Intercessory Prayer

Scripture tells us to ask and it will be given, yet the most recent and largest intercessory prayer study, ending in 2006 indicates that prayer had no effect on recovery. What does that say about prayer?

It says that science does not necessarily have the capacity to measure matters of the spiritual realm. Where is the scientific test to determine if the people praying had faith in the prayer? How does one measure the effect of prayer without first having previous knowledge of the future? The claim is that prayer did not make people recover faster, but there is no proof that the person did not recover faster than they might have otherwise. While science can measure physical things, the spiritual realm is by its very nature difficult to measure/prove with physical tests.

God did not say that it would be given what people asked for: “Please, MyLord, kill my enemy in a fulminant heart attack !”. So prayers are odd and not for the best of the person or other persons.

God knows whether recovery was not the best.

You must hear this once in your lifetime:

youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA

The patients not only didn’t recover faster, but intercessory prayer had no effect whatsoever, except that those prayed for had a slightly higher incidence of complications. :frowning:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studies_on_intercessory_prayer

I’ve seen effects that go both ways, and I’m not sure if this is the sort of thing that can be tested, at least in terms of a Catholic/Traditional context. When I think of intercessory prayer I think of the prayers of the Saints in Heaven.

Though even if it was testable, I was always under the impression that miraculous healings–were…well…miraculous. In general it is true that religious people live longer than non-religious people.

Do patients always recover at the same speed as other patients? That is the problem with this sort of study. It attempts to portray it as if every person recovers from the same sort of surgery at the same time, so that if we look at groups and they do not recover faster than the other group, then we can say that prayer had no effect.

The stark reality of it is though, that there is no way to measure it without having a definitive timeline. We cannot say that they didn’t recover faster, without having knowledge of the future. The only way we can this group didn’t recover faster than they would have without prayer… is to have seen the future and how long it would have taken that very group to recover. To compare them to another group bases it on the supposition that all groups recovery at the same speed when averaged out, when that is never the case.

Here’s the problem with criticizing how the prayers were conducted by the Templeton Foundation…

  1. The scientists running the study believed in the power of prayer. They made their best attempt to do it properly.

  2. If it’s too complicated to pray properly, then how can anyone ever measure the results of prayer? There is an awful lot of certainty in the power of prayer, yet the people claiming “God answered my prayers” don’t think it was too difficult to be done in the right manner, and by making such a proclamation are declaring that they understand the method.

  3. There was a control group. You claim that there’s no way to know how the people prayed over would’ve done without prayer - and that’s true - but there was a group put in that position. They may not have been the exact same people, but there’s no logical reason why they should’ve been treated differently.

  4. This was a perfect chance for God to prove the power of prayer. You believe in the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel calling down fire on an altar before the priests of Baal, yes? And yet this same God did not demonstrate his power here. The way this test was done allowed for a positive result. It could have allowed God to prove that prayer works, but it didn’t.

  5. Just imagine how this study would’ve gone if there wasn’t a God. It would’ve had this same outcome, correct? Muslims pray and believe that Allah answers their prayers. I imagine that you’d want them to wake up to the obvious fact that they’re praying to no one when a test showed as much, but they’d also defend prayer despite the evidence because they simply can’t accept that their prayer doesn’t work. Isn’t it possible that you’re doing the same thing?

Just imagine how this study would’ve gone if there wasn’t a God. It would’ve had this same outcome, correct?

But you see that’s just bad logic. You’re assuming in the very way you stated it that there is no God. You are assuming that prayer had 0 effect on the people in the study, when in fact there is no way to measure that.

Muslims pray and believe that Allah answers their prayers. I imagine that you’d want them to wake up to the obvious fact that they’re praying to no one when a test showed as much, but they’d also defend prayer despite the evidence because they simply can’t accept that their prayer doesn’t work. Isn’t it possible that you’re doing the same thing?

You’re also assuming that Catholics automatically believe that Muslims are not praying to God. When in fact that’s not the stance of the catholic church at all. At least not the Roman Catholic one.

841 The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.

While we don’t agree that they are worshiping the correct way, nor do we agree that their book is necessarily divinely inspired, we do realize they are attempting to hold to the Abrahamic faith and trying to worship the same God.

