Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Prayer a Day

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Prayer a Day

Article excerpt

For centuries, doctors and nurses have understood the importance of respecting the religious and spiritual beliefs of their patients. Now, there is evidence that praying contributes to better health.

"A lot of physicians are skeptical or embarrassed to study prayer as a factor in healing," says Paul Duckro, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at St. Louis University School of Medicine. Yet spiritual aspects of health are being considered more than ever by medical researchers, he says.

Duckro reviewed studies published during the past 30 years on the direct effects of prayer on physical health. He found that while the effects of the experiments were small, the studies seem to be reliable and encourage further exploration.

Some researchers have tested the power of prayer by studying plants rather than humans. The authors of the study report that the seeds for which prayers were offered sprouted more often than seeds in the other group. Under conditions of increasing stress, such as placing the seeds in progressively more concentrated saline solutions, the seeds for which people prayed continued to germinate more successfully.

"The fact that you would find such a thing has caught a lot of people's attention. To try to explain it is very difficult," says Duckro.

Skeptics say it is not only difficult to explain but impossible. They say there must be something wrong with the studies. But more physicians are starting to believe that science isn't the only factor in healing.

"For years, prayer as a source of healing and well-being has been ignored in mainstream science," says Duckro. "But the pendulum never ceases. There has been an accelerating interest in the role of prayer and other religious variables in the healing process."

While many people have their doubts, some scientists are willing to investigate.

"Whatever it is, it certainly doesn't seem to be limited by the laws of energy and energy flow as we know them. In physics, you can document physical activity. These kinds of rules don't seem to be relevant in terms of prayer," says Duckro.

In some studies involving prayer, people were asked to pray for people who were sick in other cities. …

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