January 7, 1997
At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, several doctors presented evidence that linked religious beliefs to good health. They said, “people who attend church are both physically healthier and less depressed” and “prayer is good for you.”
Some of their evidence came from a controversial study conducted in San Francisco. Of nearly 400 ill heart patients, half were prayed for, half were not. None knew which group they were in, yet results showed that those prayed for suffered fewer health complications. A doctor said, “This is outside the realm of science. If God heals, it’s a matter of faith. We can’t prove it.”
These doctors are having difficulty explaining their discoveries and admit “health professionals tend to be less religious than the general population.”
Several years ago, S. I. McMillen wrote a book called “None of These Diseases.” This book also looks at the link between faith and health. The title came from an Old Testament promise in which God told His people, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.”
According to this book, medical research shows that a lifestyle of faith affects stress. Philippians 4:6,7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Faith produces freedom from anxiety by opening the mind to God’s indescribable peace. This has obvious effects on the body. Besides enjoying reduced stress, people of faith are less likely to abuse their bodies with “escapes” such as alcohol and drugs.
McMillen points out that many Old Testament laws are linked to health also. The Israelites were forbidden to eat pork that we now know carries trichinosis. They were also supposed to circumcise their baby boys on the eighth day. Today, medical science links this practice with reduction of certain diseases and cancers. Also, the eighth day is well-timed to coincide with the startup of a baby’s natural immune system.
McMillen makes it clear that “religion” is different from biblical faith. Those who believe and obey God’s Word involve themselves in a community of caring believers, strive for healthy relationships and look outward rather than inward in self-serving activities. Biblical faith is not “What can I do for God?” but “Praise God, look what He has done for me!”
This coincides with one other result from the above study. The doctors say anyone who stays home to pray alone or watch television evangelists “actually are worse off than other folks.”
It seems safe to conclude that those who reap the greatest benefit to their personal health are those with genuine biblical faith that motivates and empowers them to serve others.
As the New Year begins, we resolve to eat less, exercise more and take better care of our bodies. While faith is not intended to be a substitute for exercise, nutritional meals and adequate rest, it might be something to add to the list.