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Healing by prayer


Prayer as a supplement to, or as a
replacement for, medical treatment

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This section discusses the use of prayer -- either instead of, or in addition to, medical treatment.

There is a definite and provable link between prayer and improved healing outcomes, if the patient is aware that they are being prayed for. It seems that religious people who know that they are being prayed for may feel less stress and have more hope in their recovery.

Many early studies linked prayer with improved healing in cases where patients were not aware that they were being prayed for. However, close examination of the data has revealed either fraud or inconclusive results. A favorite trick by researchers is to conduct on the order of 20 tests, under conditions in which a positive result will happen due to chance about one time in 20. Then, they report only those rare studies that show positive results.

These early reviews were helpful in that they triggered larger, more carefully designed studies  Large scale, carefully designed double blind studies in which the patients are unaware that they are being prayed for have shown that prayer is ineffective.

This section also describes a related topic related to the health of young children. Many children have died from diseases that are easily treated medically because their parents withheld treatment for religious reasons. As tragic as even one death of a child is, it is important to realize that deprivation of medical attention contributes little to the total mortality rate of children. Dozens of children seem to die every year because their parents withhold medical treatment for religious reasons. But the number of children who are beaten to death or die of neglect annually in the U.S. is in the thousands. 1

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Topics in this section:

bullet Introduction
bullet Parents choosing to withhold medical treatment from their children. Legal exemptions

bullet Conflicts between prayer and medical assistance, some leading to lawsuits. A book on the topic.
bullet Biblical passages about healing by prayer
bulletFaith groups which oppose medical treatment
bullet Large denominations: Christian Science and Jehovah's Witnesses


Smaller faith groups: Part 1 Part2

bullet Effectiveness of individual and group prayer in place of medical treatment
bullet Studies involving the use of prayer to influence medical outcomes
bullet Effectiveness of "distant healing" prayers in addition to medical treatment
bullet Medical reports and web sites which are skeptical of healing by prayer alone
bullet Conclusions about the use of prayer

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Related essay on this site:

Related essay on the Theology Degrees Online website:

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Reference used:

  1. "Child Abuse," Kalamazoo County, MI, at:

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Copyright 1996 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1995-JAN-14
Latest update: 2013-MAY-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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