Scientists say prayers work
by James Gooder
Friday 12 September 2003 2:21 PM GMT
The daily ritual of prayers may
have a wide-reaching effect on
our fellow beings
As you say your prayers tonight, make them count, as scientists have presented evidence that they really can help heal the sick.
According to new findings presented at
Recent studies into the effects of prayer on sample groups of patients - scientifically known as "directed intention" - helps the sick in ways beyond current understanding.
Whether evidence of the existence of God, or the power of the human mind, the research suggests that we should be careful what we ask for.
Dr Peter Fenwick, a neuropsychiatrist
He was presenting his findings to the festival in
Fewer drugs and complications
Research carried out in
Iraqi Catholic women tap into
the power of prayer
The crucial detail is that the patients did not know which group they were in, so any difference in results could not be attributed to their own will power or faith, but to the "intercessory prayer" of others.
The studies indicate that prayer may help people lock into powers of the human mind which are currently beyond understanding.
An earlier study in a hospital in
The study involved 500 patients who all had heart problems. A little more than half of them were made the subject of intercessory prayer.
Using a standard coronary care scoring system patients from prayer and non -prayer groups were assessed. Those who had been made the subject of prayer did better than their fellow patients, although in general, they did not get out of hospital earlier.
The research team at
The team's final report said, "We have not proven that God answers prayer or that God even exists.
"It was intercessory prayer, not the existence of God that was tested here. Chance still remains a possible explanation for our results."
Tibetan pilgrims prostrate during
Random chance aside, the results give a measure of scientific credibility to what many devout religious believers have always maintained.
Dr Fenwick said to his
"Subjects who are unaware they are being prayed for can be significantly helped.
"The fact that science seems to confirm the ability of prayer, or directed intention, to heal other people raises the question that the mind may influence other people directly," he said.
Mind over matter
"There are two ways to view the universe," Fenwick has said. "Our current world model is that everything is matter."
In other words, everything that we think of as "real" in scientific terms has a physical form that can be perceived by our senses. But this model, which philosophers call "radical materialism," cannot explain the existence of consciousness, which has no
So how do we account for consciousness? "There's a little (unexplained) miracle, and consciousness arises," Fenwick says of the current paradigm.
However, another theory proposes that the basic building block of the universe is not matter but instead consciousness itself. This is described as the "transcendent" view, a perspective shared by many of the world's religions.