Unnecessary Study: Praying Doesn’t Heal Heart Patients

March 31, 2006 | By | 2 Replies More

Researchers have just spent a whole lot of money determining that prayer does not seem to work

In the largest study of its kind, researchers found that having people pray for heart bypass surgery patients had no effect on their recovery. In fact, patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications.

As usual, when science is not of benefit to Believers, Believers disparage science.  Says Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at the Duke University Medical Center, “why would God change his plans for a particular person just because they’re in a research study?” Of course, if this study had shown a positive correlation between prayer and health, Koenig and his peers would be marching through town to proclaim this wonderful new finding.  

But maybe the researchers shouldn’t give up so quickly on the power of prayer.  Perhaps a modified prayer study could check out a few possible wrinkles.  Although the people in the original study certainly prayed, perhaps they prayed improperly or ineffectively.  New studies might show that the power of prayer becomes more detectable when the people doing the praying make the sign of the cross, pray standing up, pray louder or pray by reciting formal prayers rather than in conversational tone.  Maybe the power of prayer is stronger when those praying are kneeling, using a rosary or praying at a time of day when God is more attentive (perhaps we should avoid praying during HIS afternoon nap).

A new improved study could also shed light on a current Middle East dispute: half the participants could pray to God and the other to Allah. Based on the health of the respective heart patients, we shall truly see which Deity is superior.  It could be arranged prior to this study that those whose Deity is proven weaker will begin worshiping the other side’s Deity.

Or maybe, instead of spending substantial money on more prayer studies, that money should be used to assist real life children who lack food, clothing, medicine and education. Children International is one organization that gives great bang for the buck in helping such children.

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Category: Medicine, Religion, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Doug says:

    Dr. Koenig's rhetorical question, "why would God change his plans for a particular person just because they’re in a research study?" is clearly a red herring. Obviously, God cannot be expected to change His plans for a research study, but He *is* supposed to change His plans in response to prayer. At least, that seems to be what most Jews, Christians and Muslims are taught to believe. Indeed, if God doesn't change His plans in response to prayer, then what is left to recommend these religions to a prospective Believer? Subtract the power of prayer from any of the three aforementioned religions and what do they have left to offer us lowly humans, other than the worship of a God who is terminally deaf to the pleas of His followers? Subtract the power of prayer, and free will would also seem to be on thin ice: God has his plan and ruthlessly carries it out.

    Since having God change His plans in response to prayer is really the only customer benefit that God can offer His subjects, I wonder why no controlled studies have ever shown prayer to have an impact, despite more than two millenia available to test the hypothesis. One would have though that if prayer really did achieve anything, then this would have been conclusively proven centuries ago, and there would be no further doubt about whether God exists and is listening to us. The fact that no such proof exists should make any Believer ask why.

  2. Devi says:

    Why isn't the "Why would God change his plans…" also considered supportive of the science? After all, if God had planned to heal the person, why would their participation in a study change that? Wouldn't the person still be healed? Do the nay sayers believe that scientists were able to pick only the people god had decided not to heal for participants in the study?

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