The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Prayer and Distant Healing

Prayer, Distant healing

What is it?

Prayer can be described as requests made while trying to connect with God or another object of worship. People often pray for the ill or dying. Prayer is a part of many religious traditions and has also been studied as a form of complementary medicine.

Distant healing is the projection of healing intention for the well-being of another from afar. Distant healing may or may not involve prayer to God, religious principles, or spiritual forces to help in the process.

Distant prayer is a broader concept than prayer. It includes prayer, but also other approaches to help heal another from afar. For example, it might include attempting to mentally project influence for another’s well-being without asking for the help of a supreme being. Prayer is a very common form of social support and coping mechanism for people dealing with serious illness or who are undergoing a medical procedure.

Hospital chaplains and counselors are trained to respect different religious backgrounds in addressing the spiritual and emotional needs of patients, their families, or loved ones. The chaplains and counselors often incorporate prayer in their support.

Supporters argue that prayer should be used as a form of medical treatment. Critics argue that, without a proven mechanism of action, prayer and distant healing should not receive scientific attention and resources.

People use prayer and distant healing for critical illness, HIV/AIDS, alcoholism, anxiety, burns, leukemia, heart disease, pain, depression, infertility, high blood pressure, kidney disease, helping with childbirth, reducing the risk of death, psychological well-being, quality of life, recovery from surgery, rheumatoid arthritis, sickle cell disease, quitting smoking, diabetes, warts, abnormal heartbeat, cystic fibrosis, improving immune function, increasing blood flow in the brain, skin swelling (inflammatory dermatoses), meningitis, menopausal symptoms, neurological disorders, sepsis, spinal cord injury, stress, stroke, polio, and wound healing.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for PRAYER, DISTANT HEALING are as follows:

Possibly Ineffective for…

  • Recovery from surgery. Research suggests that prayer therapy does not improve major heart-related events or death rate following heart surgery. Prayer also may not prevent complications or improve recovery after open-heart surgery.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for…

  • Alcoholism. Research suggests that adding prayer to standard treatment does not reduce alcohol consumption in people with alcoholism.
  • Anxiety. Early research suggests that using prayer for 7 weeks might reduce anxiety in healthy college students. It also might lower anxiety before an MRI.
  • Heart disease. There is mixed evidence about the effects of prayer in people with heart disease. Some research suggests that it might reduce complications and the need for additional procedures in people hospitalized in the coronary care unit. Other research shows that it might reduce the length of hospitalization but not the risk of complications for people in the coronary care unit. However, other research shows that prayer does not reduce heart disease-related events or prevent complications in people with heart disease.
  • Depression. Early research suggests that receiving a distant healing session once daily for 6 weeks might reduce symptoms of depression and distress in people with major depression.
  • HIV/AIDS. Early research suggests that using distant healing for 10 weeks does not affect how much virus is circulating in the body, but it might reduce the risk of developing other conditions associated with AIDS, the severity of the illness, and the need for hospitalization in people with advanced AIDS.
  • High blood pressure. Some research suggests that distant healing might lower blood pressure, but is no more effective than a control treatment in people with high blood pressure. Other early research shows that remote mental healing my lower one measurement of blood pressure.
  • Infertility. Some early research suggests that adding distant prayer might improve pregnancy rtes in women undergoing in vitro fertilization.
  • Kidney disease. Early research suggests that prayer does not affect any mental or medical measurements associated with kidney disease.
  • Leukemia. Early research suggests that using prayer in addition to standard care for 15 months might improve survival in children with leukemia.
  • Death. Research suggests that people with faith who pray might have a slightly lower risk of death when they are critically ill. But it might not affect other complications that could cause death. Other early research shows that participating in religious activities does not seem to reduce the risk of death in the elderly.
  • Pain. Early research suggests that giving distant healing for 30 minutes per week for 8 weeks does not reduce pain in people with chronic pain.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Early research suggests that adding prayer to standard treatment for rheumatoid arthritis does not improve symptoms.
  • Sepsis. Early research suggests that prayer does not reduce the risk of death, but might decrease hospital stays and fever in people with blood infections.
  • Sickle cell disease. Early research suggests that attending church might reduce pain in people with sickle cell disease. But prayer and bible study do not seem to lower pain.
  • Warts. Early research suggests that using distant healing does not reduce the size of warts.
  • Critical illness.
  • Burns and other wounds.
  • Childbirth.
  • Psychological disorders.
  • Quality of life.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Diabetes.
  • Abnormal heartbeat.
  • Cystic fibrosis.
  • Skin swelling (inflammatory dermatoses).
  • Meningitis.
  • Menopausal symptoms.
  • Spinal cord injury.
  • Stress.
  • Stroke.
  • Polio.
  • Other conditions.

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of prayer, distant healing for these uses.

There are many different theories about how prayer and distant healing might help during illness.

Prayer might have psychological effects that result in relaxation. Prayer and spiritual faith might make some people feel more positive or hopeful. This can support relaxation, reduce anxiety, and lower the effects of stress. Prayer might also provide a certain amount of social support. This might help change how people think about their own illness or situation. This might also lower stress in the body.

Some metaphysical systems of belief suggest that there is an unseen dimension of reality in which everything and everyone is connected. Prayer and healing intentions for another person are thought to reach that person through another dimension in which physical separation does not exist.

Religious systems of belief suggest that a higher power hears and decides if and how to respond to the prayers of individual people. This higher power is believed to have the ability to influence people’s health.

There is also a theory about how prayer and distant healing work that is based on quantum physics. This theory suggests that sometimes the human mind by itself might be able to form a quantum system with another person through the use of intention, ritual, or prayer to connect one another. This would not involve the transfer of energy necessarily. Instead it would occur during the connection of consciousness of the two people involved.

It isn’t known if prayer or distant healing is safe. However, there’s no reason to suspect safety issues when used correctly. But prayer and distant healing shouldn’t be used instead of standard techniques or therapies.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is no safety information about the use of prayer and distant healing during pregnancy and breast-feeding. However, there’s no reason to suspect safety concerns when used correctly.

It is not known if this treatment interacts with any medicines.

Before using this treatment, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.

There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

There are no known interactions with foods.

The appropriate or safe use of prayer and distant healing depends on several factors such as the condition being treated or the person administering the treatment. Be sure to seek and follow relevant directions from your physician or other healthcare professional before using this treatment.

Absent Healing, Attitudinal Healing, Centering Prayer, Compassion and Healing, Compassionate Intention, Distant Healing, Divining, External Qigong, Faith Healing, Intentionality, Intercessory Prayer (IP), Kahuna Healing, Native American Faith Healing, Noetic Therapy, Psychic Healing, Quantum Healing, Reiki, Religion, Remote Healing, Remote Prayer, Spiritual Healing, Sufi Healing.


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