Does the power of prayer create medical miracles?

Melissa Leach

Imagine finding out tomorrow that you have cancer. Surgery is required and preventive chemotherapy is strongly recommended by specialists. So you have the surgery and go through chemotherapy, and take numerous types of pills to help relieve the pain and anxiety that you are experiencing. However, did you ever think of turning to your faith for healing – to pray for yourself, or ask others to pray for your return to wellness?

Prayer and attending church are both acts that show faith in God. When we pray, we trust that God will listen, and if he so wills it, he will answer. The correlation between religious faith in God and healing from illness lies in the power of prayer and worship. When we attend church, we worship through prayer and song affirming our faith in God. Prayer has been documented to aid in the healing process and, in some circumstances, to cure the patient completely. When acts of faith such as attending church and prayer are practiced, those who suffer from illness, physical or mental, have a significantly greater chance of recovery than those who fail to affirm their faith through religious acts of prayer and worship.

Before we try to observe whether or not faith has made a significant difference in a person’s illness, we first must recognize what being healthy entails. Defining health is more complicated than it may first appear. Many believe that health is the physical well-being of a person, meaning the person’s affliction can be observed through the human eye, microscope or X-ray. According to the World Health Organization, health is more than the absence of illness. It is a general well-being felt at psychological and a moral level as well as at a physical level. Those of Christian faith are taught to think of illness and healing in terms that affect the entire person-physical, mental and spiritual conditions.

Accordingly, Christians have also based part of their faith in the belief that Jesus Christ was a healer. When Christ walked the earth, he healed the blind, the lame and the terminally ill as part of his ministry. Today, believers affirm that he works through people to heal those suffering from all types of illness. He works through doctors, ministers and lay people.

Francis MacNutt, author of “Healing” explained how this is relevent today. “God works through the doctor to heal as well as through prayer for healing – the doctor, the counselor and the nurse are ministers of healing. All these different professions, with their different competencies, make up God’s healing team.” God works through their hands to help heal their bodies, but he also recognizes the prayers that are offered as an additional means to help the patients during their times of sickness.

While, it may seem impossible to document how acts of faith will have a positive effect on those who are ill, Dr. Harold Koenig, head of the Duke University Center for the Study of Religion/Spirituality and Health, reviewed the results of over 50 major research projects conducted by the center on the relationship between faith and health. Many of his tests have produced positive results in correlating actions of faith to the betterment of one’s health. One of the most striking results he observed was that people with strong faith who suffered from physical illness had significantly better health outcomes than less religious people. Additionally he reasoned that the deeper a person’s religious faith, the less likely he or she is to be crippled by depression during and after hospitalization for physical illness. Koenig’s findings also include results concluding those who attend church regularly, pray and read the Bible attained lower blood pressure than those non-religious or less-religious people.

A cardiologist at San Francisco General Hospital conducted a non-related study. Dr. Richard Byrd studied the effects of intercessory prayer (others praying for the patient) on heart patients for 10 months. The study consisted of 192 randomly selected patients who received intercessory prayer from lay people and ministers as well as a control group of 201 people who received no prayers. Byrd, who published his results in the Southern Medical Journal, found the patients who were prayed for were five times less likely to require antibiotics for infections, indicated stronger immune systems, were two and half times less likely to suffer congestive heart failure and had a significantly lower risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

Every Sunday, millions of Christians attend Mass as an act of faith that has been shown to lengthen life. A study sponsored by Duke University and directed by Kenneth I. Paramagnet suggests that struggling with religious beliefs during an illness decreases the chances of regaining any amount of health. The study, available online at, said persons whose faith is shaken when they fall ill are at greater risk of dying. The study included 565 patients 55 years of age or older from 1996-97, all of whom had various illnesses.

The patients that were studied reported that they felt alienated from or unloved by God and attributed their illness to the devil or, said they felt abandoned by their church community. In these patients there was a 19 to 28 percent increase in the risk of dying within the next two years compared with those who had no such religious doubts.

For centuries, it has been the practice of the faithful to turn to God in times of need, and many of those times can be ones that call on God to cure illness or to ease the pain by illness.

When acts of faith such as attending church and prayer are practiced, those who suffer from illness, physical or mental, have a significantly greater chance of recovery.

However, it hasn’t been until recently that strong faith has actually been proven and documented to help those during times of illness.

This evening as you say your nightly prayers, remember that those words, could be making an impact. While we are not all medical professionals, we each have the gift to heal and the ability to change lives.