Whether we have faith or not, studies have shown that prayer can have real, measurable effects on health.
We hear or say the words anytime someone we know is in the hospital: “Please pray.” And whether we have faith or not, scientific studies have shown that prayer can have real, measurable effects on health.
For the April/May issue of Mysterious Ways, assistant editor Daniel Kessel spoke to a number of hospital chaplains to learn more about their dual role–part clergy, part healer.
It might surprise you to know that our founder, Norman Vincent Peale, didn’t always believe prayer could measure up to modern medicine. “I always took a rather coldly scientific view of the healing process. I had an abhorrence of anything that smacked of quackery,” he once wrote.
But that changed one evening when he was a young minister in Syracuse, New York, and was awakened from a sound sleep by a phone call:
“I snapped on the light and looked at my clock. Two A.M. Picking up the telephone, I heard the familiar voice of a very close friend, a leading physician in the city. ‘Norman,’ he said, ‘I'm sorry to awaken you at this hour of the night, but I have a patient about whom I am greatly concerned. I need help. Will you come and join me here?’ ”
“What in the world can I do to help you except pray?” Norman asked.
The physician rebuked him, saying, “What could possibly be more powerful than prayer?”
Norman got dressed and traveled to the patient’s house. Before entering, he stopped and asked the Lord to guide his faltering efforts.
He looked at the woman in the bed. Her face was white. She seemed to be in a deep coma. “What are her chances?” Norman whispered.
“I've had consultations,” the physician answered. “I've done all I can. It is now in the hands of the Great Physician. But he has great power.”
Norman and the physician sat on opposite sides of the woman’s bed, praying “silently and in depth for her, trying to drive our prayers through into her consciousness.”
The young minister even quoted passages of scripture he didn't feel he could remember in their entirety, but he found the words came to him. “My conscious mind didn't know them, but my unconscious mind did, and God gave them back to me.”
As the two men continued to pray, color began to come into the woman's cheeks. Then the most amazing thing happened: She opened her eyes wide and started to recite scripture passages herself.
The crisis had passed. “I'm sure she will get well," the physician told Norman. The woman did, and lived for many years thereafter.
“It was by this time five o'clock in the morning,” Norman wrote. “Sleep was of no concern to me at all, I was so excited. I had never felt more alive, more awake, in my life. I could hardly contain myself. I remember that I walked for a long time, overwhelmed by the wonder and the glory and the majesty of it all, with a whole new consciousness of the power of God dawning in my mind–that we heal through God's servants the doctors, and we also heal through our own faith.”