Can Prayer Heal?


Healing Is More Than A Cure, Prayer Is More Than Medicine

by Eric Elkin

Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven.
— James 5: 15

Can prayer really heal or is this claim just a marketing tool for faith communities? This question is becoming a growing point of interest in scientific research. It seems reasonable that a culture as bright as ours would be able to secure verifiable evidence.

An internet search for studies on the impact of prayer on healing provides a witness to the complexity of answers to this simple question. Several studies claim to be the study which provides the most definitive results. Others were filled with either skepticism or exaggerated results. The search seemed to confirm something I expected, religious beliefs seemed to influence outcomes.

Some articles on the power of prayer read like a Billy Mays infomercial. They offered such claims as people who never attended church had an average hospital stay three times longer than people who did. Lack of prayer made people fourteen times more likely to die after heart surgery.

One of the most comprehensive studies was published in the American Heart Journal in April of 2006. The study cost $2.4 million, involved 1,802 patients and utilized doctors, scientists, and hospital chaplains. The results were not good for religious people. Matter of fact, it seemed to suggest prayer was not the answer to healing.

Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.
— Max Lucado

The one question I often struggled with when it comes to prayer and healing is, what does healing mean? Studies that claim prayer can lower your blood pressure make prayer feel very empty, as though my prayer is no different than aspirin. Is personal physical health the reason I pray?

If prayer has the power to guide you through surgery without dying, then who would ever die? Jesus brought back Lazarus from the dead, but Lazarus still died. The healing from prayer must be something more than avoiding death.

Even when people give personal testimony to the power of prayer in healing. What happens when someone prays with equal sincerity, frequency, and authenticity and yet, do not experience recovery? 

I’ve come to understand healing is something more than a cure from a physical ailment. Just as prayer is more than a form of preventative medicine. Through prayer, I find myself connected to the world. I get connected to the needs of others, as well as, my own.

Prayer reminds the body, mind, and spirit that they are all connected. It is this connection and communicating to the one who joins them which makes me feel most whole. I just don’t know how to verify the healing of this to others. And, maybe, that’s okay.

Click to read James 5: 13-20

Reflection Questions:

  • How often do you pray?

  • What results do you expect from your prayers?

  • What does healing mean to you?

  • When have you experienced it?

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