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Old 03-31-06, 08:39 AM   #1
atlantamoi
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Study: Prayer has no effect on heart surgery patients

http://today.reuters.com/news/newsar...YER.xml&rpc=22

By MALCOLM RITTER
AP Science Writer
Published on: 03/30/06

Quote:
NEW YORK Does praying for a sick person's recovery do any good?

In the largest scientific test of its kind, heart surgery patients showed no benefit when strangers prayed for their recovery.

And patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications. Doctors could only guess why.


Several scientists questioned the concept of the study.

Science "is not designed to study the supernatural," said Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at the Duke University Medical Center.

The researchers emphasized that their $2.4 million study could not address whether God exists or answers prayers made on another's behalf. The study could look only for an effect from the specific prayers offered as part of the research, they said.

The study "did not move us forward or backward" in understanding the effects of prayer, said Dr. Charles Bethea, a co-author and cardiologist at the Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City. "Intercessory prayer under our restricted format had a neutral effect."

Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School, co-principal investigator of the study, agreed. "We cannot come to a conclusion, except to say that by this study design, with its limitations, this is what we found," he said.

Researchers also said they didn't know why patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of complications than patients who only knew that such prayers were a possibility.

Maybe they became anxious by the knowledge that they'd been selected for prayers, Bethea said: "Did the patients think, 'I am so sick that they had to call in the prayer team?'"

The researchers said family and friends shouldn't be discouraged from telling a patient about their plans to pray for a good recovery. The study only focused on prayers by strangers, they said.

It's the largest and best-designed study ever to test the medical effects of intercessory prayers praying on behalf of someone else. But critics said the question of God's reaction to prayer simply can't be explored by scientific study.

The study followed about 1,800 patients at six medical centers. It was financed by the Templeton Foundation, which supports research into science and religion, and one of the participating hospitals. It will appear in Tuesday's issue of the American Heart Journal.

The research team tested the effect of having three Christian groups pray for particular patients, starting the night before surgery and continuing for two weeks. The volunteers prayed for "a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications" for specific patients their identities known only by first name and first initial of the last name.

The patients, meanwhile, were split into three groups of about 600 apiece: those who knew they were being prayed for, those who were prayed for but only knew it was a possibility, and those who weren't prayed for but were told it was a possibility.

The researchers didn't ask patients or their families and friends to alter any plans they had for prayer, saying such a step would have been unethical and impractical.

The study looked for any complications within 30 days of the surgery. Results showed no effect of prayer on complication-free recovery. But 59 percent of the patients who knew they were being prayed for developed a complication, versus 52 percent of those who were told it was just a possibility.

Koenig, of Duke University Medical Center, who didn't take part in the study, said the results didn't surprise him.

"There are no scientific grounds to expect a result and there are no real theological grounds to expect a result either," he said. "There is no god in either the Christian, Jewish or Moslem scriptures that can be constrained to the point that they can be predicted."

Within the Christian tradition, God would be expected to be concerned with a person's eternal salvation, he said, and "why would God change his plans for a particular person just because they're in a research study?"

Dr. David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, said he believes intercessory prayer can influence medical outcomes, but that science is not equipped to explore it.

"Do we control God through prayer? Theologians would say absolutely not. God decides sometimes to intervene, and sometimes not," he said.

As for the new study, he said, "I don't think ... it's going to stop people praying for the sick."
Won't resolve anything, but it's interesting.
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Old 03-31-06, 08:44 AM   #2
NCMojo
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I've always thought the idea of praying for someone going into surgery was a bit daft. It's not like God is going to say, "Hmm... well, I was going to kill Bob... but since you asked so nicely, I'll just bump off this house full of orphaned children in Sao Paulo instead..."
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Old 03-31-06, 08:47 AM   #3
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My observation is that prayer works best from a distance. Pray for the unfortunates overseas. Get them to pray for heart patients here.
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Old 03-31-06, 08:47 AM   #4
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a waste $of 2.4 million
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Old 03-31-06, 08:50 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mrs. Danger
My observation is that prayer works best from a distance. Pray for the unfortunates overseas. Get them to pray for heart patients here.
Sorry, that sounds like a pyramid scheme. Which, may I remind you, are ILLEGAL.
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Old 03-31-06, 08:52 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Venusian
a waste $of 2.4 million
I'm fascinated to know how that dollar sign got to where it is in that sentence.
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Old 03-31-06, 08:57 AM   #7
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I don't pray for people to be healed. I pray for God's will to be done, whatever that might be, and for the person and their loved ones to be given the strength and comfort to face whatever comes.

Praying for someone is the same as thinking well of them. It's not a matter of asking God for mercy -- it's an acknowledgment that He is in charge and a way of resigning ourselves to His will.
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Old 03-31-06, 08:58 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Numanoid
I'm fascinated to know how that dollar sign got to where it is in that sentence.
wow
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Old 03-31-06, 08:58 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vibiana
I don't pray for people to be healed. I pray for God's will to be done, whatever that might be, and for the person and their loved ones to be given the strength and comfort to face whatever comes.

Praying for someone is the same as thinking well of them. It's not a matter of asking God for mercy -- it's an acknowledgment that He is in charge and a way of resigning ourselves to His will.
Whaa? So why are you praying? "Dear God... please go ahead and do whatever it was that you were going to do in the first place. Thanks."

