I’ve found that prayer is crucial to everything I do and believe. So you can imagine how interested I’ve been to find prayer surveyed and reported as part of national studies on alternative and complementary therapies. A 2007 report indicated that 77% of the public used prayer in connection with their health and that prayer was among the 10 most common complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies.
What’s interesting is that these survey results directly impacted follow-up activities. As an example, grant monies funded the GWish project, which developed guidelines for medical and spiritual leaders to work together to address and improve patient health – and currently 90% of medical schools in the U.S. include spirituality in their curricula.
But now, although prayer will still be part of the National Institutes of Health’s CAM survey, it won’t be reported to the general public because it doesn’t fit the “new definition” for CAM therapies. This may be why a precipitous drop in CAM use between 2002 and 2010 was reported. “Due to the subsequent decision to reclassify prayer, which was previously included as a CAM modality and is no longer included in the definition, the number declined to 38.3 percent, still a substantial portion of the population. Prayer remains on the survey, but is no longer part of the CAM definition or report.”
I can understand the need for working definitions, but to exclude prayer use in the report is questionable.
Health is far more than the treatment of body and brain. It’s important to include the whole person – mind, body, spirit, and consciousness – when working toward health. In fact, as health researcher Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Prayer, watching, and working, combined with self immolation, are God’s gracious means for accomplishing whatever has been done for the Christianization and health of mankind.”
In the Bible Jesus had a difficult time getting his view of prayer and healing accepted by the leaders at the time. His work did not fit the philosophy of the age, but the public experienced the healing results on through the ages. With this in mind, it would seem logical that public prayer usage be reported and that the value of this therapy be presented to give a clear picture of people’s actual preferences in their health care choices. Let’s consider all information that could benefit the health of mankind.
Photo © GLOW IMAGES Model used for illustrative purposes