An Effective Health Care Tool: Prayer

An Effective Health Care Tool: Prayer

© GLOW IMAGES Model used for illustrative purposes only

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.

About the author

Don Ingwerson Don regularly blogs on health and spirituality and lives in Laguna Beach with his wife - both Christian Science practitioners. He brings his years serving the public in education to his work as a liaison of Christian Science, where he maintains contacts with the media and legislative offices.


  1. Graham says

    Prayer has been around for a long time, and individuals in all ages have found it supportive in their daily lives. I like the way you point out that it is gaining ground in being accepted more generally for curative purposes.

  2. Judy says

    It is wonderful to have the medical community validate in quantitative ways the effects of prayer and communion with a Higher Power. Those of us who have experienced or witnessed the value of prayer could add volumes to this discussion. My own father was given up by the medical profession with “hopeless” TB in his early thirties. Two of his siblings had already passed on from this dread disease. He found the book Science and Health and through reading its pages, praying with the new ideas, lived many decades beyond the dire predictions. Prayer does accomplish wonderful things!!

  3. Evelyn Brookins says

    Thank you for continuing to bring this information to our attention. I wonder if the effectiveness of this prayer was helped by the fact that the medical personnel had given up on being able to help. Prayer works unseen by the x-ray machines and stethoscopes – but its results are measurable. It doesn’t require medical equipment in order to be effective.

    • Marsha says

      My husband was not a church member but he did go to church with me and liked the ideas that Christian Science presented. He had the following experience:
      In September of 2010, while demonstrating his saw at the L. A. County Fair, my husband collapsed without a heartbeat. He was given CPR by an off duty fireman and an ambulance was called to take him to the hospital. He was actually not supposed to have made it out of the emergency room. I met the ambulance at the hospital and stood beside the gurney for over an hour while they worked on him. I turned my face to the wall and prayed and did not listen to what they were saying. Four times one of the doctors took me aside to tell me that they did all that they could but that they couldn’t get his heart to beat on its own, and I only said, “This man prays on his knees every night”, and they turned to go back to work on him. The last time, the doctor told me that if he lived he’d be a vegetable. At that point I left the room to go call a friend from church to ask for additional prayers; I went back to my husband and continued to pray. Finally, I heard them saying things like, “I think we’ve got a beat, yes, his blood pressure is up, we can move him upstairs”. The doctors told me that they never work on a case like that for so long; and that they were very surprised that he came through.
      He was in a coma for a few days but when they removed the i-v that had that medication, and he began to wake up, it was apparent that he was in his right mind and understood everything and was beginning to communicate. He used sign language and spelled words in the air before he was able to talk and then improved every day. He recognized that it was prayer that had saved him, but the day to day communication with well meaning family and friends who kept pulling him back into the dire predictions of the doctors, proved very harmful; so he regressed into a lot of fear and finally passed about 18 months later.

  4. Anne says

    I was especially interested in Dr. David Larson’s comment “that participation in religious worship can reduce psychiatric symptoms in those suffering from mental disorders.”

    Some years ago, I was a chaplain for a mental institution in the county where I live. I worked with several patients whose families had requested that they see a chaplain who would pray with and for them. The progress that took place was called “amazing” by the medical staff.

    One young woman had been violent, unpredictable, and difficult to handle. Over a year’s time, she developed patience, a happy attitude, and learned to read at a much higher level than before. She looked forward to our weekly visits and liked to share her progress. She would draw pictures for me and was joyous when I expressed appreciation. When she left the institution, she was able to live on her own and she secured a job that she could handle.

    So from first hand experience, it is definitely true that prayer and a religious outlook can affect any individual in a spiritual, up-lifting way. And I felt blessed to have had this experience with her.

    Thank you for an excellent blog.

  5. Kathy says

    thanks for the article and the wonderful responses! Great to hear the healing of the psychiatric symptoms!

  6. Susan Y. Berry says

    Thank you so much Don, for the inspiring article! It’s wonderful to see prayer getting its due credit as an important resource for health and well being!