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Prayer, distant healing
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Absent healing, attitudinal healing, Ayurvedic healing, centering prayer, compassion and healing, compassionate intention, distant healing, divining, entanglement theory, external qi gong, faith healing, healing belief, holographic consciousness, human energy fields, imagery, intentionality, intercessory prayer (IP), Kahuna healing, meditation, mental healing, mind beyond body, Native American faith healing, noetic therapy, psychic healing, qigong, quantum healing, quantum mechanics, Reiki, religion, remote healing, remote prayer, search for God, spiritual healing, spirituality, state-dependent learning, Sufi healing.

Background

  • Prayer can be defined as a "reverent petition," the act of asking for something while aiming to connect with God or another object of worship. Prayer on behalf of the ill or dying has played a prominent role throughout history and across cultures.
  • Prayer is found in many forms. It may be practiced by individuals or organized groups within the framework of an organized religion or without ascribing to a particular faith or belief system. Prayers can focus on a specific desired outcome or be undirected without an objective in mind.
  • Individuals may pray on behalf of themselves, or for others. "Intercessory prayer" refers to prayers said by individuals or groups on behalf of a person who is ill or in need. Intercessors (those praying on behalf of the ill) sometimes have specific objectives in mind when they pray or they can appeal for the general well-being or improvement of a patient's health. Prayers said by intercessors may or may not be known to the ill individual. Intercessory prayers may be performed from a distance or in the presence of patients and in some cases will involve the laying on of hands.
  • Most clergy members receive training in pastoral care from their respective institutions. Certified chaplains and pastoral counselors are trained to address the spiritual and emotional needs of physically and mentally ill patients and their families or loved ones.

Theory

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Evidence

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Safety

Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.