How much evidence do people need before they will believe in the power of prayer and healing? If a person is an out and out cynic, probably no amount will satisfy him or her. But if someone is at least open to looking at the latest research in this area, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that prayer and healing really work.
For example, psychiatrist Daniel Benor has reviewed much of the research in this field. While not conclusive (there are too many variables to explain every situation), the evidence for healing is compelling to any open minded person.
First of all, what are we talking about when we talk about healing? Benor’s definition is “the intentional influence of one or more persons upon another living system without using known means of intervention.” I like this definition. It avoids, for the purpose of dialogue, theological, psychological and scientific interpretations of what is happening. It just simply points out that a person or group are able to positively affect another living organism by some unknown method.
Let us take a look at some of the more interesting experiments.
In one experiment, ten people were able, time and again, to affect the growth of fungus from a distance of a few feet over a fifteen minute period.
Benor also points out the work of noted horticulturist, Luther Burbank, who was able to produce new strains of plants. The explanation? Perhaps, posits Benor, Burbank had the ability to influence genetic material by means of intention.
In another experiment, sponsored by the Mind Science Foundation, people were able to influence the production of red blood cells.
A well known English healer, Matthew Manning, has been able to drastically alter cancer cell cultures by holding his hands near the cells. He was also able to replicate this experiment from a distant, electrically shielded room.
Famed healer Oscar Estobany has been able to positively affect the growth of plants. He also had some positive results with animals. In one experiment, for example, Estobany was able to speed up the healing of a mouse by holding it in his hand. He was also able to slow the growth of goiters in mice as a result of his healing method.
Another healer, Rabbi Abraham Weissman, was able to slow the growth rate of tumors in mice.
As far as the healing of humans is concerned, the technique of Therapeutic Touch, among other modalities, has been shown to be somewhat effective. This technique, a form of “laying on of hands” was developed by Dolores Krieger of New York University. Of course, Jesus of Nazareth notably employed the laying on of hands numerous times as He healed those He encountered.
Researcher Randy Byrd is another person who has shown the power of prayer and healing. In his research, he found fewer complications and faster recovery among coronary patients who were prayed for.
And, of course, in the Catholic and Orthodox tradition, thousands have testified as to personal healings as a result of prayer to “saints”.
What are we to make of all this? Hard nosed scientists still tend to dismiss it all as some variation of the “placebo” effect. But, it seems that it must logically be something more than this unless, as Benor notes, “enzymes, yeasts, bacteria, plants and mice are all subject to suggestion!”
The speculation by Benor is that healers carry strong magnetic fields. he theorizes that the magnetic field is able to affect other physical bodies, such as human beings, whose mass is composed of roughly 65 percent water.
Whatever the explanation, it may be a long while before we can ever “prove” anything about the healing process. But, for those who have an open mind about the issue, evidence keeps piling up that is harder and harder to ignore.
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