Thursday, March 30, 2006

Don't bother. . . .

Don't bother praying for the health of others. Surprise! It doesn't do diddly-squat for them, even if they know about it.

"Praying for other people to recover from an illness is ineffective, according to the largest, best-designed study to examine the power of prayer to heal strangers at a distance."

Naturally, it's entirely possible that saying the prayers may make YOU feel better, however.


Update: I always find it interesting when people dismiss research findings out-of-hand that they happen to dislike, without reviewing the actual study. An abstract of the study is here, and an editorial discussion of the findings is here. (May require registration).

17 comments:

TriFeist said...

So, if you or my beloved nieces were sick, you would hope I wished bad things upon you? If I hope the best for you and express that in prayer, you would prefer that I skipped all that?

Studies have said prayer helped. This one, larger, said it didn't. Many studies say obesity is the harbinger of doom but life refutes it.

People believe what they want to believe

nancytoby said...

I don't think your first sentence follows from my post, Linae!

But I will definitely affirm that I believe in your conclusion!

Mark I. said...

Risky territory, Nancy. You are braver than I. :)

TriFeist said...

My first sentence doesn't follow from your post? The post states:

Don't bother praying for the health of others.

My and many people's major form of expressing good will concerning health matters (or any matter) is prayer. You knew that when you posted the article. You say "don't bother". If you take away hope (or regulate the expression of hope), what remains? Apathy or or ill will.

The blog says: Don't bother.

it's entirely possible that saying the prayers may make YOU feel better,

I don't pray for people because it makes me feel better. Dwelling on the sufferings of others does not make me feel better.

*jeanne* said...

Isn't the whole idea of faith that it transcends proof?

Maybe the prayer-sayers weren't sincere enough. Or maybe they weren't concentrating. There is no way to put true scientific controls on this type of study, to my mind.

Although, I do get a sort of fiendish delight in the results.
;-P

nancytoby said...

There an infinite number of responses to someone you care about being ill: praying for them, wishing them well, working on research for a cure, wishing them ill, sitting by their bedside, writing them emails, talking to their relatives, learning out what you can about their condition ... it's not a single or even a binary choice.

Some investments of time and effort are much more likely to have a genuine impact in the physical world than others.

mipper said...

well, as much as i like you nancy, i'm just going to shake my head on this one. ;) i've seen it work personally in my own life with people whom i am directly related to. science won't change my mind.

but like the blogfather said, you are brave to open this one up. take care. hope this doesn't get too bumpy for you. eek.

BRFOOT said...

AS NEED TO BELIEVE INCREASES, ABILITY TO DISCERNE TRUTH FROM ERROR DECREASES. AND IF SOMETHING IS TRUE FOR SOMEONE, THEN FOR THEM, IT IS TRUE. IF SOMEONE WANTS TO CHOOSE TO BELIEVE THAT A BIRD FLAPPING ITS WINGS IN CHINA CAUSES THE WIND TO BLOW IN FLORIDA. THAT IS THEIR CHOICE, DOES NOT MEAN IT IS CORRECT.
I THINK IT IS FACINATING THAT PEOPLE BECOME SO DEFENSIVE WHEN THINGS LIKE THIS ARE CHALLENGED. I'M NOT SURE IF IT IS JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE INSECURE ABOUT THEIR POSITION OR IF THEY FEEL LIKE IF A PRAYER IS ALL THEY HAVE TO OFFER, AND PEOPLE CHALLENGE THE EFFICACY OF THE PRAYER, THEN IN A WAY THEY ARE REALLY OFFERING NOTHING.
BOTTEM LINE THOUGH IF YOU ARE TAKING THE TIME TO THINK ABOUT SOMEONE, THAT HAS A VALUE TO BOTH PEOPLE INVOLVED AS WELL AS THE RELATIONSHIP. BUT DOES IT CURE THINGS???

William said...

We are lead by fools.

Flatman said...

I'm with Mip on this one. I have seen evidence of prayer changing things, and not only health. But, that said, you definitely have the right to believe what you want.

Why is this even an issue? I am not doing research and writing papers to prove my beliefs. Beliefs most often, can't be proven...

Mark I. said...

As someone with some post-secondary background, I can attest - as I'm sure others can, that whenever a person's BASE belief system is challenged, there is going to be defensiveness. This is one of the hardest things people go through when they first come from church and attend some classes such as philosophy.

People get upset, angry and a whole lot of other stuff.

That said, I have no problem with people questioning the power of prayer or the power of someone's V8 engine to get them up a mountain.

But, you gotta expect a strong reaction from people because, as I've said, it's part of their deepest beliefs.

I'm prayin' for you Nancy! ;-)

nancytoby said...

I'd say read the paper summary and discussion I linked to before dismissing it without reviewing the actual information!

To me part of the question is - is the supernatural purely supernatural? Or does it have concrete effects in the physical world? I think it's a valid question for investigation, but the studies must be very carefully designed and analyzed (as I believe this one was, for the most part) for the researchers not to bias the results in advance with their own preconceptions.

William said...

Wow, very scientific. Impressive brain power those people have.

jeanne said...

I think the scientific jury is still out on whether or not prayer can or does change the course of an illness. However, there are many more reasons to pray than trying to change God's mind. Prayer includes listening, discussion, and giving thanks—as well as intercession.

Brave of you to bring this up.

Danny said...

I almost got tempted to comment on this one, but I resisted at the last second, and deleted my remarks.

I'd say no matter how strong one's arguments are for one side or the other, nobody is going to change their mind based on *any* study, or *any* comment made here.

nancytoby said...

I'm loving this discussion! I don't want to attack anyone's personal beliefs - but I always enjoy a healthy, open, respectful debate.

Another aspect for discussion:

Supposing (just for a second) that
A) prayer DOES have a positive/healthful effect on the health of people prayed for (when they don't know about it), wouldn't it logicially follow and therefore also be true that
B) negative prayer (expressions of ill will, harmful thoughts, incantations, etc.) would have to have a negative/detrimental effect on the health of people similiarly "prayed" for (when they don't know about it)!?

Why or why not?

mipper said...

ok.. on your last thought Nancy. i don't believe people can will God to do evil to others. however, i acknowledge evil powers out there and people who know how to use them (witchcraft, etc). i think that can be used to harm people, but i do not believe that God will listen to those prayers. ok, well, i know He hears those things but i believe they do not sway Him. i believe, no matter what anyone's prayers are, for whatever, they should always be asked in the respect of God's will. and many times that means we have to pray for help to understand and accept His will.

just my thoughts there. not sure i actually answered your posed question however.