What do you mean that there’s “no way to measure that”? The people in the study that were not prayed for and the people that were prayed for had the same outcome. Prayer was not a factor in the healing process because there was no difference between the control group and the experimental group. That’s the whole point of a scientific test, to measure the difference between two groups and see what difference the “variable” makes between the two.

That’s not relevant. Are you disagreeing with me on whether their prayers work or not? Do you believe that prayers to Allah also have an effect, they also “ask” and “receive”?

Yes there is, there are different people. I don’t think the study was done “wrong” but of course its only natural that totally different people would be “treated differently”.

  1. This was a perfect chance for God to prove the power of prayer. You believe in the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel calling down fire on an altar before the priests of Baal, yes? And yet this same God did not demonstrate his power here. The way this test was done allowed for a positive result. It could have allowed God to prove that prayer works, but it didn’t.

I have no position on the story of Elijah specifically. I do know that it is explicitly stated in the Bible that you should not test the Lord your God, though I have no idea if these were Catholic prayers or what. If all you want to do is “test the effectiveness of prayer” then take 10 glasses and pray that God will not let them break or whatever, then take another 10 and pray that God will let them break, drop them both and see what happens. :rolleyes: Saves yourself a lot of funding money.

There have been other prayer studies where the prayed-for group did end up doing better. Personally, I think that miracle healings are miraculous and rare, and that any prayer is most importantly done with the person, unless said person absolutely is beyond any response.

I am not attacking this study at all, I just thought that these two points were terribly flawed from a Catholic point of view.

And yes, the Muslims do worship the same God as we do, though obviously we disagree with their assessment of the truth. Allah just means God in Arabic, Christians in the Middle East call God the same thing. :slight_smile:

You’re still not following my analogy because you’re nit-picking. Do you believe that the Scientologists’ E-Meter works? It has been scientifically proven to be ineffective, and yet this didn’t dismantle the faith or believe of Scientologists. They’re still going strong, and they haven’t stopped using the device just because scientists say it doesn’t work. And they defend their debunked views by blaming the users, much like the church blames the person offering a prayer for not doing it right (by not having enough faith, not using the right name for God, by having unconfessed sin, etc.).

It’s not important whether Allah answers prayers. It’s an analogy. I just want you to see how the defense of your faith may simply be a knee-jerk reaction that you feel is necessary, not because you have an intimate understanding of how God treats prayers.

That’s not relevant. Are you disagreeing with me on whether their prayers work or not? Do you believe that prayers to Allah also have an effect, they also “ask” and “receive”?

It’s completely relevant. You indicated that I should want you to prove that a Muslim’s prayers were ineffective because of the 'obvious fact they were praying to no one"; when that is not an obvious fact. All of the suppositions of your rebuttle make assumptions that have no grounding in what we believe, so how can you argue against a faith without understanding their belief?

Let’s take this for instance:

If it’s too complicated to pray properly, then how can anyone ever measure the results of prayer? There is an awful lot of certainty in the power of prayer, yet the people claiming “God answered my prayers” don’t think it was too difficult to be done in the right manner, and by making such a proclamation are declaring that they understand the method.

You are making it out that prayer is like science, in that it is a method that if you understand it that it will be answered. That is not the Catholic understanding of prayer at all. It completely ignores other factors, for instance God’s will for us.

You also ask how can anyone measure the results of prayer? Why should physical science be able to measure spiritual things?

This was a perfect chance for God to prove the power of prayer. You believe in the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel calling down fire on an altar before the priests of Baal, yes? And yet this same God did not demonstrate his power here. The way this test was done allowed for a positive result. It could have allowed God to prove that prayer works, but it didn’t.

This makes the assumption that an all powerful God needs to prove to the world that prayer works. That we have given Him a chance to do something, as if He needed us to make anything happen. It’s obvious enough that there are more than a few people who believe in the power of prayer, without needing this scientific study to prove it to them. Just as many people of faith will not see this study as proof that it doesn’t work. That’s what faith is about. God doesn’t need to prove that prayer works in a verifiable scientific way for those who have seen it work with their own eyes and bodies to believe in it.

