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Prayer in the Science Lab, Part 3

by Cheyenne Francis Reiswig

Have you ever felt sick to your stomach from anxiety or worry—and then felt the physical tension subside as you waited before God, releasing the situation to Him? Does your hope in God help you deal with depressive feelings that try to get you down?1 Have you seen friends and relatives—or maybe yourself—healed of a physical or emotional malady more quickly or fully because of prayer?

To those who have experienced its results, there can be no doubt that personal prayer and religion are aids to physical and mental health. Even mainstream Americans generally believe this. In 2010, a USA Today poll showed that 83% of American adults believe that God answers prayer.2

The health benefits of a connection with God go beyond the mere granting of our requests. Health professionals and researchers have long known that strong religious beliefs contribute to longer life and better health. Besides overall longevity, the following benefits—and many others—have been documented in various studies:
  • Heart patients who did not practice religion were 14 times more likely to die right after their surgery than were religious patients. 
  • Unchurched elderly people had a stroke rate double that of regular church attendees.
  • Hospital inpatients who did not attend church were shown to stay an average of three times longer than people who did attend regularly.3
  • Engaging in religious activities4 resulted in lower blood pressure.5
  • Spiritually-oriented women suffering from breast cancer had stronger immune systems than those who were not spiritual.6
Although it’s clear that there is a link between religion and health, researchers argue about the cause of the connection. Are religious people healthier because they tend to have healthier lifestyles, stronger social communities, and grateful attitudes—things taught in the Bible and encouraged by religious teachers? Or is God responsible for His people’s health?

As Christians, we know that the answer is "yes" to both questions. The Bible teaches us how to live healthier, happier, longer lives; but our efforts would do no good without God’s blessing. In fact, “He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25).

From a modern scientist’s point of view, however, a connection between prayer and health or religion and health doesn’t necessarily prove that faith—or God—is the cause of the benefits. In God’s mercy, even atheists with good health habits usually reap good health. Since God’s health laws work for all who follow them, many scientists claim that lifestyle choices—rather than the Lifegiver—are the cause of good health.

They’re partially right, of course. But we as Christians know that there is more. We have God’s Word, and we know that His promises are there to claim. No matter what scholars and skeptics may say, God promises, “He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; . . . With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him My salvation” (Psalm 91:15, 16).

He also says, “My son, forget not My law; but let thine heart keep My commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee” (Proverbs 3:1, 2).

We don’t need to wait for science to “prove” the power of prayer and faith. Instead, let’s make full use of these God-given blessings today!

(Series concluded.)

1. See Psalm 42:11.
2. Grossman, Cathy Lynn, “Poll: 83% say God answers prayers, 57% favor National Prayer Day,” USA Today, May 4, 2010. 
3. Koenig, Harold, et al, The Handbook of Religion and Health. Reported on
4. The “religious activities” that lowered blood pressure did not include watching or listening to religious TV or radio programs.
5. Koenig, Harold, et al, “The relationship between religious activities and blood pressure in older adults,” The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 1998, Vol. 28, No. 2.
6. Sephton, S.E., et al, “Spiritual expression and immune status in women with metastatic breast cancer: an exploratory study,” The Breast Journal, September/October 2001.

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