FAITH & HEALING

CAN PRAYER, FAITH AND SPIRITUALITY REALLY IMPROVE YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH? A GROWING AND SURPRISING BODY OF SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE SAYS THEY CAN

Draped in embroidered cloth, laden with candles, redolent with roses and incense, the altar at the Santa Fe, New Mexico, home of Eetla Soracco seems an unlikely site for cutting-edge medical research. Yet every day for 10 weeks, ending last October, Soracco spent an hour or more there as part of a controlled study in the treatment of AIDS. Her assignment: to pray for five seriously ill patients in San Francisco.

Soracco, an Estonian-born "healer" who draws on Christian, Buddhist and Native American traditions, did not know the people for whom she was praying. All she had were their photographs, first...