“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16
I like to research until I have the truth and I’m not afraid to tell the truth, and I will not sugar-coat anything either. So, that being said, what does science and the Bible say about the healing ability of prayer?
First, all of the double blind research studies have been flawed in one way or another. Specifically, several have not taken into account that their control group (not receiving solicited prayer) may be receiving intercessory prayer from friends or family that the researchers don’t know about. This would skew the results.
Second, the people being prayed for didn’t know they were being prayed for. That means that none of the people in the study knew they were being prayed for unless a specific visitor said, “I’m praying for you.” This could also skew the results.
The fact that these studies have problems makes there results subject to interpretation, but they cannot provide definitive proof for or against the effect of prayer.
Other studies have involved people that knew they were being prayed for and the results of those studies have shown statistically significant positive results. The results are still subject to interpretation though. An Atheist would say it was a placebo effect, while a Christian would say it was the healing power of God through intercessory prayer. So, what is the answer? Does prayer do anything specifically or in general for a recovering patient? Well, as a Christian, I have to fall back to scripture, because I believe that it’s the Word of God. So, what does the Bible say?
First the Bible speaks a great deal about healing a person spiritually, healing their soul, spirit or mind. (Psalm 6:2, Psalm 41:4, Jeramiah 17:14, Luke 4:18, among others) If a person knows that you care enough to pray for them, it can have a healing effect on their mind, whether placebo or act of God, prayer helps. Even if it’s secular prayer, like doing rituals or rubbing healing crystals on a person, for non-Christians it’s the thought that counts, elevating the sick person’s mood that helps them heal. Christians know God answers prayer, and that another person cares enough to pray for them which promote healing. The effect of mood on healing is well documented. A happy, joy filled person heals better and quicker.
Second that Bible also talks a great deal about physical healing. (Psalm 103:3, Psalm 107:19-20, among others) Most of this talk of healing is in the form of prayerful palms or prayers. They provide evidence that God heals people through our prayers, because the Word of God is always true, so you can always depend on what it reveals. That’s not very scientific, but I can provide personal eyewitness experiences of prayer working in my life and the lives of those I’ve prayed for.
Third, Jesus and the Apostles healed many people and you can find these healings throughout the New Testament and all were performed by God through Jesus or one or more Apostles as they called upon God to perform the healing.
Prayer works and always works best if the person you are praying for knows that you are praying for them. If they know that you care that much for them it not only affects their mood, lifting their spirits, but opens the floodgates of God’s power in their lives. Intercessory prayer may not have much scientific backing, but each Christian has seen prayer work in practical application, so keep praying and make sure the person you are praying for knows you’re praying for them. In Jesus name, Amen!