THE HEALING POWER OF PRAYER

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A growing number of Americans (nine in ten, by the latest audit) pray and believe in the power of prayer. Eight in ten believe that miracles can and do happen today.

A remarkable three persons in ten report instances of a profound healing of a physical, emotional, or spiritual nature This proportion projects to sixty million adults.

The American people have consistently told pollsters over the last fifty years that prayer brings them many positive results, including a deep feeling of well-being, strength, and courage, and a sense of the presence of God. Yet, while Americans are a praying population, it was not until the final decades of the twentieth century that the scientific community and medical professionals began in earnest to study this fundamental fact about human life.

Many who pray seek a closer link between the medical and spiritual worlds.

For example, while presently only 6 percent of persons interviewed nationally indicate that their doctors pray for them at times of serious illness, eight times this proportion would like them to do so .Among those who experienced a doctor praying with them, as many as 93 percent think the doctor’s prayer helped them with their medical problems. In addition, most ((& percent) believe the prayers helped them recover.

Most who pray, furthermore, would like to deepen their prayer lives. Surveys suggest that the prayer life of Americans tends to be undeveloped and undernourished. Significant numbers feel that their church could better serve them by helping them to develop and strengthen the role of prayer in their daily lives.

Even among those most dedicated to prayer, persistent questions predictably arise: Why does prayer seem to work in some cases but not in others?----Is God really listening?----Does prayer really help to bring about healing of the body and the mind?----How can one learn to accept prayer in the context of God’s eternal love and oversight?

The Healing Power of Prayer is making a timely appearance and sheds new light on these basic questions. It is authored by two men who speak from a wealth of experience in their respective disciplines, each man a dedicated believer in the power of prayer.

Dr. Harold Koenig, director of Duke University’s Center for the study of Religion/Spirituality and Health, is a pioneer in his field, and for the last quarter-century he has, through his own studies and the studies of others, brought exciting new findings to light showing the relationship of prayer to health.

He is teamed with Dr. Chester Tolson, who brings his many years of experience as a pastor and teacher to this book. This dual authorship is a real plus for the reader since it links the scientific world to the spiritual world and provides practical suggestions on how one can live a deeper and ongoing life of prayer.

Drs. Koenig and Tolson cover many aspects of prayer, including the types of prayer, grace and prayer, and the power of praying together This last topic, covered in the last chapter of the book, has particular meaning to me. My wife and I have been members of a small Bible study and prayer groups for the last twenty years and can testify to the power of praying together in groups—we have seen many miracles in terms of healing relationships and in many other ways.

The Healing Power of Prayer brings the reader up to date on findings from numerous studies that reveal the wide range of health benefits, both of mind and body, that can be linked to prayer, thus undergirding what people presently believe on the basis of intuition and/or faith. The authors deduce from studies that “faith and belief in God activate the physiological processes in the body—the immune system, the hormone system, and the circulatory system—to speed healing and recovery.”

Direct Supernatural Intervention is not ruled out!

The authors point out that there are many healings for which no medical explanation is possible.

Particularly fascinating is their speculation that God, in such miraculous healings, may be breaking through the established order of creation by altering the course of nature at the atomic or subatomic level in a way that is undetectable to modern medical science. And we need to remember, the authors note, that God exists outside time and space and can make alterations in nature in such a way that cannot be observed by people living today.

Koenig and Tolson, very importantly, remind us that there are numerous forces that are at work during healing experiences—medicines and drugs; medical knowledge and technology; surgery; faith; caregiving, and prayer. These are, they write, “gifts from God to help us with the healing process.”

Readers who are intent on informing and deepening their prayer lives will find this book to be of great help. Counselors in many fields will discover that The Healing Power of Prayer belongs among the most important books on their desks.

From a personal point of view, This book will be very helpful to me of the healing ministry team at my church and as a hospital caller. And as a “cancer survivor” myself, I find The Healing Power of Prayer to be an enlightening and profoundly reassuring book.

This book offers many important insights and observations. One that readily comes to mind is this: that healing should not be categorized as either strictly due to medicine or strictly due to faith—“All healing is divine, all healing requires faith, and all healing is miraculous in that people are made whole again.”

George Gallup, Jr.

INTRODUCTION

In 1962, Rev. Chester L .Tolson, then pastor of the Village Presbyterian Church in Rancho Santa Fe, California, coauthored the book Peace and Power through Prayer with Clarence William Lieb, M.D. Dr. Lieb ha been the private physician of the late Rev. Vincent Peale in New York. He was also one of the founders, with Dr, Peale, of the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry. It was Dr. Peale who encouraged the writing of that book and wrote the introduction also.

He wrote about the joint effort of a physician and a clergyman on the subject of prayer. Dr. Peasle was at the time the senior pastor of the Marble Collegiate Church of New York City and had written the best-seller The Power of Positive Thinking ten years before. Being a pastor, and having family inn the medical profession, he had great interest in and insight on how prayer is a factor in healing.

In his introduction, Dr. Peale pointed out that this “collaboration of a physician and minister was a bridge builder between these two old respected professions of medicine and ministry” Furthermore, he noted how in recent years, physicians and pastors have worked in even closer cooperation, based, no doubt, upon the modern recognition that the whole man must be considered in the healing process, that disease may be induced from fractures within the soul, no less than infections by germ transmission. Many modern doctors acknowledge that mental health is inseparably related to phys- ical well being. That many people are draining back into their bodies the diseased thoughts of their mind is a very well known phenomenon. Thus, cures are increasingly related to healthy states of mind, which in turn lead to a cleansed condition of the soul.

