Testing Prayer

Testing Prayer: Science and Healing

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Testing Prayer
    Book Description:

    Drawing on medical records, surveys of prayer recipients, prospective clinical trials, and multiyear follow-up observations and interviews, Brown shows that the widespread perception of prayer’s healing power has demonstrable social effects which can in some cases produce improvements in health that can be scientifically verified.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06486-7
    Subjects: Religion, Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: The Magisteria of Science and Religion
    (pp. 1-20)

    Public opinion polls report that most Americans believe in the healing power of prayer. In a 1996 Gallup Poll, 77 percent of respondents agreed that “God sometimes intervenes to cure people who have a serious illness,” and 82 percent affirmed “the healing power of personal prayer.” Of those queried in a 1997 national survey, 91 percent said that when they think of God, the image of a healer is either “extremely likely” (70 percent) or “somewhat likely” (21 percent) to come to mind. In 2003, 72 percent of those polled attested that “praying to God can cure someone—even if...

  5. CHAPTER 1 From Toronto Blessing to Global Awakening: Healing and the Spread of Pentecostal-Charismatic Networks
    (pp. 21-63)

    On January 20, 1994, Randy Clark, the pastor of a Vineyard church in St. Louis, Missouri, traveled to Toronto, Ontario, at the invitation of John Arnott, the pastor of the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church, to preach four services. What happened surprised everyone, not least Clark and Arnott. About 160 people attended the first service. When Clark said, “Come Holy Spirit,” people shook, fell down, produced deep belly laughs, felt peaceful, or acted intoxicated. Some converted to Christianity, testified to physical and emotional healing and deliverance from demons, or dedicated their lives as missionaries to bringing good news to the nations...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Why Are Biomedical Tests of Prayer Controversial?
    (pp. 64-98)

    For the last five hundred years, since the beginnings of what scholars term modernity, Europeans and North Americans have hotly debated these questions: Can and should the effects of prayer for healing be tested empirically? If so, what methods and standards of evaluation should be employed? There is indeed a fascinating history of great reversals concerning where cultural groups have positioned themselves on these questions. Nor is this subject a matter of merely antiquarian interest. Debates over empirical investigations of prayer are raging with particular intensity at the present cultural moment. What motivated Christians’ opposition to empirical studies in the...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Are Healing Claims Documented?
    (pp. 99-154)

    In 1953, the British Medical Association, in response to a request from the Archbishops’ Commission on Divine Healing formed by the Church of England, established a committee to conduct a retrospective investigation of medical evidence for divine healing through prayer. The committee proceeded by distributing a questionnaire to British physicians asking them to provide medical documentation of any spiritual healings with which they were familiar. Seventy physicians responded to the survey by describing anomalous recoveries that they attributed to divine intervention. The committee dismissed most of the cases as psychosomatic improvements in “functional” rather than “organic” conditions. In such cases,...

  8. CHAPTER 4 How Do Sufferers Perceive Healing Prayer?
    (pp. 155-193)

    George first traveled with Global Awakening on an international ministry trip to Cuba in 2004. His primary motivation for going was frankly a quest for his own physical healing—of a brain tumor for which no medical treatment was viable and for which the prognosis was grim. In the six months since the diagnosis, George had been aggressively seeking intercessory prayer for healing at a series of North American pentecostal conferences located in every region of the United States and Canada. Almost every time ministry teams prayed for him, George perceived a powerful touch from the Holy Spirit—he fell...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Can Health Outcomes of Prayer Be Measured?
    (pp. 194-233)

    Preaching from a makeshift bamboo platform in a typical mud-hut village in northern Mozambique, near the southeast coast of Africa, Heidi Baker issued a promessa, or promise: “Bring me your deaf, and Jesus will heal them, in confirmation of the truth of the gospel.” The moon was almost full on this clear, tropical winter night. In the comfortable 80-degree weather, most of the thousand-person, predominantly Muslim village had come out. They were attracted by the showing of the Jesus Film, in the local Makua language, on a portable projector and screen with the help of generator-powered stage lights and a...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Do Healing Experiences Produce Lasting Effects?
    (pp. 234-274)

    The head-on collision occurred just five minutes after eighteen-year-old Randy Clark had been challenged by his drug buddy Geofry: “Clark, come on—admit it! You know that if we were in a wreck right now and you died, you’d go to hell!” Another friend, Joe—who also got drunk and stoned daily—chimed in: “Yeah—that’s right!” Clark, who was being ribbed for “getting religion,” had just rededicated his life as a Christian and insisted, “No, Joe—I wouldn’t go to hell. But how about you?” Just then an oncoming car knocked the teenagers’ vehicle off the road. It flipped...

  11. Conclusion: What Science Can Show about Prayer
    (pp. 275-292)

    This book began by asking about the relationship between science and religion, affirming the importance of respecting their distinct magisteria but also suggesting the advantages of bringing scientific perspectives to bear on religious practices in a manner that is not simplistically reductionist. Although science can never prove nor disprove the so-called healing power of prayer, empirical perspectives can reveal a great deal about prayer for healing—just as attunement to religious perceptions can illumine much about the nature and practice of science. The preceding chapters presented a series of views of how scientists and religious practitioners construct healing prayer, and...

  12. Appendix: Healing Survey
    (pp. 293-298)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 299-350)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 351-352)
  15. Index
    (pp. 353-372)