Whether you want to believe it or not, everyone has been given a measure of faith. Faith in God, faith in money, faith in another person, faith in your job, faith in nothing. For many, they exercise that faith into prayer. Many have faith for a change in their circumstance and various other areas of their life. What happens when you exercise that faith into action over the health of others or yourself? What happens when faith and medical science collide?
Medical Prayer Studies
Several medical studies involving how patients fare after receiving, or not receiving, prayer have been conducted. In 1988, Randolph Byrd conducted a study involving 393 patients at the San Francisco General Hospital coronary care unit (CCU). The patients’ condition and symptoms were similar to one another. They were each assigned to a group: those who received prayer and those who didn’t.
The first name, diagnosis, and condition were given to small prayer groups of different Christian denominations. They prayed for a timely, easy recovery, and a recovery free from any complications.
The results? Byrd concluded that “…there seemed to be an effect, and that effect was presumed to be beneficial.” The quality of health of those patients who received prayer fared better than those who did not.
The reactions from the medical community were mixed. Several saw Byrd’s study to be well-executed and well-designed, while others were skeptical of the flaws. A flaw shared by many similar medical studies – the fact that Randolph did not limit prayers by the friends and family of patients, hence it is unclear which prayers may have been measured. For a major criticism, it shouldn’t hold weight. The flaw is the fact that they cannot gauge or measure outside prayers – prayers that work and have an effect on the results.
Similar prayer studies have shown similar results. O’Laoire conducted a study in 1997, William S. Harris in 1999, etc. However, other studies have proven quite the opposite. What does this all mean?
The Placebo Effect
A large part of the medical community attribute the power of prayer to “the placebo effect.” In short, a “placebo” is a medicine or treatment that looks like a regular medicine or treatment, but is not. The positive change in a patient’s symptoms as a result of getting a placebo is called “the placebo effect.” However, attributing the results of a faith-filled patient to merely the placebo effect – implying there is no real effect on the patient – is wrong. The effect that faith in God can do to someone can most certainly and properly be quantified. How?
Neurotransmitters, hormones and other bodily functions change to adapt to our surroundings at any given moment. For example, when we perceive something dangerous, our bodily functions kick in and prepare to either “fight or flee”. Our perception is also changed by knowledge. For example, when we first start driving, once again, our bodily functions take over and we experience stress due to our unknown environment. Sweaty hands, increased heart rate, and increased respiratory rate all are experienced, because you lack higher brain functions like learned skills on how to operate an automobile. This all changes when you gain that required knowledge of the situation. As you get better and better at driving, you have put into practice the acquired knowledge that, in turn, changes the way your body behaves – you may become more relaxed. This simply means, knowledge changed your perception. Faith in God is knowledge. It is the truth for the believer – one who has faith.
With that in mind, medically and scientifically speaking, faith can most certainly attribute to your health. Your body can literally change once you gain knowledge in who God is and what He is capable of – it just requires faith.
While these studies have shown the power of prayer from a distance, faith is a personal act. The medical science community relies solely on experiments and studies confined within a certain parameter. But what happens when results are different (or even very much similar, but altogether discredited) outside of those boundaries? Welcome to anecdotal evidence. Better known as testimonies at your local church. Anecdotal evidence is overwhelmingly where many, if not all, people who have faith and pray experience healing. Those who have had faith and received healing, but were not part of a medical study, fall under this category. It is a personal act. It is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see. It is trusting in God – the One who heals.
If the effect of faith is positive to the patient on a personal level, then why say it isn’t working? Regardless of whether the results are “official” in a medical study or “unofficial” as in anecdotal evidence, the results are simple: Faith in God – the Ultimate Healer – brings a freedom that cannot be attained from any place else. So what happens when faith and medical science collide? The impossible. “Faith is not holding on for your healing but holding on to the God who can do the impossible.”
If you have a comment regarding this issue, I’d love to hear it in a comment!