Hands-on prayer seems to ease the misery of rheumatoid arthritis, according to results from a clinical study. The therapy included a complex intervention that combined touching, caring, listening and praying. It involved a yearlong study of 40 patients enrolled in a private arthritis treatment center in Florida.
Before the study, people were evaluated for problems associated with rheumatoid arthritis, including joint tenderness and swelling, loss of grip strength, pain and fatigue. Researchers also recorded serum markers for inflammation.
During the study, everyone received a three-day religious intervention that included six hours of education and six hours of direct-contact prayer by lay volunteers from a local healing ministry.
In addition, 19 patients were randomly chosen to receive additional distant prayer involving no physical or telephone contact. Neither the 19 patients nor the researchers were aware of who had been chosen for the remote prayer until the study's conclusion.
On average, patients enjoyed a 68 percent reduction in swollen joints, a 66 percent reduction in joint tenderness and a 14 percent increase in grip strength. However, patients receiving added prayer from a distance received no additional benefit.
What surprised investigators about the study was the staying power of prayer. Eighty percent of the patients received immediate, sustained improvement.
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