The impact of prayer on biological healing processes is a long-standing debate within western culture. This debate has gained more traction in recent years as researchers conducted studies examining potential relationships between these variables. For some people, scientific support is irrelevant as their spirituality is grounded in faith regardless of scientific alignment. For others, prayer holds value only so far as science supports its impact potential (Dezutter, Wachholtz, and Corveleyn, 2011; Stewart, Adams, Stewart,and Nelson, 2013).
Research findings highlight the role spirituality plays in self-management of illness. Religion and spirituality are highly rated as significant within the framework of patient value system. In one particular study, findings revealed that 62% of surveyed patients reportedly participated in prayer and spiritual healing. Prayer is the most commonly reported spiritual intervention for patients seeking healing (Stewart, Adams, Stewart,and Nelson, 2013).
Prayer is commonly implemented to target medical conditions. Patients report high levels of perceived helpfulness. Results from yet another study indicated that an inverse relationship between religious activities and state of health; individuals with poor health engaged in more religious activities than those with better health. Significant correlation existed between spiritual perspective and well-being among terminally ill hospitalized adults (Stewart, Adams, Stewart,and Nelson, 2013).
Patients report experiencing spiritual care from a multitude of sources including their health care professionals. There is value for health care professionals and caregivers in knowing the spiritual beliefs of their patient as it informs them on how to best respond to the patient’s needs. One recent study examined spiritual impacts on a subject population of persons diagnosed with eye disease. Among this population, prayer was the most common alternative medicine intervention implemented with the goal of improving their disease state (Stewart, Adams, Stewart, and Nelson, 2013).
The effect of prayer on disease progression is reportedly inconsistent; particularly with cardiovascular disease and systemic hypertension. Studies involving these specific diseases revealed that prayer had no effect on the disease state or progression. Conversely, studies involving non-cardiovascular diseases found prayer to be associated with positive clinical outcomes. The reason behind the efficacy of prayer in these instances remains unknown. However, researchers note that a patient’s spiritual interaction and participation in religious behaviors may result in feelings of comfort, increased treatment compliance and understanding about their disease, and increased quality of life (Stewart, Adams, Stewart, and Nelson, 2013).
Dezutter, J., Wachholtz, A., & Corveleyn, J. (2011). Prayer and pain: the mediating role of positive re-appraisal. Journal Of Behavioral Medicine, 34(6), 542. doi:10.1007/s10865-011-9348-2
Stewart, W. C., Adams, M. P., Stewart, J. A., & Nelson, L. A. (2013). Review of clinical
medicine and religious practice. Journal of Religion and Health, 52(1), 91-106.doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10943-012-9578-9