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Study finds proximity could be key to success of healing prayer
Indiana University ^ | Candy Gunther Brown

Posted on 08/05/2010 5:05:22 AM PDT by Pharmboy

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Findings reported today (Aug. 5) from a new international study of healing prayer suggest that prayer for another person's healing just might help -- especially if the one praying is physically near the person being prayed for.

Candy Gunther Brown, an associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, led the study of "proximal intercessory prayer" for healing. It is available online today and will be published in the September 2010 issue of the Southern Medical Journal.

The study, titled "Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Proximal Intercessory Prayer (STEPP) on Auditory and Visual Impairments in Rural Mozambique," measured surprising improvements in vision and hearing in economically disadvantaged areas where eyeglasses and hearing aids are not readily available.

An advance copy of the study is available prior to online publication from Bridget Garland at smjedit@etsu.edu.

"We chose to investigate 'proximal' prayer because that is how a lot of prayer for healing is actually practiced by Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world," Brown said. "These constitute the fastest-growing Christian subgroups globally, with some 500 million adherents, and they are among those most likely to pray expectantly for healing."

Brown and her colleagues carried out the study as part of a larger research program, funded by the John Templeton Foundation Flame of Love Project, on the cultural significance and experience of spiritual healing practices. As editor of a forthcoming book on Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing (Oxford University Press, scheduled for release January 2011), Brown has made an in-depth, seven-year study of how pentecostals worldwide pray for healing.

Although pentecostals often pray for their own healing and request distant intercessory prayer, they consider proximal prayer to be particularly efficacious and emphasize the importance of physical proximity and human touch in praying effectively for healing.

"When people feel that they have a serious need for healing, they are willing to try almost anything," Brown said. "If they feel that a particular religious or spiritual practice healed them, they are much more likely to become an adherent. This phenomenon, more than any other, accounts for the growth of these Christian subgroups globally."

Brown and her colleagues studied the activities of the healing groups Iris Ministries and Global Awakening in Mozambique and Brazil because of their reputation as hotspots of specialized prayer for those with hearing and vision impairments. The researchers used an audiometer and vision charts to evaluate 14 rural Mozambican subjects who reported impaired hearing and 11 who reported impaired vision, both before and after the subjects received proximal intercessory prayer (PIP). The study focused on hearing and vision because it is possible to measure them with hearing machines and vision charts, allowing a more direct measure of improvement than simply asking people whether they feel better.

Subjects exhibited improved hearing and vision that was statistically significant after PIP was administered. Two subjects with impaired hearing reduced the threshold at which they could detect sound by 50 decibels. Three subjects had their tested vision improve from 20/400 or worse to 20/80 or better. These improvements are much larger than those typically found in suggestion and hypnosis studies.

Brown recounted that one subject, an elderly Mozambican woman named Maryam, initially reported that she could not see a person's hand, with two upraised fingers, from a distance of one foot. A healing practitioner put her hand on Maryam's eyes, hugged her and prayed for less than a minute; then the person held five fingers in front of Maryam, who was able to count them and even read the 20/125 line on a vision chart.

The study focuses on clinical effects of PIP and does not attempt to explain the mechanisms by which the improvements occurred.

Supplemental digital content for the published study reports on a follow-up study with similar findings conducted by the same researchers in urban Brazil. Co-authors include physicians Stephen C. Mory of Nashville, Tenn., and Rebecca Williams of Johannesburg, South Africa, and Michael J. McClymond, associate professor of theological studies at Saint Louis University.

Scientific research on intercessory prayer has in recent decades generated a firestorm of controversy, with critics charging that attempts to study the efficacy of prayer are inherently unscientific and should be abandoned because the mechanisms are poorly understood. Several studies have produced contradictory findings.

The title of the current study makes reference to the widely discussed 2006 "STEP" (study of the therapeutic effects of intercessory prayer) paper, which concluded that prayer itself had no effect, but certainty of receiving prayer adversely affected health. However, the STEP study, like most previous research on the efficacy of prayer, focused on distant intercessory prayer (DIP) rather than proximal prayer. It also included only one group of Protestant intercessors: Silent Unity, a "New Thought" group whose leaders have explicitly rejected prayers of supplication or petition as "useless."

"If empirical research continues to indicate that PIP may be therapeutically beneficial, then -- whether or not the mechanisms are adequately understood -- there are ethical and nonpartisan public policy reasons to encourage further related research," Brown said. "It is a primary privilege and responsibility of medical science to pursue a better understanding of therapeutic inventions that may advance global health, especially in contexts where conventional medical treatments are inadequate or unavailable."

