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The Power Of Prayer


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In April, 2006, The American Heart Journal published the most comprehensive study ever conducted on the effects of intercessory prayer on the health and recovery of patients. Directed by Harvard University Medical School cardiologist Herbert Benson, a long-time proponent of the salubrious effects of prayer, and partially funded by the Templeton Foundation, known for its support of research linking science and religion, the findings were eagerly awaited by members of both communities.




There were a total of 1,802 patients from six U.S. hospitals that were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: 604 received intercessory prayer and were told that they may or may not receive prayer; 597 did not receive intercessory prayer and were also told that they may or may not receive prayer; and 601 received intercessory prayer and were told they would receive prayer. Prayers began the night before the surgery and continued daily for two weeks after. The prayers were allowed to pray in the manner of their choice, but they were instructed to ask “for a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications.”


The results were unequivocal: there were no statistically significant differences between any of the groups. Prayer did not work. Worse, there were slight elevated complications (although not statistically significant) for the patients in the group who knew that they were being prayed for — a “nocebo” effect. Case closed.


As for previous studies in which the positive effects of prayer were claimed, there were numerous methodological problems with all of them, including:


  1. Lack of Controls. Many of these studies failed to control for such intervening variables as age, sex, education, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, marital standing, degree of religiosity, and the fact that most religions have sanctions against such insalubrious behaviors as sexual promiscuity, alcohol and drug abuse, and smoking. When such variables are controlled for, the formerly significant results disappear. One study on recovery from hip surgery in elderly women failed to control for age; another study on church attendance and illness recovery did not consider that people in poorer health are less likely to attend church; a related study failed to control for levels of exercise.
  2. Outcome differences. In one of the most highly publicized studies of cardiac patients prayed for by born-again Christians, 29 outcome variables were measured but on only six did the prayed-for group show improvement. In related studies, different outcome measures were significant. To be meaningful, the same measures need to be significant across studies, because if enough outcomes are measured some will show significant correlations by chance.
  3. File-drawer problem. In several studies on the relationship between religiosity and mortality (religious people allegedly live longer), a number of religious variables were used, but only those with significant correlations were reported. Meanwhile, other studies using the same religiosity variables found different correlations and, of course, only reported those. The rest were filed away in the drawer of non-significant findings. When all variables are factored in together, religiosity and mortality show no relationship.
  4. Operational definitions. When experimenting on the effects of prayer, what, precisely, is being studied? For example, what type of prayer is being employed? (Are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, and Shaman prayers equal?) Who or what is being prayed to? (Are God, Jesus, and a universal life force equivalent?) What is the length and frequency of the prayer? (Are two 10-minute prayers equal to one 20-minute prayer?) How many people are praying and does their status in the religion matter? (Is one priestly prayer identical to ten parishioner prayers?) Most prayer studies either lack such operational definitions, or there is no consistency across studies in such definitions.
  5. Theological difficulties. If God is omniscient and omnipotent, He should not need to be reminded or inveigled that someone needs healing. And what about all those patients who were prayed for and died? Scientific prayer makes God a celestial lab rat, leading to bad science and worse religion.

So, when examining this, it is *important* that the test be done *scientifically*.


I got the data above from:




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As I said in a few threads, if prayer worked, the SE wouldn't be suffering the driest year on record. All the prayer-fests organized in the last 6 months should have done something.

But when it breaks, and it will, then it'll be "a gift from gawd!!!"

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Guest reasonist

Quite true.


For every million prayers prayed, perhaps a couple get fulfilled out of pure luck or coincidence (like a lottery).


And people rejoice with an answered prayer.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Go to www.godisimaginary.com where there is an experiment that shows a person has as much chance praying to a milk jug for help as to praying to god.

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Millions prayed to try and stop World War II and spectacularly failed. However, good christian Adolf Hitler may have been praying for war.


Charities say that a child under five dies every two seconds from hunger, thirst or disease despite everything they can do. I would think that the parents of these children prayed desperately to try and stop this happening, so again proving that prayer is a waste of time.


Christians believe that a god who clearly does not give a damn while they are alive will somehow care for them when they are dead and look after them. If he doesn't, what are they going to do? Sue him?

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