The Benefit of Prayer

I normally don’t use the Scribe for medical updates, but since I sent an email a few weeks ago asking you to help Brad Schmidt and his family, I felt compelled to do so, especially since I have good news to share. The day I sent the email, it was not clear if Brad would make it. But then, his condition improved and eventually he was able to return home. After sixty days in the hospital, thirty of them in an induced coma, Brad’s recovery is expectedly slow. Having therapy is one thing, but finding the patience to rest a lot and to progress in a slow pace is another challenge. 

Brad didn’t know of our appeal to the community for help since he was unconscious at the time. When he learned about it later on he was overwhelmed with joy and relief. More than anything, he said to me, was the feeling that he was not alone, that people he never met truly cared about him and were willing to help.  You should be very proud to know that members of Temple Beth Am donated more than $10,000, offered help in many other ways and did not stop praying.  

While almost everyone recognizes the benefit of good medical care and communal support of an ill person, the effect of prayers on healing is more controversial. Yet, in recent years, scientists have been confirming in hundreds of studies the significant power that prayers have on healing. Separate studies conducted at Duke, Dartmouth, and Yale universities show that people who pray: 

  • Tend to get sick less often.
  • Hospitalized people who never attended church have an average stay of three times longer than people who attended regularly.
  • Heart patients were 14 times more likely to die following surgery if they did not participate in a religion.
  • Elderly people who never or rarely attended church had a stroke rate double that of people who attended regularly.
  • In Israel, religious people had a 40% lower death rate from cardiovascular disease and cancer than non-religious people.

It seems like there is little doubt that people who pray for themselves benefit from doing so. But what about our practice of the Mi Shebeirach, a healing prayer in which we pray not for ourselves but for others? Does it have any effect?  

As I learned from Brad and many others who have been ill for prolonged periods of time - it definitely helps. I am not sure how exactly it works. That’s when faith comes into the picture. What I do know is that knowing people care, having people constantly think about you and wishing that you will get better, strengthen your spirit. And when your spirit is strong, your emotions are intact and your overall attitude is optimistic.   

B’Shalom, 
Rabbi Alon Levkovitz