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Can Hands-On Prayer Help Heal?
Date:8/5/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Aug. 5 (HealthDay News) -- An older Mozambican woman named Maryam could not see two fingers held up just one foot in front of her when she arrived for a Pentecostal prayer intervention in her village. Nor could she see an eye chart from a similarly close distance.

But after a healer at the evangelical meeting laid hands on her and prayed for less than a minute, Maryam was able to not only see the fingers held up in front of her but could count them as well. The eye chart also came into view, with Maryam able to read down to the 20/125 line.

The experiences of Maryam and 23 other Mozambicans, part of a study reported in the September issue of the Southern Medical Journal, a peer-reviewed journal, suggest to the researchers that "proximal intercessory prayer (PIP)" -- in which the healer is in close proximity to the patient, often touching or hugging him or her -- may be a useful complement to Western medical practice.

In this study, the degree of improvement seen in people with vision and hearing impairments was more than that seen previously in hypnosis and suggestion studies, the team noted.

And while they don't discount that much of the results may stem from a placebo effect, benefits did seem to occur in some individuals.

"We found a statistically significant effect of PIP for the population of both those with auditory and visual impairments," said study lead author Candy Gunther Brown, associate professor of religious studies at Indiana University in Bloomington. "We didn't generally find that people who were totally deaf or blind to start with ended up with 20/20 vision and perfect hearing, but those with moderate to severe impairments when tested before the intervention, had a much, much improved threshold."

Previous studies have tended to focus on "distant intercessory prayer," in which the person or persons praying and the subject
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