Is prayer powerless?
The study, published in the American Heart Journal, began ten years ago and involved over 1,800 patients, who were broken up into three groups. The first group was prayed for but not told about it; the second group was prayed for and told about it; and the third group was not prayed for at all.
The researchers asked members of three American church congregations to do the praying. They were given the patients' first and last names and were asked to include the phrase "for a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications" in their prayers.
The researchers followed the patients' recoveries for the next 30 days and found no difference between those who were prayed for and those who were not. They did, however, find that eight percent more of the patients who knew they were being prayed for had complications, like abnormal heart rhythms, than those who did not know.
While no one really knows why this was the case, or even if it was just due to chance, one of the researchers suggested to the New York Times that it may have been a kind of performance anxiety.
"It may have made them uncertain, wondering am I so sick they had to call in their prayer team?" said Dr. Charles Bethea, a cardiologist and co-author of the study, in this article published today in the Times.
But Bob Barth, a director of a Missouri prayer ministry called Silent Unity, did not find the findings worrisome.
"A person of faith would say that this study is interesting," Barth told the Times, "but we've been praying a long time and we've seen prayer work, we know it works, and the research on prayer and spirituality is just getting started." ☼