by Don Ingwerson
Over the years while writing about the efficacy of prayer in healing, I have encountered many who personally experienced the power of prayer. What follows is one such story. A medical doctor wrote up his first-hand account, which was read by a pastor during a Dallas sermon. This is a condensed version:
In April 2011, I was working in the emergency department at Parkland Hospital, and the paramedics brought in a fairly young guy in cardiac arrest. Basically, it appeared he’d had a massive heart attack, and…he was essentially dead… I spoke to his wife and let her know that he had less than a 5% chance of having any meaningful neurological recovery. She…called a friend to pray for him… This friend promised her she would pray for him, and their family as well. The next morning…he opened his eyes and began to squeeze his wife’s hand… God had mercy on their family and healed him in a miraculous way.
Can prayer heal someone? David Larson, MD, MSPH, president of the National Institute for Healthcare Research, writes: “NIHR studies show that participation in religious worship can reduce stress, decrease the potential for addiction disorders, high blood pressure, and cancer, and reduce psychiatric symptoms in those suffering from mental disorders. NIHR has found that prayer and religious commitment can improve recovery rates and shorten the length of a patient’s hospitalization.”
Diane McNaughton presents an in-depth discussion of spirituality and healing, as well as another “miracle” story, in “Faith and spirituality may play a big role in staying healthy.” One way she explains how scientists view prayer is “at its most elementary level, all forms of prayer, with its repetition of words and sounds, evoke a relaxation response that calms stress and promotes healing…” My own concept of prayer goes beyond reducing stress to a quiet sense of listening to God’s voice and the turning of my thought to God for a clear sense of the divine Presence.
Views have continued to shift from the strictly physical healing methods to more support of the spiritual, pointing to the importance of prayer in healing. Increased attention has been directed toward the effects of spirituality and prayer in caring for one’s health. Dr. Mitchell Krucoff at Duke University Medical Center has studied the links between health, prayer, and spirituality for decades and he confirms a positive connection.
Many view prayer as a thought-changer that opens one to the presence of good. This good is described by Dr. Krucoff: “All of these studies, all the reports, are remarkably consistent in suggesting the potential measurable health benefit associated with prayer or spiritual interventions.”
This view in current research tends to support the findings of Mary Baker Eddy, a health researcher and theologian, who was a pioneer in this modern day exploration of spiritual healing in the late 19th century. Even though there are many ideas on exactly what prayer is and how much can be accomplished through prayer, the effectiveness of prayer is gaining ground with the public and the scientific community.