City, Missouri, set out to conduct a more scientifically valid version of the Byrd study.Researchers William Harris, Manohar Gowda, Jerry Kolb, Christopher Strychacz, JamesVacek, Philip Jones, Alan Forker, James O'Keefe and Ben McCallister designed arandomized, controlled, double-blind, prospective, parallel-group trial to determine whetherremote intercessory prayer for 990 hospitalized coronary care unit (CCU) patients wouldreduce overall adverse effects.
This time, the intercessors represented a variety of Christian traditions, with 35% listing theiraffiliations as nondenominational, 27% as Episcopalian, and the remainder as otherProtestant groups or Roman Catholic. Intercessors were recruited with no particulardenomination by investigators via contacts in the local community for their experience inprayer, and were required to agree with the following statement, "I believe in God. I believethat He is personal and is concerned with individual lives. I further believe that He isresponsive to prayers for healing made on behalf of the sick."
The results of this replication of Byrd's study were that the prayed-for patients stayed in thehospital the same average length of time as those not prayed for, but their overall CCUcourse scores were significantly lower. In this study, only 51 (10.9%) of the prayed-forpatients required major surgery, whereas 76 (14.5%) of the control group did; and only 12(2.6%) of the prayed-for patients required intra-aortic balloon pumps, whereas 20 (3.8%) ofthe control group did.
Researchers William Harris and his colleagues were careful to point out some of the factorsthat they were unable to control for in their prayer study: "In evaluating the results of thistrial, it is important to note that we were most likely studying the effects of supplementaryintercessory prayer. Since at least 50% of patients admitted to this hospital state that theyhave religious preference, it is probable that many if not most patients in both groups werealready receiving intercessory and/or direct prayer from friends, family, and clergy duringtheir hospitalization. Thus, there is an unknowable and uncontrollable (but presumed similar)level of 'background' prayer being offered for patients in both groups; whatever impact thatgroup assignment had on healing was over and above any influence background prayermay have had."
Another recent small-scale study involving the effects of intercessory prayer on 40 humanswas conducted by Elisabeth Targ, co-author of this article, and several of her colleagues atSan Francisco's California Pacific Medical Center, in conjunction with the Geraldine BrushCancer Research Institute and UCSF. This randomized, double-blind study set out todetermine the effects of distant healing on people suffering from advanced AIDS. Withadmirable attention to experimental detail, this study controlled for variation in severity andprognosis of different AIDS-related ilnesses, utilizing the Boston Health Study (BHS)Opportunistic Disease Score to measure the degree of AIDS-defining and secondary AIDS-related diseases.
The 40 experienced distant healing practitioners in this study came from a wide variety ofbackgrounds and beliefs (including Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Native American andshamanic traditions as well as education in secular schools of bioenergetic and meditativehealing). The distant healers (DH) were required to have had a minimum of five yearsregular ongoing healing practice, previous healing experience at a distance with at least tenpatients, and previous healing experience with AIDS. These healers had an average of 17years of experience and had treated an average of 106 patients at a distance. The prayertreatments continued for six months, over which the DH group required significantly feweroutpatient doctor visits, fewer hospitalizations, fewer days of hospitalization, fewer newAIDS-defining diseases, and a lower illness severity level as defined by the BHS scale.
Further Studies Show Great Promise
Clearly, distant healing researchers are honing in on addressing the concerns voiced by
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