Throughout the history of humans, faith healing has played a major role in the diagnosis and curing of illness.
According to the New Testament, one of the earliest doctors using faith healing was Jesus Christ, who healed the blind, lepers and the deaf, among many others.
Since the life of Christ there have been other faith healers who have invoked the power of God or the Holy Spirit for purposes of healing.
Ancient cultures also often invoked higher powers for healing purposes. The Egyptians practiced pseudo-scientific faith healing procedures, and often invoked the power of different gods for different ailments.
A number of rituals and practices are used in faith healing. These include praying, anointing, blessing, exorcisms, religious readings, the use of amulets and laying hands on the sick person. Specific holy book verses are reportedly better for healing, and certain oils are infused with healing power. Some prayers will be made one-on-one with an ill individual, while other types of faith healing advocate large groups of people praying over an individual. Some faith healers using faith healing in conjunction with Western medicine, but others rely solely on faith healing.
Scientists who have attempted to study faith healing have produced conflicting results. A 2001 study on persons with rheumatoid arthritis concluded that patients who received in-person prayer showed “significant overall improvement” in their condition. A later study, on the other hand, determined no effect of prayer and criticized the earlier study for misinterpreting data. Although many scientists and theologians believe that practices such as faith healing can not be accurately measured by scientific means, others continue to study the phenomena.
Critics of faith healing argue that it is not a reliable form of treatment. Thousands of people have died after relying on faith healing, including a number of children. In the United States there have been numerous cases of children from faith healing households dying as a result of Measles, bacterial infections, diabetes complications and pneumonia, among other diseases. As a result many parents have been charged of neglect and even homicide and manslaughter after refusing treatment for their children.
Despite the controversy surrounding it, faith healing has been an enduring force and will likely exist for many years. Like the mysteries of other metaphysical phenomena, the mysteries of faith healing will very likely remain forever unsolved.