Friday, March 31, 2006

Healing Power of Prayer Fails Test

Here are excerpts from a news report documenting prayer’s healing failure in the largest study so far:

A study of more than 1,800 patients who underwent heart bypass surgery has failed to show that prayers specially organized for their recovery had any impact, researchers said on Thursday.

In fact, the study found some of the patients who knew they were being prayed for did worse than others who were only told they might be prayed for -- though those who did the study said they could not explain why.

Read the entire study.

Tests like this are of course contributory signs of our growing agnostic and secular times; thus even such a benign but very reverentially sacrosanct practice as praying is now put to a litmus test. Tested essentially to determine its efficacy in healing illnesses of people being prayed for or being prayed over.

To be fair the test really was focused on group praying rather than individual, personal or family praying. And praying done essentially by strangers. Most probably buoyed up and inspired by some reported successes of group intercessory prayers. Like those typically witnessed in religious revival meetings and those conducted in charismatic movements and similar gatherings or movements.

And for further illustration, the Catholic Sacrifice of the Mass would be a perfect example of group praying. And another would be praying done by those in monasteries. The report skirts the more thorny issue of personal prayers with the carte blanche statement that such was popularly believed to be efficacious. Quite ironic considering that even a statement of Christ would defer more to group praying rather than individual praying. Christ avers in the following paraphrased statement that: when two or more of you gather and pray in my name, I will be in your midst. Implying that his presence, and hopefully intercession, is guaranteed under such a milieu.

Praying and prayers have historically and traditionally been viewed with awe-some deference in most major if not all religions. As a ritual and regular practice, devotees have always been enjoined to develop the habit of praying, especially during times of need, both personal and otherwise.

Some religions more than others have embraced praying as a very critical and integral component and vehicle of worship and adoration.

And devotees are strongly encouraged to pray for anything and everything their hearts may desire. So long as they are all for morally good and upright purposes.

Growing up Catholic, we were taught that one’s entire day of actions, words, and thoughts could be all rolled up and offered as one big efficacious prayer. The formula was to intone the Morning Offering first chance in the morning.

It went this way:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen

We were quite unquestioning and unequivocal about praying and prayer. We simply did it. And hoped for the best.

Many of us never really delved into the whys and wherefores, or even if it made sense at all given what we know about our created existence and the God who made that possible. The God who is all-knowing, all-powerful and all- mighty.

Thus, for example, it never occurred to us kids that that God already knows everything because he is omniscient. He already knows everything past, present, and future. Thus, in His eyes everything for everybody including inanimate objects in creation is already neatly laid out, unchangeable and unalterable. Why then, the need for praying to ask for things or to allow things to happen? What could we possibly do, either individually or collectively, to affect or change any or all that?

Nor did we consider the very obvious dilemma as characterized by prayers for victory being offered by two opposing teams prior to their competition. How could that one same all-good God possibly resolve which team would get His nod?

Just the same the efficacy of praying was never in doubt, whether for its healing powers or its abilities to bring about things wished for.

Here’s an earlier blog entry dealing more deeply into Praying and Prayer.

But to reiterate, from an Ignatian Perspective, here is how praying should be viewed and undertaken:

That we must pray as though the matter we desire depended entirely on God and then work on it as though it depended entirely on ourselves.


  1. Michael Saffran9:22 PM

    I'm an authority on wrogging, not prayer (for readers who don't know what I'm talking about, see Amadeo's March 31 post, "Second Update" ;-) But, as someone with an interest in this very interesting topic and post, I would add:

    Anyone who isn't quite sure about the power of prayer should consider trying it sometime (for they may be quite surprised -- or even awed -- by the outcome).

    How to pray? Personally, I've always been partial to the instruction of Matthew 6:6.

    Finally, my creed: Ask for inspiration and then follow your heart (because that is where you will find it).

  2. Hi, Michael:

    Nice of you to visit.

    Glad to find a kindred soul on cyberspace.

    Will continue to promote the virtues of correct English language usage.


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