This is timely, considering my objection to Gov. Manchin’s remarks yesterday:
Prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people who were undergoing heart surgery, a large and long-awaited study has found.
And patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of post-operative complications like abnormal heart rhythms, perhaps because of the expectations the prayers created, the researchers suggested.
Because it is the most scientifically rigorous investigation of whether prayer can heal illness, the study, begun almost a decade ago and involving more than 1,800 patients, has for years been the subject of speculation.
The question has been a contentious one among researchers. Proponents have argued that prayer is perhaps the most deeply human response to disease, and that it may relieve suffering by some mechanism that is not yet understood. Skeptics have contended that studying prayer is a waste of money and that it presupposes supernatural intervention, putting it by definition beyond the reach of science.
I am a little surprised that the results were negative, because if you had asked me beforehand, I would have told you they would find nothing at all- no statistically significant relationships whatsoever. I have no idea how large the relationships were, how they controlled for things, etc., but I would bet it was rigorously done given how contentious there findings were going to be.
At any rate, the one thing the study did not apparently look at was who prayer is really designed for- the people praying, not the target of the prayers. When those miners were stuck in the mine in Sago, no amount of prayer was going to help them get out. Prayer did, on the other hand, really help the families of the victims. It gave them something to do and it gave them a sense that they were doing somthing to help, as well as bringing the group together in a shared activity when they needed suuport the most. So, regardless what this study shows, I wouldn’t say prayer is useless, because prayer is helping someone in these circumstances.