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Medical science finds faith in prayer

Scientific studies have recently confirmed what many people believed all along: Prayers help the sick.

A study published in the recent issue of Journal of American Medical association (JAMA) has shown that praying for patients helps in their recovery. It does not prove that God answers prayers or that God even exists, the study clarifies. It simply focusses on the potential of prayer as an adjunct to standard medical care.

To remove any bias in the study, both the patients and staff were completely 'blinded', not only to the assignment of treatment groups but also the very existence of the trial. A special exemption was also granted from the requirement to obtain informed consent.

The study was conducted on over a thousand patients who were newly admitted to the coronary care unit of the Mid America Heart Institute: 484 patients were assigned to the prayer group and 529 to the usual care group. The first name of patients in the prayer group were given to intercessors, who would pray for four weeks. The intercessors were chosen on the basis of their firm belief in the existence of God.

The study, says the journal which does not publish any study papers without peer review, found fewer complications occurred in the prayer group patients.

Both doctors and spiritual leaders here supplemented the study results with their experiences. Additional professor of surgery at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, Dr. Anurag Srivastava, says : "Before every surgery I pray. For every known complication in a surgery, I offer a prayer that it may not happen. Usually the results are better, there are less post-operative complications." He is surprised that most hospitals here, unlike in the West, do not have a special place where relatives can go and pray.

Dr. Anjali Mishra, a specialist in diagnostic medicine, says her experiences have made her believe that prayers, if offered with complete faith, have a positive impact. "I don't know how it works. But if you put your energy into it and concentrate, it helps. I don't know whether there is a God or not, but there is something else besides matter," she says.

The study does not offer any mechanical explanation for the outcome, " We cannot know why we obtained the results we did, " the investigators of the study say. However, spiritual leaders here give a possible explanation. Vikas Malkani, author and spiritual guide, says praying is essentially sending out your positive energy. This could be specifically directed at someone. "It is like ringing the bell of the Universe." Therefore, people who have a heightened self-awareness and better energy levels can achieve results. It has always been known that thought have energy. That is why bad thoughts produce a disturbing effect, he says.

Almost similar reactions come from Swami Jyotirmayanand, head of the Chinmayanand Mission in Delhi. Prayers and thoughts can certainly be transmitted, depending on how powerful your own transmitters are, he says.

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