by Ruth Buczynski, PhD

The theme of healing prayer is very common in the history of spirituality, but what about in the technical, scientific field of modern medicine?

There has been incredible debate in the medical community over whether or not prayer can impact healing.
While some studies seem to demonstrate that prayer can enhance healing, others show that there is no real benefit to prayer interventions.
One of the most controversial areas of prayer research is intercessory prayer – how healing is affected when others pray for an ill or injured individual.
There hasn’t been enough research done to definitively answer that question, but I wanted to share with you one of the fascinating and well-known studies that has been done on distance healing – and why the results are so controversial.
Dr. Elisabeth Targ published a study in the Western Journal of Medicine of 40 advanced AIDS patients. 20 were control subjects and the other 20 were sent healing thoughts by healers from various spiritual backgrounds.
This study was a matched, double-blind trial, which means that neither the patients nor the researchers knew who was being prayed for.
Healers from different parts of the United States sent healing thoughts for an hour each day, six days per week, over a 10-week period.
The control group did not receive any scheduled prayer (although we must keep in mind that people outside of the research study may have been praying for them).
During the six months that the study went on, the patients who received distance healing improved significantly on three factors: they required fewer doctor’s visits, needed fewer hospitalizations, and experienced fewer AIDS-related diseases.
What’s more, the treatment group experienced a significant drop in depression, tension, confusion, and fatigue compared to the control group.
However, the findings were controversial because the researchers had unblinded the study and then reblinded it (meaning the subjects and their group assignment became known to the researchers) in order to find meaningful effects.
Originally, the study was designed to look at how distance healing affects mortality in AIDS patients, but when new treatments came out during the study, finding significance became very unlikely. To save the study, Dr. Targ and her team looked at the patients’ medical records and testing to find new data.
This study did not follow its original design, making the results controversial. But it raises some very interesting questions about the effectiveness of distance healing…​

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