. Taking prescription medicine to make you happy is a cop out.


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