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Scientific Research Confirms Distant Healing
by Cynthia Sue Larson
August 8, 2000
Sue Larson and Elisabeth Targ
Cynthia Sue Larson and Elisabeth Targ

In the past thirty years, hundreds of distant healing studies have been conducted to help us better understand the connection between our thoughts and feelings and non-local effects in the physical world. Of these hundreds of studies, some stand out as statistically significant, well-designed, reproducible experiments. These landmark studies are confirming that people are able to influence the health and well-being of people being prayed for, even across great distances, and even when those doing the praying do not know the people they are praying for.

What is distant healing --
and why should we care?

Basically, distant healing has been defined as being a conscious, dedicated act of mentation attempting to benefit another person's physical or emotional well-being at a distance. Prayer and spiritual healing both fall under this definition, as do general "well-wishes" by those who insist they have absolutely no religious or spiritual beliefs whatsoever. Essentially, all belief systems are equally powerful at providing non-local healing, as we are beginning to see from the results of several remarkable new experiments. Our own health, as well as the health of those around us, and even the eco-systems we live within, all benefit from distant healing.

Distant Healing Research
Begins on Humans

Cardiologist Randolph Byrd conducted a rigidly designed randomized, double-blind experiment in 1988 to determine the effects of prayer on patients in the Coronary Care Unit at San Francisco General Hospital over a ten-month period. A computer made the random assignments of which of the 383 newly-admitted patients involved in this study would be prayed-for, and which would not. The statistically significant findings of this study were that prayed-for patients were five times less likely to require antibiotics, three times less likely to develop pulmonary edema... and none of the prayed-for patients required endotracheal intubation (in which a tube is placed in the patient's throat) whereas twelve of the non-prayed-for patients required this procedure.

Byrd's remarkable findings might have been widely accepted when they were first reported, were it not for some rather sharp criticisms directed at the study participants (only born-again Christians were selected) and the lack of consistent directions given to the prayers about how they should pray (no directions at all had been given). Furthermore, the study could not confirm that those doing the praying actually prayed, nor could it tell anyone how experienced those doing the praying were at praying -- and some very serious ethical questions were raised about praying for people who feel morally opposed to prayer intervention and/or not praying for people who devoutly believe in the power of prayer to heal. Due to these shortcomings, many felt that Byrd's study was inconclusive.

Recent Exciting
Research Findings

In 1999, researchers from the Mid America Heart Institute at Saint Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, set out to conduct a more scientifically valid version of the Byrd study. Researchers William Harris, Manohar Gowda, Jerry Kolb, Christopher Strychacz, James Vacek, Philip Jones, Alan Forker, James O'Keefe, and Ben McCallister designed a randomized, controlled, double-blind, prospective, parallel-group trial to determine whether remote intercessory prayer for 990 hospitalized coronary care unit (CCU) patients would reduce overall adverse affects. This time, the intercessors represented a variety of Christian traditions, with 35% listing their affiliations as non-denominational, 27% as Episcopalian, and the remainder as other Protestant groups or Roman Catholic. Intercessors were recruited no particular denomination by investigators via contacts in the local community for their experience in prayer, and were required to agree with the following statement, "I believe in God. I believe that He is personal and is concerned with individual lives. I further believe that He is responsive 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 the hospital the same average length of time as those not prayed-for, but their overall CCU course scores were significantly lower. In this study, only 51 (10.9%) of the prayed-for patients 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%) of the control group did.

Researchers William Harris and his colleagues were careful to point out some of the factors that they were unable to control for in their prayer study:

Another recent small-scale study involving the effects of intercessory prayer on 40 humans was conducted with Elisabeth Targ and several of her colleagues at San Francisco's California Pacific Medical Center, in conjunction with the Geraldine Brush Cancer Research Institute and UCSF. This randomized, double-blind study set out to determine the effects of distant healing on people suffering from advanced AIDS. With admirable attention to experimental detail, this study controlled for variation in severity and prognosis of different AIDS related illnesses, 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 of backgrounds and beliefs (including Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Native American, and shamanic traditions as well as graduates of secular schools of bioenergetic and meditative healing). The distant healers (DH) were required to have had a minimum of five years regular ongoing healing practice, previous healing experience at a distance with at least ten patients, and previous healing experience with AIDS. These healers had an average of 17 years of experience and had treated an average of 106 patients at a distance. The prayer treatments continued for six months, over which the DH group required significantly fewer outpatient doctor visits, fewer hospitalizations, fewer days of hospitalization, fewer new AIDS 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 critics. In addition to these ground-breaking human prayer studies, there are literally hundreds of scientific studies that researchers have conducted with yeast, molds, sprouts, and other life forms that vividly demonstrate the significant difference that human thoughts and prayers have on the physical world. Because these studies are free from many of the ethical and "extraneous prayer" problems commonly found in human prayer experiments, they are likely to lead the way in helping us discover how consciousness changes the physical world.

Researchers at Spindrift have shown remarkable laboratory evidence that indicates that some people are naturally more proficient at producing non-local effects, and that non-directed prayer (where instead of a specific outcome, a general sense of what's best is intended) can produce extremely powerful results. Indeed, it's usually best for growing organisms to receive the non-directed form of prayer, rather than receive prayers to "grow HUGE", because non-directed prayers keep organisms in better balance.

for Further Information

Byrd, RC. Positive Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer in a Coronary Care Unit Population; Southern Medical Journal; 1988; 81:826-829

William S. Harris. 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; October 1999; 159:2273-2278

F. Sicher, E. Targ, D. Moore, and HS Smith. A Randomized Double-Blind Study of the Effect of Distant Healing in a Population with Advanced AIDS - Report of a Small Scale Study; Western Journal of Medicine; December 1998; 169:356-363

Spindrift Research Foundation
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