The Biology of Prayer and Healing

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The Biology of Prayer and Healing

“When we set ourselves to the work of collecting or re-collecting

the scattered pieces of ourselves, we begin a task which,

if carried to its natural conclusions,

ultimately becomes prayer.”


Science and Faith: Freud, one of the most well respected researchers of the human experience, claims that religion is a “universal neurosis that civilization substitutes for a more authentic personal reality based on scientific knowledge” (Jones and Butman, 1991, 77). Thus, to presume that illness and healing have anything to do with spirituality is absurd.

Testability: Prayer and faith have no universal method of testing. Nor can it be proven that prayer is effective, for who can determine what is efficacious if one is dealing with a divine being? “If people do not receive what is construed to be an immediate positive response to a petition, should they immediately deduce that prayer was ineffective or unanswered? . . . Can the intricacies and complexities of God’s response to prayer be adequately and accurately observed and measured?” (Chamberlin, 2000, 31)

Operational Definitions

Even though religious practices and experiences seem too subjective to quantify and describe, if they are to be used as test material, scientific research demands salient classifications for the factors it seeks to study.

Religion: the “service of progress using cumulative traditions of past and depending on reenactment of belief as true” (Chamberlin, 2000, 10)

Faith: the trust in a human quest for relation to transcendence (Fowler, 1991).

Faith Development: the process of “finding and making meaning as a human activity” and the subsequent growth in self and other awareness one experie...

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...f medical science’s best-kept secrets. Saturday

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Fowler, J. W. (1991). Stages of faith: The psychology of human development and the quest of meaning. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Harris, W. S., Gowda, M., Kolb, J. W., Strychacz, C. P., Vacek, J. L., Jones, P. G., et. al. (1999). A randomized, controlled trial of the effects of remote, intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients admitted to the coronary care unit. Archives of Internal Medicine, 159(19), 73-78.

Koenig, H.G., Smiley, M., and Gonzales, J.P. (1988). Religion, Health, and Aging: A review and theoretical integration. New York: Greenwood Press.

Sicher, F., Targ, E., Moor, D. II, Smith, H. S. (1998). A randomized double- blind study of the effect of distant healing in a population with advanced AIDS: Report of a small scale study. West J Med, 169, 356- 363.

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