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Excerpted from Healing Words by Larry Dossey. Copyright 1993 by Larry Dossey. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"I had in fact tried to escape spiritual or religious influences in healing, fancying myself a scientific physician."

Larry Dossey, 
Healing Words
, Part 1

A few years ago, I was surprised to discover a single scientific study that strongly supported the power of prayer in getting well. Because I'd never heard of controlled experiments affirming prayer, I assumed this study stood alone. But did it? Somehow I could not let the matter rest, and I began to probe the scientific literature for further proof of prayer's efficacy. I found an enormous body of evidence: over one hundred experiments exhibiting the criteria of "good science," many conducted under stringent laboratory conditions, over half of which showed that prayer brings about significant changes in a variety of living beings.

I was astonished. I had begun my search believing it would turn up little. After all, if scientific proof for the healing effects of prayer existed, surely it would be common knowledge among scientifically trained physicians. I came to realize the truth of what many historians of science have described: A body of knowledge that does not fit with prevailing ideas can be ignored as if it does not exist, no matter how scientifically valid it may be. Scientists, including physicians, can have blind spots in their vision. The power of prayer, it seemed, was an example.

The question I then had to deal with made me very uncomfortable: What was I personally going to do with this information? Would I ignore it, or allow it to affect the way I practiced medicine? These uncertainties distilled to a single question from which I could not escape: Are you going to pray for your patients or not?

For many years I'd ignored prayer. I considered it an arbitrary, optional frill that simply was not in the same league as drugs and surgery. I had in fact tried to escape spiritual or religious influences in healing, fancying myself a scientific physician.

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