Thursday, March 30, 2006

Prayer Study in the NY Times

The NY Times just posted a story entitled "Long Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer." The paper described the study thus:

"In the study, the researchers monitored 1,802 patients at six hospitals who received coronary bypass surgery, in which doctors reroute circulation around a clogged vein or artery.
The patients were broken into three groups. Two were prayed for; the third was not. Half the patients who received the prayers were told that they were being prayed for; half were told that they might or might not receive prayers.
The researchers asked the members of three congregations — St. Paul's Monastery in St. Paul; the Community of Teresian Carmelites in Worcester, Mass.; and Silent Unity, a Missouri prayer ministry near Kansas City — to deliver the prayers, using the patients' first names and the first initials of their last names.
The congregations were told that they could pray in their own ways, but they were instructed to include the phrase, "for a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications."
Analyzing complications in the 30 days after the operations, the researchers found no differences between those patients who were prayed for and those who were not.
In another of the study's findings, a significantly higher number of the patients who knew that they were being prayed for — 59 percent — suffered complications, compared with 51 percent of those who were uncertain. The authors left open the possibility that this was a chance finding. But they said that being aware of the strangers' prayers also may have caused some of the patients a kind of performance anxiety."

Well, I am convinced. I will never pray again because of this study, and I certainly won't tell people I am praying for them because I don't want to make them sicker. I mean I only prayed in the first place because I thought that faith was scientifically verifiable and that there was no supernatural being that could act on people in ways we don't understand. If God won't intervene in instances where people are told by researchers to pray for other people for the purposes of proving that prayer works, when will he intervene? It takes a lot of faith and requires a lot of sincerity and deep belief to pray for people when you are told to pray for them by 3rd parties.
Could somebody please explain what the purpose of this study could possibly be? We can't pin God in a box and force him to heal certain people for the purposes of a scientific study. Any mature person of faith would tell you that. If we could, then why not just do studies like this all the time with every person in the world? If the study had come out the other way, I seriously doubt that the Times would have proclaimed that God acts when we pray; instead they would almost certainly have stated that one study seems to show that prayer works but that it hardly proves anything except that when people believe God will help their belief influences their healing. Somehow God would lose either way and the study would end up signifying nothing. If the results aren't going to be believed either way, why conduct such a useless study in the first place?
This study was privately funded, but did you catch the line in the story that said " The government has spent more than $2.3 million on prayer research since 2000." I thought that there was an insurmountable wall between church and state? So how come the government is funding research that is trying to prove or disprove prayer? Must be a pretty low wall. I am so proud that my tax dollars are going to fund such laudable research. I would pray that it is successful but the studies haven't shown that my prayers would do any good.

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