Can Prayer Influence Health?

By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter
By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter

Knoxville (WVLT) - Christians around the world are celebrating the holiest week of the year.

Historically, science hasn't embraced the connection between faith and health, but today an increasing number of studies show spiritual practices, including prayer influence our health.

Millions of Christians around the world are participating in religious activities during this holy week.

And an increasing amount of research shows those spiritual practices, including prayer, worship and service to others could influence our health.

"Historically, science and religion have been fairly separate, although recently, there's been a lot of interest in the role of religion, or faith in a person's health," says Cherokee Health Systems Psychologist Dr. Parinda Khatri.

Today, many medical professionals and religious leaders believe it's a blend of the scientific and the spiritual that prove to promote health and reduce disease.

"Prayer is very powerful. Prayer is very positive. We don't know all the ins and outs about prayer, except we know that it works," says Revered Bill Fowler from Church Street United Methodist Church.

"The exact connection is a bit of a mystery, but when we think about health today, we think about mind, body and spirit," explains Dr. Khatri.

There are a range of theories to explain the faith-health connection, healthy behavior, social support, self esteem and coping skills, but most studies focus on the frequency of church attendance and prayer.

"There's one pretty compelling finding that shows people who attend church regularly have mortality rates that are 25% better than people who don't attend church regularly," Dr. Khatri says.

The belief is religious activities may also lead to positive emotions, which have been shown to influence your immune system, health and well-being.

"A lot of life is accepting every day as a gift from God, and we're to make the very best of what we're given," Reverend Fowler explains.

One study found evidence participating in a religion can promote healthy behavior.

It found nearly 75% of female church members had a mammogram in the past two years, compared with only 60% of women in the community.


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