Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Prayers and effects on health and diseases?

As a health care professional, this article published in Christianity Today website this month (May 2009) is very interesting to me.

In this article, the authors looked at the effects of Christian prayers on the health and disease outcomes of patients.

Click here to read the article:

What the authors did were to analyze many of the studies that had been done before; and I am surprised that there are so many studies on such issue! Click here to view a table of some of the studies analyzed by the authors:

From that table itself, you can see the effects of prayers from many of these studies were at best, inconclusive; with some favored positive outcomes after patients received prayers; others no; still others - negative effects!

This article is a real honest discourse, and its findings may surprise you. It is worth your time to read.

What I've learned personally from this article is that: let's treat prayers with a sense of reverence and awe, remembering we are entering into conversation with the Holy God.

Let's not treat prayers as some sort of magical wand that you swing around and zap! you got your desired results. That's plain selfishness.

Let's not treat God as a vending machine as alluded in the article.

Let's not be presumptuous and let's be very very careful of what you promise to your patients, to your relatives, to your friends!

Let's not reduce prayers into some sort of formula or routine to be chanted.

Let's treat prayers with some degree of mysticism, knowing that God cannot be fully known by our limited human understanding. Our God is a sovereign God, and He does what He pleases. Let's be careful lest we elevate our position to a little god, usurping His throne in our hearts.

In the very first place, I personally don't agree with some of these studies, especially in the STEP study as described in the article. I don't agree the way the study was conducted - randomizing some patients to receive prayers, with some do not. As an evangelical Christian, that's ethically not right; no one should be deprived of prayers. This study should not have been done at all.

As described in the article, God cannot be subjected into scientific research.

C.S. Lewis, as described in the article, said it quite humorously:
"Simply to say prayers is not to pray; otherwise a team of properly trained parrots would serve as well as men for our experiment."

In conclusion, I echo what the authors said:

"In all this, we discover that our obsession with whether prayer works is the wrong question. We know prayer works. The real question is, are we prepared for God's answer?"

For those who like intellectual treatise, you can also go to the authors webpage where they described in more details some of the articles that they have analyzed (but that's more technical). Click here:

Enjoy your reading.

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