Prayers `really can heal the sick`

London: Many may cast doubt on it, but a
new study says that prayers really can heal the sick.

Researchers have carried out the study and found that
the power of prayer can help the sick to recover, especially
if the wellwisher is standing near the person they are praying
for, the `Daily Mail` reported.

In fact, according to them, the vision and hearing of
patients in their tests -- which looked into "proximal prayer"
or prayers near the patient -- improved considerably after
healing practitioners prayed for them.

Religious studies Professor Candy Gunther, who led
a team at Indiana University, said: "We chose to investigate
`proximal` prayer as that is how a lot of prayer for healing
is practiced by Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around
the world."

For their study, the researchers analysed the impact
of `healers` on disadvantaged people with vision or hearing
impairments in Mozambique and Brazil.

They evaluated 14 rural Mozambican subjects who
reported poor hearing and 11 who said they had failing sight,
both before and after the subjects received proximal
intercessory prayer (PIP).

An audiometer and vision charts were used for a
direct measure of improvement rather than relying on whether
the people said they felt better.

The researchers found that two subjects with impaired
hearing reduced the threshold at which they could detect sound
by 50 decibels and three subjects had their tested vision
improve from 20/400 or worse to 20/80 or better.

Prof Brown said one subject, an elderly Mozambican
woman named Maryam, initially reported that she could not see
a person`s hand with two upraised fingers from a distance of
one foot.

A healing practitioner put her hand on Maryam`s eyes,
hugged her and prayed for less than a minute then held five
fingers in front of her. Afterwards she was able to count them
and even read the 20/125 line on a vision chart. A follow-up
study by the researchers in Brazil revealed similar findings.

Professor Brown said her study focused on the clinical
effects of PIP and did not attempt to explain the mechanisms
by which the improvements occurred.

The study will appear in an upcoming issue of the
`Southern Medical Journal` journal.