One STEPP at a time – new study suggests that prayer works.

No, that’s not a misspelling!  STEPP stands for “Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Proximal Intercessory Prayer”.  The researchers of a  “Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Proximal Intercessory Prayer on Auditory and Visual Impairments in Rural Mozambique” are about to publish their results which are, apparently, something of a thumbs up for such prayer.   You can read an article by George Conger about the study that has appeared in The Church of England Newspaper.

If you think “The Church of England Newspaper” doesn’t exactly sound like a peer-reviewed scientific journal, you would be correct.  However, the study will make its official debut in the US medical magazine the Southern Medicial Journal in its September issue.  (If you wish to have an advance copy of the study it is available prior to online publication from Bridget Garland at smjedit@etsu.edu.)

It should be noted that while the prayer successes recorded are considered scientifically significant, they are a record of “surprising improvements in vision and hearing in economically disadvantaged areas where eyeglasses and hearing aids are not readily available”, rather than being a record of complete cures.   As in any discipline, all such progress out of limitation or suffering should be highly valued and lauded.  And yet if Jesus is the high standard for Christian healing – as indeed he is! – then one can see from the Bible that his record was curing rather than just curtailing suffering.

As a Christian Scientist for the past couple of decades I have been grateful to have been able to ponder literally thousands of testimonies of a total turnaround through prayer in many and varied physical ailments, including sight and hearing difficulties – some quickly, some requiring more long-term persistence.  (These are accounts of healing through “divinely scientific prayer”, published  in weekly and monthly periodicals called the Christian Science Sentinel and The Christian Science Journal, or else spontaneous testimonies shared at Wednesday evening meetings, at Christian Science churches.)

That’s not to say that those of us who regularly practise prayer-based healing are not grateful for improvement if cure doesn’t quickly come, as can be the case.  And Christian Scientists often do use glasses and hearing aids while they face vision or hearing challenges.  Yet that standard of restoration set by Jesus somehow resonates with the heart as what we should be able to expect from an all-good, all-powerful divine Love, and today’s testimonies of the experience of such complete restoration are as moving and inspiring as their Bible forebears.

In holding the high goal of consistency in such healing before thought, though, it is definitely “one step at a time” in terms of the spiritual growth and experience it takes to draw nearer to this ideal for practitioners of healing prayer generally, and for practitioners of Christian Science healing treatment specifically.  That is why critical dismissals of Christian healing testimony, including Christian Science healings, on the grounds that practitioners don’t always achieve that high record might in themselves be a kind of short-sightedness in need of healing!  If there is something significant going on – as the many accounts available indicate – it would seem wise to evaluate it with an open mind, without preconceptions.

The article concludes with a similar plea from the survey’s lead researcher in relation to the results of their STEPP study.  “If empirical research continues to indicate that [proximal intercessory prayer] may be therapeutically beneficial, then — whether or not the mechanisms are adequately understood — there are ethical and non-partisan public policy reasons to encourage further related research,” Dr. Candy Gunther Brown of Indiana University is quoted as saying.

At the end of the day, though, no matter what empirical research does or doesn’t bring out in the observed situations that it necessarily demands, the healing prayer that rescues and redeems countless humble hearts (and bodies) goes on unobserved day in and day out.  It has the dignity of being divinely and humanly valid to those hearts that have experienced it, and their testimony should not be dismissed out of hand.

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Categories: Healing in the Media, Medical Matters

Author:Tony Lobl

I write and speak on spirituality from my perspective as a Christian Science practitioner. I am also an Associate Editor for the Christian Science periodicals. I studied at the University of Surrey earning a BSc Hons Degree in Modern Mathematics before the impact of spirituality on health caught my attention and re-shaped my career.

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