Prayer, does it actually work?
At one point in my life I believed so strongly that it did that I gave a public lecture at the local library on the evidence for it. Fortunately, hardly anyone showed up. As part of the lecture, I cited Randoph Byrd's original prayer study involving cardiac patients which showed dramatic results of double blind intercessory prayer. I also cited the South Korean fertility clinic prayer study which had dramatic results. Larry Dossey M.D., one of the leading champions of intercessory prayer studies claimed that these particular two studies were the most extraordinarily compelling ones done to date.
Due to the apparent success of some of these studies, many more were performed, only now coming to publication. Read about several of them here .
(ha cool, I figured out how to do it. No more big URL's)
The biggest study to date was performed by Harvard Medical's Herbert Benson and is set to be published soon. No significant benefit was found for prayer in any of these recent studies. But of course, believers are claiming that if you tweak the data just so, there might be something interesting worth further study. Someone said this is like emptying your gun at the wall of a barn and then painting the bull's eye around the pattern.
Oh, and those two studies that I mentioned in the beginning- they were both discredited. Byrd's study was too poorly controlled to be considered good evidence, and the Korean study included a known fraud, rendering it's results useless. It isn't any wonder that when good research casts it's gaze on the issue with an enormous data base, no results are found.
Sometimes I wake up shaking in the middle of the night and wrap my arms around my knees. I'm back at that lecture. I'm cold and shaking. I look for someplace to hide my head, my eyes so nobody can see. I'm thoroughly ashamed.