Study.. Praying Won't Affect Heart Patients

by VM44 6 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • VM44
    Study: Praying Won't Affect Heart Patients

    By MALCOLM RITTER, AP Science Writer

    Does praying for a sick person's recovery do any good?

    In the largest scientific test of its kind, heart surgery patients showed no benefit when strangers prayed for their recovery.

    And patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications. Doctors could only guess why.

    Several scientists questioned the concept of the study.

    Science "is not designed to study the supernatural," said Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at the Duke University Medical Center.

    The researchers emphasized that their $2.4 million study could not address whether God exists or answers prayers made on another's behalf. The study could look only for an effect from the specific prayers offered as part of the research, they said.

    The study "did not move us forward or backward" in understanding the effects of prayer, said Dr. Charles Bethea, a co-author and cardiologist at the Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City. "Intercessory prayer under our restricted format had a neutral effect."

    Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School, co-principal investigator of the study, agreed. "We cannot come to a conclusion, except to say that by this study design, with its limitations, this is what we found," he said.

    Researchers also said they didn't know why patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of complications than patients who only knew that such prayers were a possibility.

    Maybe they became anxious by the knowledge that they'd been selected for prayers, Bethea said: "Did the patients think, 'I am so sick that they had to call in the prayer team?'"

    The researchers said family and friends shouldn't be discouraged from telling a patient about their plans to pray for a good recovery. The study only focused on prayers by strangers, they said.

    It's the largest and best-designed study ever to test the medical effects of intercessory prayers — praying on behalf of someone else. But critics said the question of God's reaction to prayer simply can't be explored by scientific study.

    The study followed about 1,800 patients at six medical centers. It was financed by the Templeton Foundation, which supports research into science and religion, and one of the participating hospitals. It will appear in Tuesday's issue of the American Heart Journal.

    The research team tested the effect of having three Christian groups pray for particular patients, starting the night before surgery and continuing for two weeks. The volunteers prayed for "a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications" for specific patients — their identities known only by first name and first initial of the last name.

    The patients, meanwhile, were split into three groups of about 600 apiece: those who knew they were being prayed for, those who were prayed for but only knew it was a possibility, and those who weren't prayed for but were told it was a possibility.

    The researchers didn't ask patients or their families and friends to alter any plans they had for prayer, saying such a step would have been unethical and impractical.

    The study looked for any complications within 30 days of the surgery. Results showed no effect of prayer on complication-free recovery. But 59 percent of the patients who knew they were being prayed for developed a complication, versus 52 percent of those who were told it was just a possibility.

    Koenig, of Duke University Medical Center, who didn't take part in the study, said the results didn't surprise him.

    "There are no scientific grounds to expect a result and there are no real theological grounds to expect a result either," he said. "There is no god in either the Christian, Jewish or Moslem scriptures that can be constrained to the point that they can be predicted."

    Within the Christian tradition, God would be expected to be concerned with a person's eternal salvation, he said, and "why would God change his plans for a particular person just because they're in a research study?"

    Dr. David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, said he believes intercessory prayer can influence medical outcomes, but that science is not equipped to explore it.

    "Do we control God through prayer? Theologians would say absolutely not. God decides sometimes to intervene, and sometimes not," he said.

  • RunningMan

    "The study "did not move us forward or backward" in understanding the effects of prayer,"

    Hmm. It seemed pretty conclusive to me. I love the last line that says that sometimes God intercedes and sometimes he doesn't. Sounds like God is indistinguishable from random chance, to me.

  • SickofLies

    "Who should I save today?"

  • Shining One
    Shining One

    VM 44,
    Apparently the leftist AP atheist forgot to do his research....

    Consider the post by you, REFUTED.

  • VM44

    Psychology Today > Oct, 1989 > Article

    The prayer war - Herbert Benson's research on health benefits of prayer

    Stephen Kiesling

    The Prayer War

    Back in 1968, when Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson first began research on the physiology of meditation, he didn't suspect that he would one day set off scientific debate on the health benefits of prayer. Nor did he expect to be attacked for teaching U.S. senators how to pray.

    But that's exactly what happened recently in political struggles over S.J. Res. 135, a resolution to establish a national commission on human-resource development. The ensuing publicity ignored the purpose of the bill--to help U.S. workers compete with Japanese companies--and charged that Benson had led senators in a "heathen" meditation at the hearing. The political brouhaha that followed sent the resolution back to committee, usually the death knell for any legislation.

    Citing prayer as good for your health stems from many years of medical research. Benson did his first experiments entirely with Transcendental Meditators, Americans in the TM movement founded in the United States by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. TM trainers charged about $200 a head to teach hundreds of thousands to meditate with a mantra--an Oriental word that previously had no meaning to its user but became endowed with ritualistic value in the course of training.

    Benson and his fellow researcher, physiologist Robert Keith Wallace, found that the repeated mantra replaced the arousing thoughts that otherwise keep us tense during most waking hours. Result: lower metabolic rate, slower heart rate, lower blood pressure and slower breathing.

