Can prayer be helpful during the "cold and flu season"?


Winter can be a great time of year – skiing, skating, and of course, the NFL playoffs!  But does it also have to bring on the “cold and flu season?”

     ABC News gave a list of tested tips for fighting colds and flu, and ways to help everyone stay well all winter.  Topping the list was meditation.  They cited a 2012 University of Wisconsin, Madison, study that found that the mind can cut one’s chances of catching a cold by 40 to 50 percent.  The report stated, “Fifty-one people who used mindfulness techniques logged 13 fewer illnesses and 51 fewer sick days than a control group during one cold-and-flu season, probably because meditation reduces physical effects of stress that weaken the immune system.”

     Hippocrates once said, “Whatever occurs in the mind affects the body and vice versa.  The mind and the body cannot be considered independently.”

     Studies are also increasingly showing the beneficial effects of prayer on the body and the immune system.  According to the book, The Faith Factor, by D. Matthews, clinical studies have shown that people who pray are:

·        Less likely to get sick

·        Better able to cope mentally and emotionally with their illness

·        More likely to recover from surgery and illness

     The website healthsearches.org recently published a research article on the effects of prayer on the immune system and came to these conclusions, “…the relaxing, altered consciousness, and spiritual effects of meditation and prayer and the resulting inward sense of peace can strengthen the immune system and the body in general.”

     In her book, Psalm 91, Christian author Peggy Joyce Ruth, shared real-life stories of individuals who found prayer effective in protection from illness, as well as useful in combating disease.  She wrote about that Psalm, “It is both an offensive and defensive measure for warding off every evil before it has time to strike.  This is not only a cure but also a plan for complete prevention!”

     I keep prayer as an integral part of my “health-regimen”.  Prayer has been very effective when facing illness.  One afternoon when I was in bed with the flu, I found help in the 91st Psalm, especially these words, “For you have made the Lord, my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place.  No evil will befall you,…”  I could feel the peace that the earlier study spoke of, and the dissipation of the disease.  One symptom after another went away, and soon I was well.

     Since then, this regular prayer had been an effective preventive measure for me – similar to what those in the Wisconsin study found.  I haven’t been afflicted with the flu or a cold for several years.

     Prayer can keep the flu and colds at bay.  This means we can spend our winter doing better things!


Thomas (Tim) Mitchinson is a self-syndicated columnist writing on the relationship between thought, spirituality and health, and trends in that field.  He is also the media spokesman for Christian Science in Illinois.  You can contact him at illinois@compub.org.



