A new Baylor University study has found that nearly 90 percent of Americans have relied upon healing prayer at some point in their lives — and they pray for others even more than they pray for themselves. The findings suggest that prayer may be among the most widely used forms of treatment for medical problems, rather than a so-called “fringe activity.”
Dr. Jeff Levin, director of the Program on Religion and Population Health at Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, worked on the Baylor Religion Survey, which was done in partnership with the Gallup organization. The research was published in the Journal of Religion and Health.
Levin found that more than three-quarters of Americans have prayed for their own healing, and nearly a third do so often. More than half of Americans have asked for healing prayer and have taken part in prayer groups. “Outside of belief in God, there may be no more ubiquitous religious expression in the U.S. than the use of healing prayer,” Levin said in a statement.
Levin also found that most people who use prayer for healing do so in conjunction with regular medical care. “Healing prayer is being used more as a complementary treatment rather than as an alternative one,” he said.
Janelle Anderson, who owns Emerging Life Coaching in the Roanoke, Virginia, area, said that in her experience as a Christian, "Most people in our country believe in God and when they pray, their prayers are directed toward God, not just a 'higher power.' That may seem surprising in light of what we hear from the mainstream media — but talking one-on-one with people, this is what I find most often to be true."
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"The most surprising finding is that more than a quarter of all Americans have practiced laying-on of hands — and nearly one in five has done so on multiple occasions," Levin also said in his statement. The practice, often cited in the Bible, is commonly used for blessing or healing others.
Anderson said that the concept of laying on hands isn’t strange for those who believe in the Bible.
"Even spiritual healers who are not necessarily religious or believers in Biblical scripture engage in this practice," she noted. "There seems to be a transfer of healing energy when you lay hands on another person in faith."
Jake Kail, lead pastor at Threshold Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said he has witnessed miraculous healing. It's not something that happens every time a praying person puts their hands on another — there is certainly no formula and there is an element of mystery involved, he told LifeZette.
Rachel C. Weingarten knows firsthand the power of prayer for someone who is sick. The New York-based author and public speaker battled cancer several years ago — and the few people she discussed it with at the time began to pray for her.
"It wasn't the power of my own prayer," recalled Weingarten, the author of "Ancient Prayer: Channeling Your Faith 365 Days of the Year." "It was the fact that everybody else I knew was praying for me."
She felt isolated during her illness, both physically and emotionally, but connected with her spirituality and her Jewish faith. The support of prayer sustained her through a difficult time, she said.
"A lot of people tap into a big spiritual reservoir [during illnesses]," said Weingarten, a Brooklyn native who as a child learned to read, write, and recite her daily prayers in the original Hebrew and Aramaic.
Pastor Kail believes that while Americans may pray for healing, they don't pray more in general. "I do think that many, but not all, Americans only turn to God when there is a sickness or dire need. This is because many do not see their need for God until they are in a crisis," he said.