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Prayer Caught Working

John on March 16, 2007 at 2:19 pm

First of all, thanks to Allahpundit who, though an atheist himself, has always been fair to his Christian readers at HotAir. Today, he points to a report on a meta-study (study of studies) done by a Arizona State University Professor named David R. Hodge:

David R. Hodge, assistant professor of social work in the College of Human Services, found that intercessory prayer, or prayer offered for the benefit of other people, has positive effects on them. His findings were published in the March issue of Research on Social Work Practice, one of the most prestigious journals in the field.

Hodge’s research conflicts with a widely publicized study last year by Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Herbert Benson, who concluded that prayer showed no positive effects on cardiac bypass patients.

“With Benson’s study, a lot of people were saying, ‘This is the final word,’ ” Hodge said, adding that his research suggests otherwise and shows the big picture.

Prayer had a small, positive effect on patients, he said. For instance, groups receiving prayer had shorter hospital stays in one study.

Now for a bit of prophesy. I predict atheists will be on this guy like white on rice until the next study is published to demonstrates otherwise. Frankly, I’d be surprised if there was a “rebuttal study” published within 3-9 months.

On the topic itself, I absolutely believe prayer works. Seen it happen many times in my own life and the lives of others. Still, I’d be somewhat surprised if it could be proven. I’m convinced that one of God’s fundamental approaches is to always leave room for faith. If we get 17 studies in a row that prove prayer works, at a certain point faith isn’t required anymore and the entire economy of salvation breaks down.

My prediction is that we’ll continue to see some studies that show prayer works and some others that show it doesn’t. That way the result is always underdetermined and dependent on the perspective the viewer brings to the debate.

Update: This is cool…from the study itself (had to purchase it, so I can’t post the entire thing):

Although all other studies in the review employed a prospective design, following individuals through time, Leibovici’s (2001) study used a retroactive design. Arguing that it cannot be assumed, a priori, that time is necessarily linear or that God is limited by what we perceives linear time, Leibovici explored the effectiveness of prayer offered in the present for events that took place in the past, namely patients hospitalized 4 to 10 years previously. A 6-year list of adults consecutively admitted to an Israeli hospital with bloodstream infections was randomized into intervention (n = 1,691) and control groups (n = 1,702). A list of first names of individuals in the intervention group was given to a person who then said a short prayer, requesting full recovery and well-being for the whole group.

Three outcomes were examined: mortality while in the hospital, length of hospital stay, and length of the infection-induced fever. Significant differences emerged for the latter two outcomes, and mortality was lower in the intervention group, although the difference was not significant. In other words, the length of time in the hospital and the duration of the fever were significantly lower for the group that received retroactive prayer, 4 to 10 years after hospitalization. In this case, it is clear that expectancy effects are inoperative. Study participants could not have expectations about an intervention that was not conceived until years later.

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Category: Religion & Faith |

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