Investigating the POWER of PRAYER

TIME Magazine Investigating the Power of Prayer Elizabeth Targ must be doing some very important work. The National Institutes of Health has already awarded her grants of $611,516 for one study, $823,346 for another. Even greater Federal funds may be forthcoming before her studies are completed. Targ is studying the therapeutic effects of prayer on AIDS and cancer patients. That sounds reasonable enough. The presence of a compassionate person reciting soothing prayers has apparently helped some patients, if by nothing more than a placebo effect. Measuring that effect might be useful, but Targ goes a step further. She is investigating what she calls "distance healing," in which those offering the prayers are far removed from the patients, who themselves are not even aware that incantations are being recited on their behalf. It's an effect that would seem to defy reason — yet Targ reports striking results. In a study, after selecting practicing healers from a number of traditions — Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Indian shamans — she supplied them with the first names, blood counts and photographs of 20 patients with advanced AIDS. For an hour a day, over a ten-week period, the healers concentrated their thoughts on the pictures of these patients, but not on those of a control group of 20 other AIDS patients. According to Targ, the prayed-for patients had fewer and less severe new illnesses, fewer doctor visits, and fewer hospitalizations and were generally in better moods than those in the control group. The technique, she believes, can even work on non-human species. In a speech, she described an experiment performed by another group in which remote healing was used to shrink tumors in mice. And, she reported, the greater the distance between healers and mouse in that experiment, the greater the effect! The connection, Targ suggests, "could be actuated through the agency of God, consciousness, love, electrons or a combination."

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