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Mike Bruno January 29, 2014 at 09:13 AM
The effectiveness of intercessory prayer has actually been analyzed rigorously many times. The results are no better than placebo...meaning it doesn't work. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16569567
Mike January 29, 2014 at 10:29 AM
Mike, the study you cite deals with others praying on your behalf. I think it's plausible that when one prays the effect on the body can be similar to meditation, leaving one relaxed, rested and possibly in better shape to fight infection.
Mike Bruno January 29, 2014 at 11:02 AM
Indeed. The suggestion of the post, though, was that supernatural intervention elicited the positive effects. You are absolutely right that meditation or any other form of stress relief will yield the same results. Prayer doesn't work because it garners otherworldly intervention. Prayer works because it is a stress reliever no different than any other stress reliever technique.
Rudy January 29, 2014 at 09:11 PM
Mike, We know the Government and or the AMA always have our best interests at heart . I am sure the NSA is just watching out for us too. If your going to quote studies they shouldn't included AMA , .org or NSA they can't be trusted. If prayer relieves stress why you always hating!
Mike Bruno January 30, 2014 at 09:48 AM
I'm not a hater Rudy. I have a love of truth. The author describes himself as a "self-syndicated columnist" and a "media spokesman for Christian Science in Illinois". (I think the phrase he is looking for is 'evangelist'). Let's recognize that 'Christian Science' is one of those groups that are often central to those stories we hear about some child dying from an entirely treatable issue because medical treatment was willfully withheld by their CS parents. The intent of the post was not that prayer or other stress-reducing techniques might benefit you. It was that invoking otherworldly power directly influences medical outcomes. Like the author; I haven't had a cold or flu to speak of for several years either. Also: the study was conducted by Harvard.
Mike Bruno January 30, 2014 at 09:49 AM
Mike January 30, 2014 at 11:40 AM
Faith is great, but don't confuse it with science. Scientific truth is validated through controlled, repeatable experiments, not a belief in the supernatural, or for that matter, how many names an agenda-driven government can get to sign a petition.
Mike Bruno January 30, 2014 at 11:51 AM
One can arrive at truth through many means, but only science gives you a way to know when you have arrived. :-)
Rudy January 30, 2014 at 06:51 PM
My problem with scientist is that they usually have a hypothesis (answer) and then they make the experiment match the results they want to see! It happens constantly and is useless science. Then if they don't get the results expected they skew the input to match their idea of the truth or real solution. True science is rare there always seems to be an agenda in my observations. Take the AMA there is little reward for cures but a ton to be made in treating illness. I don't choose to over analyze what works for individuals. I say live and let live if prayer works for you great, if science is your bag have fun. They both get HUGE subsidizes from the working man so enjoy both your paying for it!
Mike Bruno January 31, 2014 at 08:50 AM
Humans are humans and, to a person, we are victim to confirmation bias. Science is a process and some do it well and some do it poorly. The scientific method, though, is unique in its demands of peer review, falsifiability and reproducability. Every genuine leap in understanding of our world in the last 100-400 years (at least) has been the result of science. If you have a way to eliminate the weak link in the process...we humans...we're all ears. Until then, science is...by a huge margin...the best method we have for finding genuine, verifiable truths. I agree that big pharma is incentivized to *manage* illness rather than *cure* illness in many cases. That is not an impeachment of science, that is an impeachment of capitalism. I am a free market capitalist, but the example is a perfect refutation of the pure Libertarian position. We need to leverage capitalism for the things it does well, but it is only government that can fund pure research that might resolve issues that the markets can't or won't. If we didn't have pure research, we wouldn't have computers or our hospital's radiology dept (to name two). I also agree that we should end religious subsidies (unless directed toward public welfare). http://geneva.patch.com/groups/mike-brunos-blog/p/bp--lets-end-the-religious-tax-exemption-as-we-know-it
Mike February 01, 2014 at 11:00 AM
Mike B, you wrote "but it is only government that can fund pure research that might resolve issues that the markets can't or won't." Certainly there are many examples of government funded research that have led to worthwhile innovation in the private sector. But if government got out of the science business, all that money that is spent would not simply go away, of course. The government, we occasionally need to be reminded, doesn't generate any money of its own - it simply allocates where it will be spent. I think it's entirely possible that cooperative private consortia could pick up the ball of pure research and justify the massive expense by licensing the resulting discoveries. And the government could just be in the business of defending the country, minting currency and protecting our personal freedom...what a wonderful world it would be.
Mike Bruno February 01, 2014 at 12:37 PM
First: right after I posted the last comment, I realized that saying "only government" was too broad. That said; your contention that " I think it's entirely possible that cooperative private consortia could pick up the ball of pure research" is where the pure Libertarian mindset gets disconnected from reality. That private consortia is motivated by return on investment. I challenge your to find investors to fund something Fermilab-scale with a 50 year ...or unknown...ROI. I *wish* the private sector would do it, but they don't and the won't unless there is an ROI horizon that is AT LEAST less than a generation. That pretty much leaves governments (wealthy governments) that can look at much longer time horizons.
Mike February 01, 2014 at 01:27 PM
I understand your point, Mike - it's more of a thought-experiment than anything else because I don't see the government relinquishing it's role as 'the one who doles out (other people's) money' anytime soon. I think it's possible, though, that with a few hundred billion dollars moving from the gov back to the private sector that investment strategies could change. As for the shorter timeframe required for ROI under the private sector, I think it's entirely possible that the efficiencies of the private sector could compress the time horizon. What may take a generation when done by government employees may only take a decade. We'll never know.
Gene Kalley February 04, 2014 at 12:30 AM
Did government develop cars, airplanes, computers and memory chips? I don't think so.
Mike Bruno February 04, 2014 at 09:23 AM
@Gene: Much of what you list *applications* made possible from understandings achieved through government-funded pure research. If we focus on *government funding* of that research; it is the funding of research without a specific goal/application in mind where private markets rarely step up. To list just *some* of the things we value that are made possible by government funded research does a disservice to the massive catalog of ideas that make possible the uncountable things that we value. Just a few things that come to mind might be DNA, microprocessors, the Internet, and most everything in your hospital's radiology department. One essay on the matter can be read here: http://www.skepticblog.org/2012/02/08/pure-science-and-serendipity/ . It took material scientists just looking and "playing" with substances (on the taxpayer dime) to some to an understanding of semiconductor materials that Texas Instruments was then able to leverage to create and the first integrated circuit. There is too much to list here. But pure research keeps us a world power and every civilized, wealthy nation knows that and funds that. Look at the LHC in Switzerland. The largest and most expensive machine every created by humankind, funded by a consortia of governments all to look at the most fundamental characteristics of matter...all without a particular application in mind. We do it because knowledge is power and that knowledge will be transformative ... some day. I suppose we could let China and Russia do all the research.
No more taxes February 04, 2014 at 12:26 PM
subject yourself to the flu, don't wash your hands, let people sneeze on you, then see if "prayer" will stop you from catching the flu or a cold. of course it won't, a virus is a virus and doesn't know you are "praying" I haven't had the flu in over a decade and don't pray at all, so no praying keeps the flu away:)


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