Evangelicals largely believe prayer can cure mental illness, survey finds

Nearly half of evangelical Christians believe mental illness can be overcome by Bible study and prayer instead of medical intervention, according to a survey.

Lifeway Research found that 35% of Americans and 48% of those who identified themselves as evangelicals believed that people with serious mental disorders can overcome their illnesses with “Bible study and prayer alone”.

Ed Stetzer, president of Lifeway research, a Christian research organization connected to the chain of stores with the same name, said the results showed that churches needed to work harder to address the issue of mental illness.


They’re not entirely wrong. Anything can be overcome with prayer, but not always in the way one would expect. God’s ways are much higher than ours.

EDIT: that was my response to the thread title. After reading the article I disagree with those Evangelicals. God can use medicine as an answer to prayer. People assume they know how God works, which is dangerous.

Prayer should definitely be a big part of healing process, but it can’t be the only solution. There is still a lot of skepticism about mental illness in America. I wonder how the results would be for other denominations? I’m betting the numbers for traditional Catholics and other theologically conservative groups would be similar.

Read Sirach 38.Ooops, evangelicals don’t have that scripture.

What I would like to tell people in that situation is that medication, psychiatrists, and psychologists also come from God. The same way there is nothing wrong with calling an ambulance if you have a heart attack or car accident, there is nothing wrong with seeking professional help for mental health issues.

A lot of people seem to think mental health is different. It’s really not.

Ugh…that’s a poorly designed phone survey. I read the article from The Guardian, and then the linked article within it that has more information. I have to agree with the third comment, from Tom, in the linked article. The question, given by phone, was asking if the respondant believed that "prayer and Bible study, alone, could cure serious mental illness like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. "

I would have answered “Yes” myself. To answer “No” would be to say that God doesn’t answer prayer and isn’t able to heal us. Of course, if I or a loved one was suffering from any of those mental illnesses, I’d seek psychological and medical help, after first praying to God for help. I would not deny, though, that God could heal someone in response to those prayers. Do we really want to say that God, who has healed people of physical illnesses long before medicine was a reliable means of healing, was unable to heal people of mental illness Himself long before mental health professionals came along?

There are indeed Christians, probably in any type of church, who stigmatize those with mental illness. The survey included Fundamentalists together with Evangelicals in that statistic, and, while I’d venture to say that attitude is more common in Fundamentalist churches than in Evangelical ones, it does exist among some Evangelicals and it’s a problem wherever it’s found. ( I’ve seen it from a Catholic wife who advised her husband, diagnosed with bipolar, to just go to Eucharistic Adoration more instead of seeking further medical help.) But, the phone survey was fundamentally flawed in failing to distinguish between those who would answer “Yes” for the reasons that I would respond that way, and those who truly would permanently eschew medical help.

Why leave them hanging, Po? :smiley:

38 Give doctors the honor they deserve, for the Lord gave them their work to do.[a] 2 Their skill came from the Most High, and kings reward them for it. 3 Their knowledge gives them a position of importance, and powerful people hold them in high regard.

4 The Lord created medicines from the earth, and a sensible person will not hesitate to use them. 5 Didn’t a tree once make bitter water fit to drink, so that the Lord’s power** might be known? 6 He gave medical knowledge to human beings, so that we would praise him for the miracles he performs. 7-8 The druggist mixes these medicines, and the doctor will use them to cure diseases and ease pain. There is no end to the activities of the Lord, who gives health to the people of the world.

9 My child, when you get sick, don’t ignore it. Pray to the Lord, and he will make you well. 10 Confess all your sins and determine that in the future you will live a righteous life. 11 Offer incense and a grain offering, as fine as you can afford.[c] 12 Then call the doctor—for the Lord created him—and keep him at your side; you need him. 13 There are times when you have to depend on his skill. 14 The doctor’s prayer is that the Lord will make him able to ease his patients’ pain and make them well again. 15 As for the person who sins against his Creator, he deserves to be sick. **



Some Evangelicals and Fundamentalist seem to believe that mental diseases just don’t exist.

My own Father thought that way, he thought my clinical depression did not exist and was just a figment of my imagination. His advice was to “snap out of it” and “pick myself up by my bootstraps”.

