Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

What Religion Can Do For Your Health

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Like many of you, I’m always telling people I will pray for their health, and I mean it. I realize that every person I pray for doesn’t get his wish just because I’ve engaged the Guy upstairs in a conversation, but somehow I feel better knowing I put it in God’s hands.

So it was with interest I read Beliefnet’s interview with Dr. Harold G. Koenig, co-director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke University Medical Center, where he also serves on the faculty as Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Associate Professor of Medicine. Dr. Koenig is the author of many books, including “The Healing Power of Faith,” “Faith and Mental Health,” and “Spiritual Caregiving,” and he has been nominated twice for the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. He spoke with Lisa Schneider of Beliefnet about why he believes being part of a religious community can make people healthier–and happier.


To read the full interview click here. I have excerpted a few paragraphs.

A recent study suggests that praying for others does not improve their health. How do you interpret the results?

I think the results are very consistent with good science and good theology. Good science because there’s no acceptable scientific mechanism or pathway by which prayer–at least the way it was designed in this study without people knowing whether or not they were prayed for–could have any effect, and it’s good theology because God is not predictable, he’s not a part of the material universe.


It tells us nothing about the effectiveness of prayer. Do you think it’s impossible to do that?

It’s impossible for studies designed like this. God would have to be quantitative and predictable, which is ludicrous in the context of any Christian or Jewish or Islamic tradition and even within the Eastern traditions.

How do you measure God’s will for a person? Ninety-six percent of the participants in the Harvard study had someone else praying for them. We don’t know how much prayer they had, we don’t know how sincere the prayers were. None of that was taken into account, and it would be very hard to measure those things. And none of the benefits to the prayed-for group were measured after 30 days. Maybe God healed them after 30 days–we don’t know. You can see that this study is ridiculous.


Putting aside the ability to be able to prove it or not, do you believe that prayer can heal–specifically help someone, for example, recover from cancer?

Absolutely. I believe that on faith and I also believe it because I’ve seen that happen with people, including personal friends. Of course they knew they were being prayed for, by their families and their churches, and those people have had remarkable recoveries. I believe it because it says it in the scriptures that I believe in. So there’s no doubt in my mind that prayers help people–those who are prayed for and those saying the prayer.

One thing we do know is that God is good and because God is good, whatever God allows to happen or does in response to prayer has to be good. Theologically speaking it may be bad for a person to do well after coronary artery bypass surgery. It may be that if a person had some complications, he would realize his limitations, he may reach out to God, he may forgive his neighbor, he may tell his loved one that he loves them. Good things come out of difficult situations.


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  • Melzoom

    Not to be confused with Ms. Rhonda Bynes, but I do think prayer or similar ritual is helpful–even if it is only a placebo/element of the power of suggestion. I may not stop the physical act of death or illness, but I firmly believe the introduction of other’s powerful and positive energy manifested and directed through prayer changes the way we experience our illness or the dying process. The strength may not come from God/Higher Power, but rather from the support we have in our daily lives of those who love us. And the act of compassion shown by the person praying is certainly admirable and in alignment with every major religion.

  • D.Bheemeswar

    It is all about the health of mind specially the way the brain functions for a given inputs. What I meant to say that the we train our brain and react for a given input. Simply speaking it all depends on the attitude of the individual his/her experience educational background and society in which they have grown. What I meant to say tjhat all about attitude and aptitude of the individual. Come back to scientific explanatiopn of the brains function, as it produces so many harmones and some emzymes, which are essential for controlling some functions of our organs and inbalance in any one of the harmones or emzymes may lead to health problems. Unfortunatley most of these harmones and emzymes depend on level of blood cholestrol or vitamine D3 and vitK1O and vit E, even though all other vits essential but the vit D3 is elemental in reducing the free radicals that are released in the body and brain, we can call the level of immunity and resistance of the body. Since the brain can not make Vit D3 and it is produced only under the skin unless there is good supply of blood circulation this shall not be effective. One more aspect of Vit D3 is that it can work under resonance also to combine with free radicals. This respnance can only be produced by sounds of certain order, which are there in some of the prayers, unless untill they are pronounced in certain order and tune they shall not be effective.
    I am least bothered wheteher there is god or not but I believe in the body and mind to be in good health, body can be tuned by some exercises but the mind only by meditation, since the prayer is part of meditation in order to tame this mind the prayer is best. Better if can not think any thing during meditation, as it gives the highly effective results and controls the free radicals to bare minimum in the mind, which in turn helps in effective production of emzymes and harmones in the brain. One way we can say that the prayer let it be any type, one has to chose depending on their degree of comfort stimulates the brain to function more normally with high metabolism.
    Since the brain also has the capacity to view the unknown(far away people) figures one can concentrate on them and do the meditation which has some positive effect on those person(s) who are far way. this we can say as trascedental power or bliss.

  • Jeter Poslin

    The last comment is absolutely ”RUBISH”,mytifisical mish-mash.I hope people out there understand that.

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