KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI. A 1988 study reported significant benefits of intercessory prayer (praying for others) for heart patients. Now researchers at the Mid America Heart Institute, the University of Missouri, and the University of California (San Diego) report the results of a larger study designed to determine the effect of intercessory prayer on the course of illness in heart disease patients admitted to a coronary care unit. The study was randomized, controlled, and double-blind and involved 466 patients in the prayer group and 524 in the control group. All patients were given the usual standard care for heart patients. The first names of the patients in the prayer group were given to "prayer" teams of five Christians who then prayed daily for each person for the 28 days following admission. The prayer was for "a speedy recovery with no complications". The prayer teams only knew the first names of the patients; the patients and their physicians had no knowledge of the prayer experiment. Prayer usually began within one or two days of admission. At the conclusion of the experiment all patient charts were evaluated by cardiologists and the number and severity of adverse events occurring during the stay in the coronary care unit were added up according to a scoring system (MAHI-CCU score) developed prior to the experiment. A statistically significant difference was observed between the two groups with the prayer group having an 11 per cent lower incidence of complications requiring further surgical or medical treatment. The researchers conclude that the effect of intercessory prayer is real, but can offer no explanation for it. Other researchers attribute the beneficial effects to currently unknown physical forces "generated" by the intercessors and "received" by the patients.
Harris, William S., et al. A randomized, controlled trial of the effects of remote, intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients admitted to the coronary care unit. Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 159, October 25, 1999, pp. 2273-78