I am not nit-picking here Starcrash, I actually added in that bit about Allah as an edit after I posted because I think its a common misconception people have about Islam and Allah. I understood what you were trying to say in your “analogy”, my issues were only with the other things that I quoted–that this study was “God’s chance to prove prayer” and that there is “no reason for them to be treated differently” are both pretty egregious statements especially within a Christian context.

E-meters are made to detect electrical currents, and their issue is that they are using them to detect disease or whatever, as far as I can tell from that wikipedia article. I would hope that scientologists go on to diagnose properly. That’s about it.

I don’t think anyone here “blamed a person offering a prayer” (though your relationship to God is always important when it comes to prayer–that is why we ask the Saints for their own assistance). Prayer is a good act, to bestow God’s graces on someone–for a more pure heart, for a stronger faith, greater obedience, and yes, sometimes even to ask for a miracle. Miracle healings themselves are well documented, but they are still going to be rare. While some Protestant sects distorted the meaning of the Bible and forgo all medical care instead relying only on prayer, I don’t think this is common in a Catholic framework, and instead we traditionally focus on building hospitals and caring for the sick and dying, taking care of their physical needs so they may concentrate on the spiritual. Correct me if I am wrong.

What make these tests perplexing is the fact it cannot measure the speed of recovery. They cannot test prayers like they test drugs. God answers prayers in different ways and in different time, drugs act almost in the same speed. The study is obviously faulty and assumptious, also it also falls in the mistake of scientism.

As to your speech about Muslims. Muslims pray to God as well, and other religious people also pray to God even though they do not know it. Sometimes God answer their prayers to save them, sometimes God uses it as a chance to convert them to the true faith. Again, God does not need to prove anything for He is God.

But wouldn’t there have been some difference in the outcome, if
god answers intercessory prayer – even some difference?

But wouldn’t there have been some difference in the outcome, if
god answers intercessory prayer – even some difference?

Without knowing what the outcome would have been before doing the experiment, there is no proof either way that the outcome didn’t change. There is no way of knowing if there was a ‘difference.’

If I can see the future, and I know someone is going to die at 3:55 pm tomorrow. Then I pray that God will give them more time on earth. Then they die at 3:56 pm. I could justly say “ahh see prayer was effective.” In the same stance, if I know they are going to die at 3:55, and they do die at 3:55, “I can say with certainty that prayer was not effective.”

If I don’t now whether or not someone is going to die tomorrow at all, and I pray God give them more time on earth… and they die at 3:58, then there is no proof either way that prayer was effective.

The same is true if we ask God to heal someone and they do heal… we don’t know that they wouldn’t have or would have healed as fast, as cleanly, without infection etc. We just don’t know what the future holds, so to say that it’s scientific certainty that the effect wasn’t changed by prayer is to assume we know that the person was going to have the same results before we ever pray.

I don’t know how to use an analogy that you’re familiar with. An E-Meter is what Scientologists use as a tool to get people to join their church - they use them on others to diagnose their emotional problems, and then offer their church as a solution. But the basis for this is the E-meter, which is a faulty instrument (as determined by outside laboratories such as the FDA’s). Scientologists are not going to “correct” this, because it would mean they were wrong about all of the previous diagnoses, and it would be a direct attack on a device they’ve declared infallible (“The E-meter is never wrong. It sees all; it knows all. It tells everything.”). Do you see the parallel that I’m trying to draw here? In defense of prayer, which can’t be seen by believers as “faulty” or “working only some of the time”, these excuses are used. But just like the E-Meter, prayer could simply be faulty, which is what the results of the 2006 Templeton Prayer Study found.

By saying that the method of this study was done wrong - that the prayers were done incorrectly - you’re not faulting God or prayer but rather the people offering the prayers.

There is good logic behind believing that a person can be cured with prayer. The bible says “ask and ye shall receive”, and the asking part is done through prayer. Healing people is clearly within God’s will, because Jesus never turned away a request for healing (and spent a good amount of his time on this task). But when we atheists see somebody coming out of a hospital praising God for healing, we wonder why they’re giving the credit to God rather than the hospital, which seems like a perfectly good place for healing no matter what you believe. If you want to prove that God heals, you can’t do it by using prayer and medicine. If the person is healed, there’s simply no way to separate the two methods used and figure out which one contributed (if at all)… unless you compare them to a person getting the medicine without prayer (like this study did). Then you can look at the effects of “just prayer”… and “just prayer” doesn’t have an effect.