Dr. John Peteet, a professor at Harvard Medical School, similarly commented in an editorial in the current issue of the Southern Medical Journal: "Whatever their views about the efficacy of healing prayer and about whether it belongs in the armamentarium of medicine, clinicians and believers share core commitments to healing whenever it is possible, and to meaningful acceptance when it is not."

The World Health Organization estimates that 278 million people, 80 percent of whom live in developing countries, have moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears; and 314 million people, 87 percent of whom live in developing countries, are visually impaired. Only a tiny fraction of these populations currently receive any treatment.

###

The study will be available online Aug. 5 at http://journals.lww.com/smajournalonline/toc/publishahead. In September, an interview with Brown will be available on the Southern Medical Journal website.

To speak to Brown, please contact Steve Hinnefeld at the IU Office of University Communications, 812-856-3488 or slhinnef@indiana.edu.

"Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Proximal Intercessory Prayer (STEPP) on Auditory and Visual Impairments in Rural Mozambique." Southern Medical Journal, September 2010, Volume 103, Issue 9

About the Southern Medical Journal

The Southern Medical Journal is published monthly by the Southern Medical Association and Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Devoted solely to continuing education, the Journal publishes annually more than 200 original clinical articles directed to the practicing physician and surgeon on topics such as hypertension, osteoporosis, alcoholism, obesity, dementia, asthma, and diabetes and includes monthly CME features.

About the publishers

The Southern Medical Association has been serving physicians' needs since its inception in 1906; its mission is to promote the health of patients through advocacy, leadership, education, and service. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins is a leading international publisher for healthcare professionals and students with nearly 300 periodicals and 1,500 books in more than 100 disciplines, as well as content-based sites and online corporate and customer services. LWW is part of Wolters Kluwer Health , a division of Wolters Kluwer , a leading global information services and publishing company.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events; US: Indiana
KEYWORDS: christians; healing; prayer
I thought many Freepers would be interested in this. And, for those who may not know, the Southern Medical Journal is a well-respected medical publication.
1 posted on 08/05/2010 5:05:23 AM PDT by Pharmboy
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To: Pharmboy

Whether or not these prayers are working by the exact method they claim to (and as a Christian, I believe in many instances they can be) there is something about human closeness and touch that is missing in today’s hospital settings, and under Obamacare this depersonalization can only get worse.

What would one do for a control study? Maybe to hold the patient’s hand, massage his head, etc. and read him a batch of secular get well wishes?


2 posted on 08/05/2010 5:12:09 AM PDT by HiTech RedNeck (I am in America but not of America (per bible: am in the world but not of it))
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To: HiTech RedNeck

Yes...similar thoughts occurred to me...needs a control.


3 posted on 08/05/2010 5:13:24 AM PDT by Pharmboy (What always made the state a hell has been that man tried to make it heaven-Hoelderlin)
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To: neverdem; Jim Robinson; aculeus; SunkenCiv

Random ping for possible interest...


4 posted on 08/05/2010 5:14:33 AM PDT by Pharmboy (What always made the state a hell has been that man tried to make it heaven-Hoelderlin)
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To: Pharmboy

The benefits of hearing someone pray for you makes sense to me. And didn’t Jesus usually go to see those he healed?


5 posted on 08/05/2010 5:19:09 AM PDT by Dem Guard (The + IRS = Theirs)
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To: Pharmboy

thanks for posting


6 posted on 08/05/2010 5:21:32 AM PDT by janereinheimer ((I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.))
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To: Dem Guard
And didn’t Jesus usually go to see those he healed?

With some exceptions, such as the slave of the centurion and the son of the man who said, "I believe - help my unbelief!"

7 posted on 08/05/2010 5:35:11 AM PDT by Tax-chick (Steampunk Baby and the Quest for Bill's iPod - now on DVD!)
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To: Dem Guard
"And didn’t Jesus usually go to see those he healed?"

Not necessarily. There was the centurian's servant and the daughter of another woman. In both these instances, particularly with the centurian's servant, the major point was that Jesus location didn't matter at all with regard to his ability to heal. When the centurian pointed this out, Jesus' praised this gentile for having more faith than any other in Israel

8 posted on 08/05/2010 5:43:55 AM PDT by circlecity
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To: circlecity; Tax-chick

True, it just seemed to me when he could he wanted to go in person.


