Can prayer improve the health of a distant person?
A study by the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that “prayer for others” was the second most widely used alternative therapy in 2002.
Have you heard of the “Love Study” conducted by The Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS)? This study was conducted to see if an effect from thought at a distance could be confirmed. It focused on finding measurable physical effects rather than on healing results.
In this study an adult in a sealed chamber would hold in their thought loving intentions for their spouse (a cancer patient) who was in another room. It was found that during brief 10-second periods of loving intention, initiated at random times, there was a measurable physiological effect in their spouse.
This study reported that “a half-second after the sender began to direct intention, the receiver’s average skin conductance began to rise. It continued to rise and peaked at the end of the 10-second period, then it began to decline.”
The NIH posts results of the clinical studies they sponsor at ClinicalTrials.gov and they list a number of trials on distant healing. For some reason, no publications are provided for four of the five completed trials and limited information has been provided for the fifth completed trial.
There have been a number of studies on intercessory prayer in the private sector, with mixed results. In one study, by Dr. Herbert Benson of the Harvard Medical School, no measurable effect from intercessory prayer was found in cardiac bypass patients. Interestingly, this study seems to be cited more often than other similar studies, some of which have positive results.
A study conducted at Arizona State University by David Hodge involved an extensive analysis of 17 major studies on intercessory prayer that had already been conducted, some of which found positive results, and some that did not. He says, “Conducting a meta-analysis takes into account the entire body of empirical research on intercessory prayer. Using this procedure, we find that prayer offered on behalf of another yields positive results.”
Is our society as a whole struggling a bit to accept the possibility of distant healing? Perhaps. Yet, prayer for others was found to be the second most used alternative therapy. So maybe we’re growing and learning. In my own daily life, I have found that once you experience distant healing through prayer, it’s impossible to deny.
In the IONS “Love Study”, they indicate that distant healing is still a controversial subject and they suggest that this may be because there are no widely accepted theories explaining how it works. (This doesn’t necessarily imply that there aren’t any theories explaining how it works, only that there aren’t any that are widely accepted). But their “Love Study” offers some physiological evidence of the possibility of distant healing.
You can read more about the Love Study by clicking here.