    Hail Mary . . . Our Father

    Many scientists were astonished at these data. Benson suspected he had tapped into a universal reaction. "When I got significant reductions in such basic body functions, I couldn't believe TM was the only way to get them," he recalls now. To confirm his suspicions, he instructed people to use the word one or any other word or phrase they found comfortable.

    He then turned to Christians and Jews who practiced the standard Western form of meditation--prayer. He had Roman Catholic subjects use "Hail Mary, full of grace" or "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me." Jews first tried davening prayers, later settled mainly for the peace greeting, "Shalom," or "Echad!" meaning "one." Protestants often used the first line of the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father who art in heaven," or the opening of the 23rd Psalm, "The Lord is my shepherd."

    They all worked. By the time he wrote up his research in The Relaxation Response (a 1975 bestseller), Benson had found that all major religious traditions use simple, repetitive prayers. Such repetitions, his research suggests, all create what he calls the relaxation response (RR). RR is exactly opposite to the stress reactions widely studied as the fight-or-flight response, an organism's defense against dangers.

    The Faith Factor

    As a hard-nosed scientist, however, Benson kept trying to avoid the untidy variety of actual prayers. He had his subjects continue to use the English word one or other simple phrases. Again, all worked, but brought on a new problem: dropouts caused by boredom. Benson felt the need to keep people from giving up meditation. His experiments had begun to show that RR brings significant benefits in reducing headaches, hypertension and other pains such as premenstrual syndrome. Even cancer patients suffered less pain with the relaxation response.

    People who used prayers rather than meaningless phrases, Benson found, stayed with the method. So he began to work with religious researchers on a related phenomenon he calls the faith factor. His data suggest that the benefits of faith may interact with the direct physiological benefits of RR and that prayer sets up the interaction. He also found a connection between RR and exercise: When runners meditate as they run, their bodies are more efficient. This discovery led small goups of runners and walkers to try "aerobic prayers." They cadence their short prayers to their steps.

    Beyond Stress to Spirituality

    While he talked about meditation, not prayers, Benson sensed the spiritual implications of his findings. So did many others. He found himself swapping religious ideas with theologians, religious sociologists, born-again psychologists, the Dalai Lama himself, monastic orders, and such diverse groups as ecumenicists and long-term backers of Billy Graham. Two years ago he started a series of programs with hospital chaplains and other religious workers to see how RR would influence their spirituality as well as their health.

    But first he had to teach the preachers which styles of prayer evoke RR. His partner in this research is psychologist Jared Kass, an experienced meditator raised in the Conservative Jewish tradition. Last fall, Kass, Benson and other colleagues invited 30 priests, ministers and rabbis to the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Boston's New England Deaconess Hospital. Kass began the training by reporting their evidence that people who feel themselves in touch with God are less likely to get sick--and better able to cope when they do.

    Spiritual High

    The actual meditation--praying--hit the class harder than all the talk. Since Benson believes that RR makes people intellectualy more open, he was prepared for a lively response. But he was startled at the excitement among the religious pros. Most got into a praying high, long lost in the hassle of the rat race. "This is why I came into church work in the first place," said one, "and I'd lost it."

    Christianity's past is rich in meditation. "In the Catholic tradition, for instance, during the `Orison,' or elevation of the soul, monks would first clear their minds of everyday thoughts and then focus on a prayer or the image of Mary," says Kass. But in the age of logical positivism, remarkably few intellectuals before Benson ever thought such efforts would produce real spiritual effects, let alone physiological changes. There are several standard psychological scales for measuring spirituality, but few have been used as before-and-after tests for prayer. Kass, Benson and their colleagues developed an INSPIRIT scale to do just that.

    People high in spirituality--which Benson defines as the feeling that "there is more than just you" and is not necessarily religious--turned out to score high in psychological health. They also have fewer stress-related symptoms. Next, he found that people high in spirituality gain the most from meditation training: They show the greatest rise on a life-purpose index as well as the sharpest drop in pain.

    The groups of chaplains and church leaders who went through the programs last fall and this year have been so deeply influenced that Laurance Rockefeller, who funded the original experiment, has put up money for two more years in hopes that the churches will themselves extend the program in the years beyond. Thoughtful graduates of the Benson course are careful to distinguish between science and religion. "I don't want to lose my faith if science changes its point of view," argues Rev. Charles Newbery, rector of St. John's of Lattingtown Church in Locust Valley, NY.

    Few of the 102 Protestants, Jews and Catholics who've gone through the Benson training can resist a gleeful smile over the discovery that prayer seems to do some of the things they'd always hoped, and maybe a lot more. As it strengthens the spirit, it heals the body. But any force that proves to have such power must inevitably rouse conflict. As reported last month in Psychology Today, there's already a bit of political skirmishing around Benson and others who suspect that his work may have practical implications right here on earth.

  • startingover


    I don't see that from the article. All I see is that effects can be had from different sources. Prayer is just a placebo that works if you think it will work.

  • luna2
    Hmm. It seemed pretty conclusive to me. I love the last line that says that sometimes God intercedes and sometimes he doesn't. Sounds like God is indistinguishable from random chance, to me.

    And it only took 2.4 million dollars to come to this conclusion. Cool! lol

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