In a book Peace and Power Through Prayer, Tolson and Lieb developed a section on prayer and health. They said that since the mind affects the body and prayer can affect the mind, so prayer can affect the body. “Therefore, prayer can be a signifi cant factor in the preservation of health, and in the prevention of disease.” They went on to suggest that specific physiological processes in the body might be favorably affected by the calming influence of prayer.

Moreover, they said,”Prayer might aid in the production of antibodies in combating diseases.” At that time, they said that early studies were underway to establish the relationship between stress and the immune system. In the laboratory, two groups of mice were infected with the same amount of destructive germs. One group of infected mice were placed in a “free-run”: environment, and the other group were put in a maze. The mice that were stressed out in the confusion of the maze had a much slower recuperative period if they even survived. The mice in the free-run setting were much more likely to fully recover.

That simple test illustrated that the mice under stress apparently could not mount an immune response to fight off the infection as well as could the mice that were not under stress. Studies at the same time also found a correlation between stress and health in humans. Today, since prayer may be a factor in reducing stress, we also thought that prayer might assist in physical healing.

Since that time, much scientific research has been done that has corroborated the hypothesis that thoughts and feelings can influence the cardiovascular and immune systems. In over seventy medical schools across the United States today, medical students are taught about the mind, body, and spirit relationship and its implications for human health.

As a physician, biostatistican, and associate professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Medical Center, I have helped to conduct over twenty-five research studies exploring the link between religion and health. My colleagues and I recently completed much of the research done on this topic over the past one hundred years in the Handbook of Religion and Health (Oxford University Press, 2001).

Over five hundred studies have now documented correlations between religious practices like prayer and better health. I have also seen the powerful effects of faith in the lives of my patients, and what a tremendous difference prayer has made in their healing—physical, mental, social, and spiritual. There is power in prayer-----There is Little Doubt About That!

I read the book Peace and Power through Prayer written by my friend Chet Tolson and Dr. Lieb. Dr. Lieb has been deceased for several years now.

Chet and I decided after a number of face-to-face meetings, correspondence by mail and e-mail, and many, many telephone calls that it was time to write a book on the subject of stress, religion, and health to bring the discoveries of recent years to light.

Prayer is very important in my own life. Every day I take time to pray, usually in the morning after waking up. Throughout the day as I encounter difficulties or stresses or internal struggles, I talk with God about it.

For me, prayer begins with adoration and worship. I recognize who God is------- the creator of everything that has ever been or will ever be; the person who first thought of me and brought me into being; the one who, at the exact moment of my death, I will leap toward and whose strong and loving arms will catch me.

Next I recognize who I am.

I confess all of the selfish decisions, thoughts, and strivings that have hurt others.

I confess pride, arrogance, and lack of kindness and compassion.

I confess worry over things that really don’t matter.

I confess my lack of attention to God and to the things of God during the day.

Then I express thanks that:

  • I have been blessed with physical and mental health,
  • a comfortable house, plenty of food,
  • a loving wife and two beautiful children,
  • other caring family members,
  • friends and colleagues,
  • a fulfilling and fun job,
  • freedom in the greatest nation in the world, and
  • more than anything Faith in and a relationship with a loving God, who gives my life purpose and direction.

Finally, I ask God for things:

I ask him to protect the physical and emotional health of my mother. (Who must care for my ailing father, completely immobilized by a massive stroke, locked in his body unable to speak or even swallow. I ask him to stay by my father’s side and never leave him for an instant.)

I ask for blessings for my friends and coworkers and for the many for whom I have promised to pray I ask for greater faith and trust so that I would not worry about the present or the future.

Then I listen.

It’s God’s turn to talk!

As a five-year-old boy secretly confided in his grandfather one day, “When I go to bed at night and it gets really dark and really quiet in my room, if I hold my breath, lay very still and listen carefully, I hear Jesus talking.”

The little boy could hear Jesus talking.

That small, quiet voice in the night.

What beautiful illustration describing the time to be quiet and silent in prayer, listening for God’s voice. Why pray? For me, it is to spend time with the closest friend I will ever have here in this life and in the next.

While the book is about prayer and its healing potential for mental and physical illness, it is not restricted to health matters alone. It is a book about prayer. It address the whole subject of prayer; what it is, how to pray, what happens when you pray, and how to pray more effectively when we have a visit with God.

Harold G. Koenig, M.D.

Editor's Favorite:

PRAYING

We do control our attitudes and responses.

Our part in praying is to try to put out of our minds doubts, fears and pessimistic thoughts. Remember:

If we believe we are beaten,
Our thoughts may block our victory.
If we are afraid to believe,
We may not understand the answer.

If we want to achieve but do nothing,
Our lethargy may block our accomplishments
If we think we are going to lose,
We may set in motion our defeat.

But wish with God’s help,
Whatever our struggles may be,
Our attitude, our faith, and our determination
Will help ignite the spark of grace.

For us to understand and do whatever
God wills for our lives.

The Healing Power of Prayer

Chapter 7, Faith & Prayer, pg. 106.

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