Maybe it was his machismo coming into play he never saw a doctor in his life…until his first heart attack.
Real men don’t need doctors was his philosophy.

This is a good example Abide of how people don’t listen carefully to questions. Notice the word “alone” in the survey. If it wasn’t emphasized, or people miss it, they would give the answer you would give. Phone surveys are not very good ways of testing large populations of people.
I don’t think its peculiar to evangelicals or fundamentalists. Many Libertarians (of which I myself am closer to) do not believe in psychotropic drugs of any sort.
It has more to do with ignorance than religious affiliation.
And I don’t think evangelicals have the corner on ignorance. :wink:

The results are kind of dubious. On one hand, it is true that prayer and devotion is an enormous blessing and weapon for a person struggling with a mental illness. On the other hand, it’s a very dangerous and ignorant view to believe that mental illness is not a real condition that the person inherited as a result of our flawed bodies. Outside of God performing a miracle, mental illnesses do not just go away.

This is the big chink in the armor of conservative evangelicals. They possess much of the orthodoxy of the CC, and they can be enormously successful and passionate in putting their faith into action, but they suffer from a crisis of not only being ignorant, but being proud of it. This is extremely damaging to the spreading of the gospel.

It’s not a matter of not listening carefully to a question, JustaServant, but rather of listening carefully. The question uses the word “could”— do the respondents “believe that prayer and bible study, alone, could cure serious mental illness…”. Uh, well…Yes. I believe prayer alone, answered by the Maker of our hearts and minds, could cure serious mental illness. The ordinary means, these days, in the developed world, of effecting such a cure would often be through a psychologist or psychiatrist. But God could, as the question asked, cure someone without those means, as the comment from Tom noted in the link within the link. It’s a really poorly devised question.

But, TK, conservative mainstream Evangelicals --Cloud and Townsend, Focus on the Family, for example–have been speaking up about de-stigmatizing mental illness for years. While I’m not sure how things are among Catholics (as far as who is teaching them about mental illness), I have noticed a number of Catholics here referring back to Cloud and Townsend’s books as something they’ve used themselves.

For years, I had a pastor with both an M.Div and a PhD in psychology, and I have two close Evangelical friends who are psychologists…but I still would have answered the phone survey question with a “Yes”. It’s not a question likely to produce an accurate picture of how many people–yes, there are some, and some is too many–would permanently avoid medical treatment for mental illness.

“With just Bible study and prayer, ALONE, people with serious mental illness like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia could overcome mental illness.”

What serious Christian in their right mind would say “No” to that. I don’t read that as ruling out medical care but a statement that God through answer to prayer “could” (notice they weren’t ask if it “would” only that it “could”) heal mental illness.

That said, I think its a leap for people to take away from this study that half of evangelicals discourage people from seeking medical treatment for mental illness. So, I don’t think this shows “ignorance” on the part of evangelicals but “ignorance” on the part of the people who created and are interpreting this survey.

In fact, if you break the results down:

48% agreed
47% disagreed
5% not sure

I think the bigger story in this survey is that 47% of evangelicals DON"T believe that God could through prayer and devotion cure mental illness ALONE. That’s the real surprise to me. But as several of us have already said, this survey was poorly designed, so I’m not sure how reliable its results are either way.

Thank you! As soon as I started reading the actual questions posed to the sample I immediately got into Bill Clinton mode and thought to myself “well that’ll depend on what your definition of ‘could’ is.”

If you believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent creator, of course mental illness **could be cured through prayer alone. In fact, anything could be cured! But the Devil is in the details, and I’m sure the nuance to this wasn’t lost on these Evangelical participants. I most firmly believe that should I get cancer God could cure me of it instantaneously through nothing more than prayer (Hell! He could do it even without me praying!), but you could bet your sweet patootie that such wouldn’t preclude me from consulting an oncologist and immediately undergoing some form of treatment.

To give the researchers the benefit of the doubt, I clicked the link to their site and read their own synopsis of the poll (which was about as scant on details as the original news post), in hopes of finding an exhaustive list of every question asked of the participants. All they bothered to publish online were those same two ambiguously worded questions.