9 posted on 08/05/2010 5:52:00 AM PDT by Dem Guard (The + IRS = Theirs)
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To: Dem Guard; circlecity

I believe that in most cases, the sick were brought, or brought themselves, to Jesus. He travelled to raise the dead: Lazarus of Bethany and the synagogue ruler’s daughter.


10 posted on 08/05/2010 5:53:21 AM PDT by Tax-chick (Steampunk Baby and the Quest for Bill's iPod - now on DVD!)
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To: janereinheimer

My pleasure...and as a side note, I am really impressed with some of these Freeper’s Biblical knowledge. And I assume they are lay people...but perhaps I am wrong on that.


11 posted on 08/05/2010 6:30:51 AM PDT by Pharmboy (What always made the state a hell has been that man tried to make it heaven-Hoelderlin)
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To: Pharmboy
the Southern Medical Journal is a well-respected medical publication.

I think Granny Clampett had a couple of articles published in there.

12 posted on 08/05/2010 6:31:06 AM PDT by Onelifetogive (For the record, McCarthy was right.)
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To: Dem Guard
The benefits of hearing someone pray for you makes sense to me.

Of course that can also trigger a placebo effect.

13 posted on 08/05/2010 6:33:01 AM PDT by Onelifetogive (For the record, McCarthy was right.)
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To: Dem Guard
And didn’t Jesus usually go to see those he healed?

Sometimes. Sometimes they came to Him. And on at least one occasion, He merely declared it done from across town and it was done.

14 posted on 08/05/2010 6:36:09 AM PDT by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: Pharmboy

Maybe prayer follows an inverse square law.


15 posted on 08/05/2010 6:40:02 AM PDT by Right Wing Assault (The Obama magic is <strike>fading</strike>gone.)
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To: Right Wing Assault
Nice one...that brings me right back to high school physics and one of the few things I got! And, I even remember a friend of mine who was brilliant in physics back then (and still is--he's been an astrophysicist at Harvard for 35 years) who said at the time that the inverse square law speaks for a designer's presence. He said "Why should it be exact whole numbers?" Why isn't it 1.769274 or somesuch?"

Made me think...

16 posted on 08/05/2010 7:03:37 AM PDT by Pharmboy (What always made the state a hell has been that man tried to make it heaven-Hoelderlin)
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To: Onelifetogive
"Of course that can also trigger a placebo effect."

I nearly died and I had "last rites" administered to me. Several weeks later when I woke up and I was told many people I didn't know had prayed for me over time (remotely) and I recovered to the amazement of my doctors. I never heard any of the prayers but I recovered. Prior to this experience I might have considered a placebo effect but not after that.

17 posted on 08/05/2010 8:02:26 AM PDT by Dem Guard (The + IRS = Theirs)
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To: Dem Guard
Prior to this experience I might have considered a placebo effect but not after that.

The Placebo Effect is obviously and incontrovertibly effective. That does not mean that prayer (up close and personal) is not also effective.

18 posted on 08/05/2010 8:25:25 AM PDT by Onelifetogive (For the record, McCarthy was right.)
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To: Tax-chick
"He travelled to raise the dead: Lazarus of Bethany and the synagogue ruler’s daughter."

Also, as you recall, Luke tells us during his ministry he came upon a funeral procession and out of compassion for the mother he resurrected her son who was on his way to be buried.

19 posted on 08/05/2010 9:48:36 AM PDT by circlecity
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To: circlecity

Yes, the only son of the widow of Nain, sort of a drive-by dead-raising, as it were.


20 posted on 08/05/2010 10:07:30 AM PDT by Tax-chick (Steampunk Baby and the Quest for Bill's iPod - now on DVD!)
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To: Pharmboy

Thanks for posting!


21 posted on 08/05/2010 2:01:10 PM PDT by aculeus
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To: Pharmboy

Thanks Pharmboy


22 posted on 08/05/2010 10:08:23 PM PDT by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: Pharmboy

Thanks for posting...printed to share.


23 posted on 08/06/2010 11:07:36 PM PDT by hoosiermama (ONLY DEAD FISH GO WITH THE FLOW.......I am swimming with Sarahcudah! Sarah has read the tealeaves.)
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To: Alamo-Girl

ping


24 posted on 08/07/2010 8:40:04 AM PDT by GOPJ (Asked for ZIP? Give 82224 - Lost Springs,Wy - most sparsely populated in country. Freeper:SamAdams)
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To: GOPJ

Thanks for the ping!


25 posted on 08/07/2010 9:50:45 AM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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