Is prayer good for your health?

Image © 2012 healingherald.org

Recently I was reading an article in the Guardian. Maybe that was where I went wrong. After all, the Guardian isn’t known for its Christian outlook 🙂

However, this particular article (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2012/jun/18/christian-doctor-lucky-not-struck-off) was written in response to the investigation into the conduct of Dr Richard Scott, the Christian GP who discussed his faith with a patient in an apparently “inappropriate” way. In it, Robert Winston sets out the scientific wisdom of Leanne Roberts of the Southwalk diocesan office who has conducted a survey of 8000 patients, to show that whether you are prayed for or not, you are just as likely to die.

I find this mildly amusing, because when Jesus prayed for his patients, he had about a 98% sucess record of healing them completely. (The 2% is the time when he took 2 efforts at healing to make a point – see Mark 8:24). So there – prayer worked for him. And it worked for Peter, who prayed in Jesus’ name to heal the lame man (Acts 3:6), and Paul, known for resurrecting a youth who fell asleep out of a window and died because he got so bored by the sermon  (Acts 20:9). If it worked for them, it could work for us.

I confess to being a charismatic Christian, which means not only do I wave my hands in worship services whilst trying to sing along to tunes my parents claim are unsingable, but I believe the Holy Spirit has the power to heal people. Sometimes physically, sometimes spiritually, sometimes just by teaching them something new. But I also have Christian friends who have felt slightly miffed by talking to Christian doctors, who have been a bit too keen on recommending prayer at the end of a consultation, when they say there is not much else that they can think of that can be done.

I don’t know enough about Dr Richard Scott (other than that he worked at an explicitly Christian Bethesda healing centre in Margate) to judge how appropriate he was in his comments to his patient.

But I do get annoyed with atheists in the media (especially the Guardian) who seem to keep harping on about the “inappropriateness” of Christian prayer and medical healing having anything to do with each other. Yes, we all know that atheists and Dawkinsites like to portray prayer as wishful thinking, faith as a delusion, religion as a dangerous malady and good old secular stoic psychology as the answer to all human problems.

In particular I get annoyed with that breed of secular psychiatrists who actually do think Christianity is a problem for those with mental health issues, because, yes, the Bible does talk about sin, and guilt. It says we have all sinned (no-one is perfect), but Jesus died for us and forgives us completely. And this gives us hope. It gives me hope of knowing I am an adopted son of God, loved unconditionally, made to praise God in heaven eternally. God brings me power, healing, and strength. Not that my life is always easy – but I rest securely on the promises of God. And what do the gurus of atheistic philosophy have to offer those who are struggling, and in need? Not much, it would seem. Advice to make the most of this life, and try to find some meaning in it, because this life is all there is. Sounds fairly depressing to me.

I am not a GP. I am not a psychologist. I am a biased Christian, who believes that faith in Jesus Christ brings hope and healing to people. And that prayer does work. So yah-boo-sucks to you, Guardian columnist Robert Winston, with your fancy white coat and big moustache.

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