In the News: Prayer strikes out

Last week's Newsweek featured an article on page 15 about a $2.4 million study to determine whether anonymous prayer helped sick people. The idea was to divide 1802 coronary bypass patients into three groups. Two groups were told they might be prayed for and the last groups was told that it was being prayed for. Of the two first groups, one was actually prayed for and the other was not. Both groups did the same, with about half experiencing complications. Weirdly, the third group -- which knew it was getting spiritual assistance, actually did worse than the other two, with 59% experiencing complications!

Appropriately enough, the Newsweek article was titled, "Don't Pray for Me! Please!"

What to make of this? Does this prove that prayer does not work? Maybe. The scientists, of course could not tell which prayer groups were actually effective at asking for and receiving the benefits of intercessory prayer, leaving a huge methodological gap. Then again, maybe God was not interested in being tested. After all, one of Satan's temptations was to get Christ to test God's love by hurling himself off the heights of the Temple. Perhaps the patients' own wish to be the target of prayer was a prayer in itself; after all, no group was told that it would not be prayed for! Maybe God was ticked that people would spend so much money to prove what cannot be proven, and will not be believed (without faith) even if it is proven.

In any case, the elusive God continues to elude us and will not allow Himself to be pinned down on a microscope slide.