The Efficacy of Prayer

In 1988, physician and author Larry Dossey read about a computer-assisted reivew of 393 cardiology patients, half of whom were prayed for by home prayer groups and half of whom were not prayed for. It turned out that the prayed-for group were five times less likely to require antibiotics and three times less likely to develop fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema). As a result of reading about this study, Dossey engaged in a five year exploration of more than 130 scientific studies that resulted in the book Healing Words (1996). His conclusion: praying for someone’s health makes a positive impact on that person’s recovery in a significant number of cases. Although skeptics abound, some impressive results have been reported, including one study in which 10 people focused their prayers on retarding the growth of a laboratory fungus while they were 15 miles from the cultures. Over 70 percent of the cultures showed retarded growth, with the same results occurring 16 times out of 16. (No mention was made of a control group).

In the October 25, 2000 Archives of Internal Medicine, William Harris and collegues at St. Luke’s Hospital (Kansas City, Missouri) assigned 500 heart attack patients’ names to a prayer group, with another 500 patients unassigned. The prayed-for patients had no earthly idea that they were being prayed over daily for four weeks. RESULT: The prayed-over group was doing 70% better than the non-prayed-over group, according to the staff’s traditional measures of patient progress.

The bottom line is: Why not cover your bases and offer prayer to those who might benefit from it? I do have a strong belief in the power of positive personal regard. It can’t hurt to focus attention on others through the form of prayer, and it seems to be well taken. There is a metaphysical connection that takes place through prayer that can’t easily be explained, all I know is that great things happen to those that think outside of themselves.


Daryl Conant, M.Ed.