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The Science Behind the Healing Power of Prayer

The Science Behind the Healing Power of Prayer

Feb 27, 2024 | Holistic Health, Research Findings

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that I may earn a small commission from, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I use or have used myself. All opinions expressed here are my own.

An Ancient Practice with Modern Applications

I think we have all heard of instances where radical healing occurred without a medical explanation. Many times these cases involve the beliefs and spiritual practices of the patient. While it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of radical, unexplained healing, researchers have attempted to unravel the mystery by examining medical records, experiential data, and patient narratives. However, these sources are often conflicting and require an extra level of investigation, which questions medical assumptions against the background of the science-spirituality debate.

Considering “82% of Americans believe prayer can cure serious illness, 73% believe that praying for others can cure illness, and 64% want their physicians to pray with them”, this is a topic worth exploring.1 Here we will examine a case study involving a woman with advanced Parkinson’s disease who experienced remarkable healing after intercessory prayer, along with several additional examples of individuals who had unexplained recoveries.

old fashioned hospital ward

Advanced Stage Disease and Unexplained Healing

A 2021 retrospective, case-based study published in the journal Advances in Mind-Body Medicine may give you pause for thought. Described as a ‘remarkable’ healing by a medical team at the Amsterdam University Medical Centre (UMC) in the Netherlands, the study included a range of medical, psychological, theological, and philosophical perspectives.2

The case involved a female patient born in 1959 with advanced and rapidly progressing Parkinson’s disease that medical interventions failed to control, even with high doses of oral medication. The patient presented major debilitating symptoms. In 2012 she experienced “instantaneous, nearly complete healing after intercessory prayer.”2

The medical assessment team described her recovery as ‘remarkable’. According to the study, “The patient reported that she had always ‘lived with God,’ and that at a point when she had given up hope, ‘life was given back to her.’ This recovery did not make her immune to other illnesses and suffering, but it did strengthen her belief [in a higher power].”

The team concluded:

“This remarkable healing and its context astonished the patient, her family, and her doctors. The clinical course was extraordinary, contradicting data from imaging studies, as well as the common understanding of this disease. This case also raised questions about medical assumptions. Any attempt to investigate such healings requires the involvement of other disciplines. A transdisciplinary approach that includes experiential knowledge would be helpful.”2

woman with arms open at sunrise

Likewise, a PhD study involving the same medical center in Amsterdam reviewed 27 ‘unexplained’ cases, which fit the criteria of a well-documented medical history followed by subsequent recovery associated with prayer. The assessment team consisted of medical specialists in internal medicine, hematology, surgery, psychiatry, and neurosurgery. They represented a wide range of ideological backgrounds, both agnostic and spiritual to minimize bias. Out of the 27 cases, 14 were chosen for their ‘medically remarkable’ and/or ‘medically unexplained’ qualities.

The participants ranged in age from 29-71 and all but one had a medium to high education level. The duration of their medical conditions varied from 7 weeks to 30 years. The period between the healing and the study interview was between one and 16 years.

“The medical conditions from which they experienced recovery are: cuff rupture of the shoulder, pelvic instability and one-sided deafness, Crohn’s disease, cerebrovascular accident (CVA), iatrogenic aortic dissection, ulcerative colitis (N = 2) and psoriatic arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), anorexia nervosa, Parkinson’s disease, drug-induced hepatitis, severe asthma and impaired hearing, alcohol addiction and posttraumatic dystrophy, and congenital hearing impairment.”4,5,6

In the paper, “A Dutch Study of Remarkable Recoveries After Prayer: How to Deal with Uncertainties of Explanation”, the researchers observed:

“Scientific and technological progress in medical sciences has not eliminated the uncertainties within the available knowledge and explanations, but rather is making them more complex. That is why the patients may be left looking for their own sources of explanation, where medical explanation comes up short. The persons who have experienced a spiritual journey may well frame it in terms of a miracle (unexplained but positive). … For the patients, healing is much more than a repair of a bodily function. It underscores the necessity of what Miles calls medicine for the whole person, which implies that disease is just a partial aspect with respect to a person, and that not everything that ‘…is right to the disease is automatically right for the patient’.”6

hands in a circle

​Where to Go From Here

Regardless of whether or not you hold spiritual beliefs, I think most would agree there is a strong association between the mind and body, and recognize the importance of community and connection for health and healing. It shouldn’t come as a surprise there are plenty of studies to back this up — just have a look at the long-lived and exceedingly healthy people in Blue Zone communities around the world.

I know for myself, my healing was multi-faceted and involved radically shifting my perspective, focusing on the positive, gratefulness, adopting a supportive diet and lifestyle, connecting with my community, and, of course, utilizing supplements and herbal medicines. This holistic approach is what I focus on in The Holistic Guide to Wellness – my best resource for science-backed holistic health.

Nicole Apelian and her Holistic Guide to Wellness

If you find yourself struggling with a health condition, The Holistic Guide to Wellness: Herbal Protocols for Common Ailments is an outstanding resource. Not only does it provide the exact protocol I use every day to manage my multiple sclerosis, but it also covers an additional 44 common ailments with easy-to follow, science-backed holistic protocols, such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
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  • Insomnia
  • Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
  • Sexual health
  • Immunity and Autoimmunity
  • Aging
  • Lyme disease
  • Parasite protocol
  • And much more!

Each protocol includes specific foods, exercises, stress-relief techniques, vitamins, minerals, herbs, massages, stretches, detoxes, natural remedies, and other holistic practices that can help you heal your body and mind naturally.

Don’t let chronic illness rob you of your happiness and vitality. Order The Holistic Guide to Wellness: Herbal Protocols for Common Ailments today and discover the power of natural healing for yourself! Tap here and get ready to transform your health and life!

Nicole Apelian

  1. Ameling A. (2000). Prayer: an ancient healing practice becomes new again. Holistic nursing practice, 14(3), 40–48. https://doi.org/10.1097/00004650-200004000-00008
  2. Kruijthoff, D. J., Bendien, E., Doodkorte, C., van der Kooi, C., Glas, G., & Abma, T. A. (2021). “My Body Does Not Fit in Your Medical Textbooks”: A Physically Turbulent Life With an Unexpected Recovery From Advanced Parkinson Disease After Prayer. Advances in mind-body medicine, 35(2), 4–13.
  3. Kruijthoff, D. J., Bendien, E., van der Kooi, C., Glas, G., & Abma, T. A. (2022). Can you be cured if the doctor disagrees? A case study of 27 prayer healing reports evaluated by a medical assessment team in the Netherlands. Explore. https:// doi. org/ 10. 1016/j. explo re. 2022a. 07. 008
  4. Kruijthoff, D. J., Bendien, E., van der Kooi, C., Glas, G., Abma, T. A., & Huijgens, P. C. (2021). Three cases of hearing impairment with surprising subjective improvements after prayer. What can we say when analyzing them? Explore, 18(4), 475–482. https:// doi. org/ 10. 1016/j. explo re. 2021b. 05. 001
  5. Kruijthoff, D. J., van der Kooi, C., Glas, G., & Abma, T. A. (2017). Prayer healing: A case study research protocol. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, 31(3), 17–22.
  6. Bendien, E., Kruijthoff, D. J., van der Kooi, C., Glas, G., & Abma, T. (2023). A Dutch Study of Remarkable Recoveries After Prayer: How to Deal with Uncertainties of Explanation. Journal of religion and health, 62(3), 1731–1755. https://typeset.io/papers/a-dutch-study-of-remarkable-recoveries-after-prayer-how-to-127fouba

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