Saturday, June 20, 2009

Faith, Religion, Praying, and Medicine

Do you pray? How would you feel if your physician wanted to pray with you? What role does faith play in the world of medicine?

We live in a world where people don't wish to offend anyone with religious comments. There are many people who would welcome prayers (even if they're not religious). Do prayers actually impact clinical outcomes? Various studies have been performed to evaluate this question. One of the most famous studies was a Harvard study published in the American Heart Journal. The 2006 study was titled, "Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: A multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer." Researchers concluded that "Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications."

In a press briefing, Rev. Dean Marek, a co-author who is director of chaplain service at the Mayo Clinic, called the results "unexpected and counter-intuitive." How are we to interpret these results?

Here's my opinion: It's not just about prayer. We have to ask a critical question: Who are you praying to? This is critical. After all, if you're praying to a false god that doesn't exist, then your prayers won't do anything. If God doesn't exist, then prayer is meaningless. However, if you're praying to a real God who does exist, then your prayers can do mighty things. Those who pray and believe in God will attest to that.

Do you pray? Do you believe in God? Do you consider yourself to be a spiritual person? I do and I pray. Painting titled, "Chief of the Medical Staff," by Nathan Greene.

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