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Prayer vs. medical help

Conclusions about physical healing by prayer

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There are a number of passages in the Bible which promise believers that they can always rely on the power of prayer to cure themselves and others. However, there is ample evidence that the Bible is wrong. While some outcomes match the prayer requests, others do not. The failure of faith healing is described in various passages of the Christian Scriptures.

Prayers for healing frequently fail today; otherwise, Christians and Jews would have significantly greater life expectancy and an improved physical health compared with Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, secularists, etc. There does not appear to be any evidence that this happens.

While it is true that Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists have a longer life expectancy, this appears to be due to better diet and lower smoking rates. Meanwhile Christian Scientists seem to have a shorter life expectancy, apparently because of their frequent rejection of medical support and reliance on prayer.

People may pray, have elders' hands laid on them, or ask for victory over illness, and still remain ill or die.

Retired bishop John Shelby Spong of the Episcopal Church, USA was asked about how a person should pray for a public figure who is in ill health. He replied, in part:

"For anyone, however, to attribute curative power to an intervening deity begs the question of how this deity would decide who to cure and who to let die. If God were to be understood as letting social rank, privileged lives, and the concern of countless numbers of people for an important public figure be the determining factor in divine cures then that God would have to be dismissed as demonic. Prayer is so much more than adult letters to Santa Claus. Elizabeth Edwards obviously understands that. I admire both her faith and her courage. ..."

"I also believe that any time any one of us prays for another, it places into the universe positive power that no one can quantify, nor should they try to do so. Prayer, however, has value beyond that since it also helps each of us to escape our own web of self-oriented concerns, making us more whole and more human. We need to stop presuming that we can understand how prayer works or even how that which we call God might use our prayer offerings and simply be about the task of living, loving and being as a way of practicing the presence of God and then leaving the results to God. I commend this pathway to you." 1

Prayer will probably remain a mystery forever.

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  1. Bishop John S. Spong, "Special Question and Answers from Bishop Spong," 2007-MAY-09, Subscription service, Waterfron Media.

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Copyright ©  1999 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally written: 1999-MAY-11
Latest update: 2007-JUN-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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