Steven G. Ayre MD

Dr. Larry Dossey, an internist from Dallas, Texas, did a study a number of years ago that proved scientifically that people’s prayers were of measurable benefit to those prayed for. The study involved people with heart attacks who were admitted to the intensive care unit at the hospital where Dr. Dossey worked. Patients admitted to the odd-numbered rooms in this unit had their names compiled on a list, which was updated weekly. Patients admitted to the even-numbered rooms similarly had their names put on their own list. One of these lists was kept in a desk drawer at the nurse’s station. The other was copied and sent out to a number of churches in the Dallas area where the congregations had agreed to pray over the names. No one amongst the hospital staff knew which list went where. After a period of time, the study was stopped and the code was broken. It showed that those patients in the prayed-for group had a statistically significant decrease in deaths, fewer episodes of cardiac arrest, and a better success rate with cardiac resuscitation procedures than the non-prayed for group of patients.

The power of prayer is available. It makes good sense to take advantage of this simple method of asking for help. There are issues of sincerity, inspiration, and choices of how to relate to reality in all of this. These are personal matters beyond the scope of customary practices in medical consultation. What Dr. Dossey’s study has managed to do is to make prayer scientifically valid as an adjunct to patient care. The decision to use it or not is up to the individual: it is an option. This presentation of the subject is not a prescription for prayer; it is simply information for you.

For those who choose to proceed along this particular path, here are some practical considerations you may find useful. First, you write your name on a piece of paper. Then take this to the clerical head of your chosen congregation and make your request for prayers to be said for relief from your illness. Leave it up to the cleric and the congregation as to how this should actually be done. If there is a fee charged for such services, pay it gladly. As Dr. Dossey did in his own study, you may want to take your name and your request to several different places where people pray. It seems logical to assert that the more individuals involved in the effort of prayer, the greater is the possibility of creating the desired result. Stating it quite simply, “The more, the merrier.” Should you decide to use the power of other’s prayers as a way of getting the help you need, remember then to include yourself in your own prayers. Proverbial wisdom has it that charity begins at home.

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