Dr. Chauncey Crandall once kept a strict line between his religious world and his scientific world. He no longer does. Years of medical practice have shown him clearly that patients who follow religious paths fare better and have less anxiety, depression and loneliness than those with no religious beliefs. When he prays for his patients, they not only welcome it, they benefit from it. In general, praying relieves stress that is destructive to health, induces a calm state and causes unhealthy hormones to dissipate.
A study published in the Southern Medical Journal found that patients who were prayed for by others fared better as well. They had fewer complications and required less drug treatment. A recent study at Duke University Medical School found that patients who received intercessory prayer had lower complications and quicker recovery rates than patients who received other non-medical therapies.*
I would like to add a personal experience that is taking place as I write. Last week my husband Bob had open heart surgery for replacement of an aortic valve and two by-passes. We are grateful that God gave him a warning just in time to stop irreversible heart damage. All of our children prayed for him, our ministers prayed for him, our elders anointed him as they laid hands on him and prayed and an enormous number of friends here and around the country prayed for him. He came through the operation extremely well and is recovering much faster than many heart patients half his age. We believe all these prayers are being answered as we watch him recover well ahead of schedule.
When he was released from the hospital last Sunday, he slept a few hours, then insisted I take him to church for our evening Bible Study. Members of our congregation were totally surprised to see him. His experience lines up with the findings of the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine that those who attend church at least once a week and pray and study the Bible regularly have a 40 percent lower diastolic blood pressure than those who attend less frequently and pray less often. There are now multiple research studies that have found that both prayer by the patients themselves and intercessory prayer from other people help patients recover faster from illness and help them live more satisfied lives.
A recent special issue of the Mind Health Report listed 47 Health Benefits of Prayer. It was a compilation of major studies of the effects of prayer and religious practice on various illnesses and physical conditions. Dr. Andrew Newburg, the founder of neurotheology, concluded that religious beliefs and activities such as prayer “have a profound impact on our mental and physical well being by reducing stress, improving resistance to diseases, enhancing memory and mental function, and helping us to lead longer lives.” **
Study after study proved that belief in God and regular prayers help people get through a wide range of diseases, endure pain well, and predict a longer and healthier lifespan. Prayer affects regions of the brain that improve self-control, increase a person’s ability to forgive and therefore have greater satisfaction in life, increases gratitude and reduces the impact of financial difficulties, helps victims of abusive relationships to recover a positive view of themselves and reduces emotional pain.
It helps cancer patients experience greater well-being and a far better quality of life; traumatic brain injury victims experience a better recovery; heart surgery patients have fewer complications and shorter hospital stays. Prayer helps calm the anger of high blood pressure patients and fosters positive emotions such as compassion. Caregivers experience improved moods and stress reduction, and Alzheimer’s patients experience a significantly slower progress of the disease. In addition to more rapid recovery from illness, research has found that couples who share religious beliefs, who think, discuss and practice their beliefs in the home as well as church are happier than those with no religious orientation or those who only attend church services. ***
Scientific research has made it clear that those who pray seriously and frequently affect their own lives and the lives of those they pray for in a multitude of positive ways.
*Dr. Chauncey Crandall, M. D., Heart Health Report, Vol.3, Issue 12, December 2012
** Special Report, Mind Health Report, 47 Health Benefits of Prayer, page 1
*** Ibid, Taken from studies throughout the report.