Scientists don't know why or how it works, but an increasing number of studies suggest what people have known intuitively for thousands of years: prayer does work.
One well-known study found that coronary patients at San Francisco General Hospital who were prayed for did better than those who were not prayed for.
The prayed-for patients required fewer antibiotics and were less likely to develop certain complications than the unprayed-for group.
One doctor said of the coronary study, “Maybe we doctors ought to be writing on our order sheets, ‘Pray three times a day.' If it works, it works.”1
A 1995 study at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, examined how patients' own prayers affected their recovery from open-heart surgery.
This study found that patients who said they drew comfort and strength from religious faith, which presumably included prayer, were three times more likely to survive in the six months following surgery as “nonreligious” patients.
Some people are skeptical of studies like these, believing that people's expectations of getting well influence the results.
Consequently, many studies have been done on animals and plants, who theoretically are unable to influence the results.
These studies, which all used control groups that were not prayed for, have found that mice, seeds and even mold and red blood cells could be healed or protected by prayer. (See Healing Words by Larry Dossey.)
The studies show how powerful the mind can be and suggest that prayer works. They demonstrate a principle you may have already discovered for yourself—you can use prayer to create spiritual and material changes in your life.
1. Dr. William Nolan, quoted in Larry Dossey, M.D., Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine (HarperSanFrancisco, 1993), p. 180.