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Barbara Walking in the Valley
A weekly column for those who live and walk in Silicon Valley

by Barbara Dahlgren

Does Prayer Work?
Column for the week of May 11-17, 2003

National Day of Prayer (NDP) has come and gone. For those who don’t know, NDP was established by Congress and signed into law by President Truman in 1952. President Reagan amended the law designating the first Thursday in May as the official NDP. NDP gets little publicity in the secular arena, although the day belongs to all Americans regardless of religion or creed or political affiliation. People are encouraged to observe the day in their own way and hopefully to celebrate their faith by praying.

Believe it or not prayer has been a significant part of our history. In 1775 the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming this new nation. In 1863 President Lincoln called for a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer. Many presidents have not hidden the fact that they were praying men. And President Bush does not appear to be hiding it either.

Much ado has been made about the fact that our president professes to be a praying man. Not only does he profess it, he seems to practice it at the drop of a hat. He’s prayed publicly for the victims of 911, the shuttle crew, earthquakes, and war. He prays openly with religious leaders and congressmen. He encourages prayer and Bible study for his staff. He even has a Presidential Prayer Team. He has stated he prays daily for wisdom, strength, and guidance. People are appalled by the fact he prays in the oval office. Although, they didn’t seem to be appalled by what some of our other presidents did in the oval office.

I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is, does all this prayer stuff work? It’s a question even our scientists are asking. Years ago doctors would have never gotten funding to pursue a study on prayer but that is not the case now. Dr. Targ from San Francisco has received grants, monies from taxpayers, from the National Institutes of Health for over 1 million dollars to study the therapeutic results prayer has on cancer and AIDS patients. Johns Hopkins is studying women with breast cancer who pray daily. Neuroscientists from the University of Pennsylvania are monitoring brain scans of praying nuns. And what are they finding out?

A Duke University study shows that those who pray and attend religious services regularly have healthier immune systems and lower blood pressure. Other studies show that prayer and faith speed recoveries from diseases, surgeries, and depression. In short solid research shows that praying people stay healthier and live longer.

All these studies agree on two things: 1) Prayer works. 2.) They just don’t know how. Let’s face it if we could bottle the stuff, we could make a fortune.

So we have a National Day of Prayer, a Presidential Prayer Team, and a president that prays. Logically speaking, if prayer works, and science seems to acknowledge that it does, why complain? The president may have tapped into something that could benefit all of us.

In fact, it may not be long before billboards read, “Do you want a longer life? Try diet, exercise, and prayer.” I can hear my doctor’s advice now, “Take two aspirin, say two Hail Mary’s, and call me in the morning,” because the scientific evidence is in. Prayer works!

©May 2003

Be sure to visit this page every week to read the next edition of Walking in the Valley. You can write to the author at bdahlgren@wcgsouthbay.org.



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