I have heard a lot about the results of multiple prayer studies. It is well-known that they failed, but I decided to research it myself. Please feel free to use the results as a reference.
Prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people – in fact – the study shows that patients are worse off for prayers. Their have been multiple studies regarding the power of prayer, mainly by the Templeton Foundation, The American Heart Journal, and numerous doctors; most notably Dr. Herbert Benson and Dr. Charles Bethea (1).
The study used over 1800 patients, which – if you are familiar with statistics – is far above the amount necessary to gather results. The final study cost over $2.4 million dollars from religious organizations with additional subsidies from the government. The U.S. government has invested $2.3 million since 2000 (2).
In the study, the patients were divided into three groups – 2 were prayed for and one was not. One of the two prayed for were told they were being prayed for, the other was not aware.
The results shown that
Those who know they were being prayed for suffered more complications after treatment (59% compared to 51%)
Those who were prayed for suffered from more “major complications” than the group that was not prayed for (18% compared to 13%)(3)
It should be noted that the study was largely done with a strong religious bias. Remember, it was funded by the Templeton Foundation (those guys who put Bibles in hotels) and conducted by two christian doctors working at the Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City. All leaders in the study said it was inconclusive.
Dr. Charles Bethea remarked “One conclusion from this is that the role of awareness of prayer should be studied further”
Even the doctor from the secular Mayo Clinic said, “the study said nothing about the power of personal prayer or about prayers for family members and friends” (1)
With a sample group of over 1800, the differences between the two groups is substantial. One would think the results would be completely clear in favor of the prayer groups. And yet the results is not even equal – it shows that prayer is actually harmful in recovery.
There has been numerous studies like this – just not one so thorough and large. Christian groups actually recognizes the results but blame those who prayed. Christianity Today said, “too few patients; unblinded researchers or subjects; invalid outcome measures; inappropriate statistical methods; randomization problems; and suspected outright fraud” (5)
Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at the Duke University Medical Center said it right, “Science is not designed to study the supernatural”. (6)