Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Center to Promote Studies of Effects of Prayer

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Center to Promote Studies of Effects of Prayer

Article excerpt

In the past century, physical scientists and religious believers have often taken separate paths in their pursuits of truth. But in recent years there's been a growing interest in applying scientific methods to study the effects of prayer.

To date, most of the effort has been driven by researchers in the United States. In what could be a major step to broaden scientific inquiry of prayer, a panel of leading religious figures and medical researchers used a conference of the Parliament of World's Religions in Barcelona, Spain, to announce the opening of the Office for Prayer Research.

Medical researchers at Duke and Harvard universities joined author Deepak Chopra and Tom Zender, president of Unity, a spiritual movement, to introduce the center, to be based in Missouri.

Mr. Zender says that the new office will offer "a safe haven where different researchers [working on the scientific study of prayer] can come together to collaborate and share information." He sees the new center as a "global repository" that will not sponsor scientific studies into prayer's effectiveness, but will gather information and make it available to others.

For its supporters, the Office for Prayer Research signals a public acknowledgment that prayer's benefits to health are being taken seriously.

Dr. Chopra, who hosted the panel, explained: "Even though prayer has existed in every spiritual tradition, only recently has science begun to validate that prayer 'works,' which in the field of medicine means that patients who are prayed over recover faster and have fewer complications from serious illness. But science is at a loss over why prayer works, and it will remain at a loss until we revise our most basic theories of what we call reality."

Yet the scientific study of prayer's possible benefits thus far has aroused far less interest in Europe than in the US. …

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