Prayer as medicine: how much have we learned?


Many people use prayer, and some studies have shown a positive association between prayer and improved health outcomes. This article explores four possible mechanisms by which prayer may lead to improved health.

While acknowledging the efficacy of prayer and recognizing the needs of patients, prayer, being a personal spiritual practice, cannot be prescribed, nor should it be used in place of medical care.

The spiritual search for meaning and hope in life is integral to human existence. This is particularly evident during times of personal stress and crisis. Recent census findings indicate that 74% of Australians and 96% of Americans believe in a higher power, and similar percentages claim some form of religious affiliation.1,2

Evidence also suggests that certain spiritual beliefs and the practice of prayer are associated with improved coping and better health outcomes. Although North Americans have been the predominant participants in most of the research available, the findings are relevant to the Australian experience, as they reflect a basic human desire for supernatural involvement in matters of health and wellbeing.

Marek Jantos and Hosen Kiat. Medical Journal of Australia, 2007; 186: S51-S53

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