That said, I think its a leap for people to take away from this study that half of evangelicals discourage people from seeking medical treatment for mental illness. So, I don’t think this shows “ignorance” on the part of evangelicals but “ignorance” on the part of the people who created and are interpreting this survey.

In fact, if you break the results down:

48% agreed
47% disagreed
5% not sure

I think the bigger story in this survey is that 47% of evangelicals DON"T believe that God could through prayer and devotion cure mental illness ALONE. That’s the real surprise to me. But as several of us have already said, this survey was poorly designed, so I’m not sure how reliable its results are either way.

To be fair, it seems to me that the American people as a whole were used as a control and the Evangelical American population were the target, and so relative to their non-Evangelical counterparts, Evangelicals were indeed significantly more likely (sample n=1001, SD=+ or - 3) to say that it “could” be done. The question then becomes, even with the flawed question, what the average American would understand the question to mean. I would suspect that most individuals polled (both Evangelical and non-Evangelical alike) interpreted the question just as the researchers did: could it be done, with an implicit suggestion that it typically occurs.

Nevertheless, I find their second finding far more descriptive, and something all Christian churches ought to seek after:

[quote=LifeWay]Fifty-four percent of Americans say churches should do more to prevent suicide. That number jumps to 64 percent among evangelical, fundamentalist or born-again Christians.

Americans who never attend church services are the least likely to agree that churches welcome those with mental illness. Those who attend weekly see churches as welcoming.

Yes we do believe in medicine and doctors. However this is an interesting notion here because medicine does not heal or cure mental illness it only masks the symptoms and allows a person to function somewhat normally. Once the meds are stopped the illness manifests itself again. I will tell you from firsthand knowledge that my pastor has been to the psych ward more than once and prayed for people who have been afflicted and they are totally healed today with no need for psychotropic intervention.

Anyone who has studied the history medicine and doctors will see they are far from putting your faith in. The cure in many instances was more often worse than the disease. Bloodletting was the cure all for pretty much everything. Medicine since the 20th century has made vast improvements from the beginning of time. The woman with the issue of blood Mat 9 spent all her money on doctors and was not healed. We are directed in James 5:14 to call the elders of the elders for prayer.

I don’t doubt that this is possible, but prayers of this type should always end with, “not my will, but thine be done”. IOW, if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t mean people didn’t pray hard enough, or believe good enough.


We should always to seek God’s will to be done in all we do. I will say this though I have seen people permentally healed from many diseases. Not just masking the symptoms for a lifetime of prescription drug need.

Faith! I think if we had the same faith and expectation in God as we do in medicine we would see greater things come from the hand of God.

From Sirach 38

38 Honor the physician with the honor due him, according to your need of him,
for the Lord created him;
2 for healing comes from the Most High,
and he will receive a gift from the king.
3 The skill of the physician lifts up his head,
and in the presence of great men he is admired.
4 The Lord created medicines from the earth,
and a sensible man will not despise them.
5 Was not water made sweet with a tree
in order that his power might be known?
6 And he gave skill to men
that he might be glorified in his marvelous works.
7 By them he heals and takes away pain;
8 the pharmacist makes of them a compound.
His works will never be finished;
and from him health is upon the face of the earth.
9 My son, when you are sick do not be negligent,
but pray to the Lord, and he will heal you.
10 Give up your faults and direct your hands aright,
and cleanse your heart from all sin.
11 Offer a sweet-smelling sacrifice, and a
memorial portion of fine flour,
and pour oil on your offering, as much as you can afford.g
12 And give the physician his place, for the Lord created him;
let him not leave you, for there is need of him.
13 There is a time when success lies in the hands of physicians,
14 for they too will pray to the Lord
that he should grant them success in diagnosis
and in healing, for the sake of preserving life.
15 He who sins before his Maker,
may he fall into the care of a physician.

Having said that, I have no doubt - because I have experienced it and seen it happen in others close to me - that prayers does cure not just mental illnesses but any type of illness, but not prayer alone but the Grace and Mercy of God!!!

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam! :signofcross:

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