Does Prayer Work? That is the Scientific question.
There have been many studies over the last 65 years as pertaining to the effectiveness and verifiability of the assured applicability of prayer. The majority of the studies have taken place under medical-academic settings. Others have taken place in more unconventional ways. In all fairness there are varying results when it comes to the effectiveness and efficiency of prayer of does it actually work. Some have prayer works, but only as a placebo effect and in not real healing. Other have said it helps in areas of recovery. Studies on Prayer inconclusive:
- Studies on Intercessory Prayer
- 25 Intriguing Studies about Faith, Prayer, and Healing
- Testing Prayer: Can Science Prove the Healing Power of Prayer
- Did Prayer save 5-Year Old Hostage?
Without a doubt the most famous study of the scientific effectiveness of prayer was performed by Dr. Randolph Byrd, in which he completed a double blind study. His famous study was done in 1986; Dr. Byrd then a medical a cardiologist in San Francisco divided into two groups all his patients (400 in total) that were taking up medical beds in the coronary care unit of San Francisco General Hospital. He did his study over a period of ten months. Group One was assigned to a variety of prayer teams throughout the United States, who prayed for them each day. Group Two was not assigned any prayer team. Each prayer team was given the first name of the patient and told that the patient was in the CCU. They were given no instructions as to how they were to pray, as long as they prayed for the patient once a day. In summary Byrd determined the mortality rate in both groups was the same. Byrd concluded that prayer positively affected recovery, but not the death rate.
And again in 1999 a Dr. William S. Harris also attempted to replicate Byrd’s study and concluded that “supplementary, remote, blinded, intercessory prayer produced a measurable improvement in the medical outcomes of critically ill patients.” As according to the findings of his study.
Theses are not the only studies that were done into proving the scientific effectiveness of prayer. Here are the varying sources with different degrees of results verifying the effectiveness of prayer:
However their are claims that in these studies used many used a Sharpshooter mentality, in that their results can be explained by chance and confirmation bias. Psychiatrist Richard P. Sloan compared the Byrd and Harris studies with the sharpshooter fallacy, “searching through the data until a significant effect is found, then drawing the bull’s-eye.” For example it is stated by critics of their of the Byrd and Harris study that they did not completely do the study in a controlled environment and that Harris’ study did not using an impartial measuring standard.
In Considering…”Both of these claims can be proven false by the 49 prayer studies during the past 52 years. Most studies use hospitals because there is nowhere greater place where prayers take place (other than a church, synagogue or mosque). Turns out that people of all faiths as well as atheists get healed the same. No one faith is healed greater than another. The atheists’ ‘hopes’ get answered just the same as a Christian’s/Jews/Muslims (pick any religion) ‘prayers’.” -(By Bruce Gleason, One Proof that there is no God)
However on the opposite end of the spectrum, there have been many medical & academic studies that come to the conclusion that prayer has no effect and is of no effect. One study done by ambiguously the most recognized and prestigious Health group in the US, the Mayo Clinic in 2001 came to the conclusion after analyzing the major factors in health (death, cardiac arrest, re-hospitalization) that after 26 weeks concluded that “intercessory prayer had no significant effect on medical outcomes after hospitalization in a coronary care unit.”
But perhaps the most complete and recognized study on prayer was STEP, commonly referred to as the Templeton Foundation prayer study or the Great Prayer Experiment. For this was by far the largest and most comprehensive study that was funded by a Christian group, but put on by Harvard Professor Herbert Benson who was a believer in the psychological benefits of spiritualism in the medical field. The study came two conclusions:
1) “Intercessory prayer had no effect on recovery from surgery without complications.”
2) “Patients who knew they were receiving intercessory prayer fared worse.”
There are other Studies that show that Prayer is ineffective as well:
- Atheism 101: Can Prayer heal the sick?
- God is Imaginary: Statistically Analyze Prayer
- Why Won’t God Heal Amputees? Reviewing the Evidence about Prayer
- Study Concludes Intercessory Prayer doesn’t work
- Prayer: What does Science Say
Maybe the answer from a theological perspective is that God and prayer can’t be tested and measured. But even with that mindset we also would have to concede that God and prayer can’t be verified.