But you know this - as does the “Catholic framework” - which is why you don’t rely on prayer alone when you need a result. While forgoing medicine for prayer is dangerous and reckless, at least it shows more faith in prayer than you appear to have. Like me, you understand on some level that prayer can’t be depended upon, as the results are erratic. It’s easy to simply tag prayer onto an act with an expected result and then credit prayer afterwards. It’s harder to risk lives on prayer, because God doesn’t reliably protect life.

And about miracle healings… who cares how well-documented they are? People are easily deceived in this regard.

By saying that the method of this study was done wrong - that the prayers were done incorrectly - you’re not faulting God or prayer but rather the people offering the prayers.

I never said any such thing though. :confused: It’s certainly not the way that I would pray at all, certainly no one would pray that way, but I am never one to judge if the prayer was offered correctly.

What I did take issue with were the two things I quoted of yours.

There is good logic behind believing that a person can be cured with prayer. The bible says “ask and ye shall receive”, and the asking part is done through prayer. Healing people is clearly within God’s will, because Jesus never turned away a request for healing (and spent a good amount of his time on this task). But when we atheists see somebody coming out of a hospital praising God for healing, we wonder why they’re giving the credit to God rather than the hospital, which seems like a perfectly good place for healing no matter what you believe.

The hospital gets their thanks in the form of the hospital bill! :stuck_out_tongue: But no, healing someone is not always in God’s will, many many Saints died very early of sickness or disease. The healings of the Bible were a sign to those who followed Christ.

But you know this - as does the “Catholic framework” - which is why you don’t rely on prayer alone when you need a result. While forgoing medicine for prayer is dangerous and reckless, at least it shows more faith in prayer than you appear to have. Like me, you understand on some level that prayer can’t be depended upon, as the results are erratic. It’s easy to simply tag prayer onto an act with an expected result and then credit prayer afterwards. It’s harder to risk lives on prayer, because God doesn’t reliably protect life.

I have absolute faith in prayer. And I have faith in the many miraculous healings as well, from Christ and the Saints, as I have witnessed them myself when there was no medical intervention to be had. But prayer has always been about bestowing God’s graces for the betterment of your own spirit–not “rent out a list of names to three parishes and have them add this line and experience a 24.2% drop in your mortality rate” or whatever. If you want that, there’s already plenty of evidence that increased religiousity shows a decreased mortality rate, but no way would you let me get away with saying that proves anything, right? :wink:

Just like a Catholic (or any Christian) feeds the hungry, they don’t just pray for the hungry to be full. While miracles have happened to where people have survived a long time without food or drink, again, these are rare blessings. And we ask for legislation to protect the unborn. We are the body of Christ to take of the physical needs, God and the Saints in Heaven take care of the spiritual needs. That is how I see it. You might say that caring for the sick and feeding the hungry shows we don’t have Faith in God–but that is precisely what God commanded us to do! :whacky:

And about miracle healings… who cares how well-documented they are?

The science that you are saying disproves prayer is built on evidence. If we dismiss evidence simply because people can be deceived, we have to dismiss all evidence simply on the same basis. You can’t take only the evidence that fits the bias and say I accept this, because I don’t like that. It takes a great deal of faith in the lack of evidence of prayer to dismiss all evidence to the contrary to hold to what you believe to be true.

I don’t put much stock int hat study for two reasons:

  1. They have no way to show that either group was NOT prayed for. Many times people pray without being asked. there is no way to check with God and say “God, please let us know if anyone prays for that guy, we are doing a study here and don’t want them to!” Well, I guess you can ask God to do that, but most likly His answer would be “No.”

  2. Scriptures tell us God answers prayers. Yes He Does. But the answers are not always Yes. The answer might be “no” or “later”. There is nothing in that study to account for answers other than “yes, I will heal you faster.” What if what is best for a person is for them to heal slower?

God is not a robot servant that does what we command when we command it. All this study did is verify this fact.

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