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A most intriguing experiment involved 60 patients at the Arthritis Treatment Center in Clearwater, Fla. Because rheumatoid arthritis has clear manifestations - including swollen joints and crippling pain - relief of these symptoms can be easily measured. The study is under the general direction of Dr. Dale Matthews, an associate of medicine at the Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC Matthews is also a Presbyterian who has been praying for and with patients for years and now wants to find out if science can confirm that prayer really has healing effects.

He has divided the participants into 2 general groups. All patients will receive 4 days of healing prayer through the traditional Christian practice of laying on of hands by the Christian Healing Ministry. In addition, half the patients will receive 6 months of long distance intercessory prayer. Both groups will be examined by the same clinician before the experiment, immediately afterward and again at one, 3, 6 and 12 months. Throughout, Matthews is using strict scientific protocols and standards set by the American College of Rheumatology. by the end of this year, after an outside physician has scrutinized the data, Matthews and his team hope to show what difference, if any, prayer has made.

Already, a videotape of the early phase of the study shows that some individual patients have experienced extraordinary short term results from prayer. "There’s something weird going on here, and I love it," says one patient. At the beginning of the experiment, he had 49 tender joints. After 4 sessions with a hands on praying minister, he had only 8. Six months later, he says he has no pain at all and no need of medication. (Newsweek, March 31, 1997 p. 62)

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