A mid-1996 poll found that 82 percent of Americans believed in the “healing power of personal prayer” and 77 percent believed that “God sometimes intervenes to cure people who have a serious illness,” while only 28 percent believed in the “ability of faith healers to make people well through their faith or personal touch.” Prayer, being a “spiritual” practice, is also included in the holistic approach—but not biblical prayer to the one true God.
On “Larry King Live” for May 31, 1997, Robert Schuller said that Positive or Possibility Thinking was a form of prayer. Unfortunately, Schuller was promoting holistic, or occult, prayer. Followers of any religion—and even atheists—can be positive thinkers. As Harner points out, shamanism involves positive affirmations intended to activate a universal force. Such “prayer” may therefore be directed to any god or force or alleged “higher power” of one’s choosing, or even to one’s own inner power or higher self.
Religion and spirituality of any kind seem to be helpful. As a result, “faith” has become a scientific term that has nothing to do with truth or the one true God in whom alone genuine faith may be placed. A 1995 study at Dartmouth revealed that one of the strongest prediction of survival after open-heart surgery is the degree to which patients say they draw strength and comfort from [any] religion…. People who regularly attend services [of any kind] have…lower blood pressure, less heart disease, lower rates of depression and generally better health than those who don’t attend.” According to data gathered by Dr. Nicholas Fortuin, internationally known cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, “People with faith recover about 70 percent quicker” than those without it. And it seems that any faith will do.
William Dempsey, Jr., an emergency department physician, believes that doctors “should consult with the clergy” and that the time has come “to bring down the wall between science and religion….” (We have already seen the destruction of true faith which that process creates.) Dr. Dale Matthews, a professing Christian and member of John Marks Templeton’s “Humility Theology Information Center Advisory Board,” agrees: “Scientific knowledge has demonstrated the positive benefits of religion. I can say, as a physician and scientist…that, scientifically, prayer is good for you. The medical effects of faith on health are not a matter of faith, but of science.”
One of Dr. Matthews’ patients who “did not consider herself religious” nevertheless “found Matthews’ attention to the spiritual dimension extremely helpful.” She said, “If it weren’t for the spiritual progress, I probably wouldn’t be alive today.” To be opened to a spirit which is not the Holy Spirit of God may provide temporal benefits by with ominous consequences for eternity.
Harvard’s Herbert Benson questions whether there is a God who really answers prayer. Jeffrey Levin insists: “I can’t directly study that, but as an honest scholar, I can’t rule it out.” Benson, however, points to the placebo effect:
“Decades of research show that if a patient truly believes a therapy is useful—even if it is a sugar pill or snake oil—that belief has the power to heal…. Faith in the medical treatment…[is] wonderfully therapeutic, successful in treating 60% to 90% of the most common medical problems. But…faith in an invincible and infallible force carries even more healing power…. It is a supremely potent belief.”