An international team of medics have launched an innovate study to measure the clinical impact of prayer on coronavirus patients. With so many people pouring out prayers for the sick at this time, Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy of the Kansas City Heart Rhythm Institute and his dedicated team of researchers are keen to determine the physical impact of the spiritual practice.
In the study's overview, the researchers write that “prayer is often used as a medium to invoke divine intervention for affirmation of life, healing of the sick and protection of the vulnerable," and yet it "remains a controversial intervention from a scientific perspective."
They add: "Although used regularly in the inpatient setting of critically ill patients, the benefit of prayer on healthcare outcomes has been heavily debated."
Keen to pursue an indepent and objective study, the team added that prior research has "aimed at demonstrating improved health outcomes in patients who pray" and have been "subject to bias."
"The lack of available information regarding the impact of prayer on inpatient outcomes prompted our further investigation," they wrote.
In an interview with NPR, Lakkireddy noted that the study will involve some 1,000 covid-19 patient subjects who were sick enough to require treatment in intensive care. All the patients will be provided with the same level of medical care, but half will receive a "universal" prayer from one of the world's five main religions: Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism.
In the interest of full transparency, Lakkireddy added that all those on the study’s steering committee were people of faith. "We all believe in science and we also believe in faith," he said. "If there is a supernatural power, which a lot of us believe, would that power of prayer and divine intervention change the outcomes in a concerted fashion? That was our question."
Lakkireddy himself was "born into Hinduism" but attended a Catholic school and has spent time in synagogues, Buddhist monasteries and mosques.
"I believe in the power of all religions," he said. "I think if we believe in the wonders of God and the universal good of any religion, then we've got to combine hands and join the forces of each of these faiths together for the single cause of saving humanity from this pandemic."
The prayer recited for the allocated patients will read as follows:
We pray you to bless our friend (CPS ID)
We pray you to give our friend the strength to pull through this sickness
We pray you to heal our friend from this disease that is consuming him
We pray you to give the health care professionals involved in our friend’s care, the necessary courage, wisdom and protection
We pray you to quickly put an end to this global scourge, save the world and prevent sickness to the rest of our brothers and sisters
We pray you to bring solace, strength and resolve to fight this deadly virus with all our might
Thank you for hearing us out and bestowing your divine will on our friend and many others around us."
Lakkireddy said his team were hopeful that the study would produce interesting results, depsite previous research finding no convincing link between prayer and positive health outcomes.
He said: "A miracle could happen. There's always hope, right?"