Prayer Studies

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    Astin, John A., Elaine Harkness, and Edzard Ernst

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    The Efficacy of “Distant Healing”: A Systematic Review of Randomized Trials

    The purpose of this study was to "conduct a systematic review of the available data on the efficacy of any form of 'distant healing' (prayer, mental healing, Therapeutic Touch, or spiritual healing) as treatment for any medical condition." The researchers concluded that "The methodologic limitations of several studies make it difficult to draw definitive conclusions about the efficacy of distant healing. However, given that approximately 57% of trials showed a positive treatment effect, the evidence thus far merits further study."
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    Barth, Robert R.

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    The Office of Prayer Research: A Bridge of Information and Understanding between Science and Religion on the Scientific Study of Prayer

    "Historically, when science and religion have come together, there has been more clash than collaboration. To give men and women of science and spirit a place to explore, confer, and pursue common possibilities, Unity founded the Office of Prayer Research in July 2004. Its mission is to advance scientific research on the effects of prayer and to serve as a conduit for the exchange of information about prayer studies. The Office of Prayer Research provides an opportunity to make significant contributions toward humankind’s scientific understanding of the power of prayer and its overall impact on health."
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    Guthrie, Shandon L.

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    Prayer and Providence: Why the Recent Study On Prayer Should Be No Surprise

    "There is no doubt that skeptics are running wild about the alleged ineffectiveness of prayer based on a recent, extensive study. This seemingly plenary study is touted as 'the largest study of prayer' concluding that 'it provided no benefit to recovery of patients who had undergone cardiac bypass surgery.' No doubt this will rattle the cages of firm believers in prayer - particularly evangelicals who find God’s miraculous interventions in human affairs to be more prevalent than traditional views. But I believe that the study fails to falsify the effectiveness of prayer while it remains true that prayer cannot necessarily be legitimized in scientific study due to several unmitigating factors. Hence, as I have personally suspected, the study actually confirms what I believe Christians should expect - relative indifference."
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    Swinburne, Richard

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    Response to a Statistical Study of the Effect of Petitionary Prayer

    "Humans pray to God for many and various outcomes, good and bad; but among the most frequent petitionary prayers are surely prayers for the recovery of someone else from illness. But, as everyone knows, most illnesses follow a (statistically) largely predictable course, apparently independently of this stream of prayer...[I]t is a Christian doctrine that God hears our prayers, and answers them (if it is good for us) in a way best for us. Yet when we pray for another person, God knows far better than we do whether it will be best for that person and others affected by him, that he should recover immediately or later or not at all."