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Old 03-31-06, 09:06 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NCMojo
Whaa? So why are you praying? "Dear God... please go ahead and do whatever it was that you were going to do in the first place. Thanks."

Read the second paragraph again. It may help you understand.
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Old 03-31-06, 09:07 AM   #11
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well, praying for God to do something in particular is kind of like trying to tell him what to do.

Fortunately, I don't buy into that. My philosophy about deities is not that to worship them, but to USE them. In that context, "prayer" is a more practical concept.
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Old 03-31-06, 09:11 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vibiana
Read the second paragraph again. It may help you understand.
I understand the idea that when you say "I'll pray for you" what you really mean is "I'm thinking of you and your family." And I understand the idea of prayer in general... asking for guidance, strength, patience, etc.

What I don't understand is actually praying to God for him to do His will. That seems sort of unnecessary. I can see the idea of praying to God for the family to find peace, strength, etc... and maybe as a caveat saying, "and of course, Thy will be done." But if that's the only purpose of the prayer... yeah, it seems weird.
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Old 03-31-06, 09:13 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mrs. Danger
My observation is that prayer works best from a distance. Pray for the unfortunates overseas. Get them to pray for heart patients here.
So you did a study? How do you know?
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Old 03-31-06, 09:16 AM   #14
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there are also studies that show that people who belong to a church or other religious body in their community tend to lead longer and more healthy lives
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Old 03-31-06, 09:16 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vibiana
I don't pray for people to be healed. I pray for God's will to be done, whatever that might be, and for the person and their loved ones to be given the strength and comfort to face whatever comes.
Isn't that a cop out? If God is all mighty and His will is done no matter what, isn't praying that His will be done kind of a waste of time? It's kind of like asking your West Highland White Terrier to bark. It's going to happen anyway, so why ask?

Quote:

Praying for someone is the same as thinking well of them. It's not a matter of asking God for mercy -- it's an acknowledgment that He is in charge and a way of resigning ourselves to His will.
Meh. Whatever floats your boat. If someone I know is having difficulties, I'll help in any way I can. If they happen to be sick or dying, I will comfort them in any way they want me to, short of praying since I firmly believe praying is begging. I will keep people in my thoughts and send them flowers or something. But praying, in my opinion, is a waste of time.
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Old 03-31-06, 09:16 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NCMojo
I understand the idea that when you say "I'll pray for you" what you really mean is "I'm thinking of you and your family." And I understand the idea of prayer in general... asking for guidance, strength, patience, etc.

What I don't understand is actually praying to God for him to do His will. That seems sort of unnecessary. I can see the idea of praying to God for the family to find peace, strength, etc... and maybe as a caveat saying, "and of course, Thy will be done." But if that's the only purpose of the prayer... yeah, it seems weird.
Okay. In praying for God's will to be done, I'm trying to resolve my own conflicts about a situation too -- through prayer. Of course when my friend Karen got cancer I wanted her to be healed. But I knew that what happened to her was up to God. By praying for her, I was able to communicate with God about how I felt, how much she meant to me, and ask him for strength for myself, as well as for Karen and her family. Maybe it seems superfluous and like telling God to go ahead and and do whatever He's going to do, but it's really a way of trying to discern what His will might be and prepare myself for whatever happens.
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Old 03-31-06, 09:17 AM   #17
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why do people think God's will is done no matter what? I think the world is evidence it isn't. He gave man free will to make his own choices and not follow God's like a robot
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Old 03-31-06, 09:20 AM   #18
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Venusian, it isn't free will if a person is dying. It's the course of life. You can't just say "Oh, I don't feel like being sick with cancer today, I think I'll stop." You just deal with things as they come. It has nothing to do with free will. And it has nothing to do with God.

My feeling is if there is a deity up there watching us, it doesn't have time to cater to every single request made of it. I think whatever higher power there may be just allows things to follow their natural course. You can pray for things not to happen, but that won't stop the natural progression of things.
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Old 03-31-06, 09:20 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mrs. Danger
My observation is that prayer works best from a distance. Pray for the unfortunates overseas. Get them to pray for heart patients here.
my sarcasm meter is broken, is this a joke?
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Old 03-31-06, 09:21 AM   #20
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Conclusion of the study: God hates heart surgery patients.
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Old 03-31-06, 09:22 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mllefoo
Venusian, it isn't free will if a person is dying. It's the course of life. You can't just say "Oh, I don't feel like being sick with cancer today, I think I'll stop." You just deal with things as they come. It has nothing to do with free will. And it has nothing to do with God.

My feeling is if there is a deity up there watching us, it doesn't have time to cater to every single request made of it. I think whatever higher power there may be just allows things to follow their natural course. You can pray for things not to happen, but that won't stop the natural progression of things.
i wasn't talking about cancer in particulr, just the idea that God's Will will always be done.

If there is a God, then of course he/she/it would have the time to do whatever. That is why they are God
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Old 03-31-06, 09:22 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Groucho
Conclusion of the study: God hates heart surgery patients.
the proper response is:

God doesn't care about heart surgery patients.
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Old 03-31-06, 09:23 AM   #23
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When studies of this type were discussed here in the past I stated that I thought there was no way to do a controlled study since you couldn't actually control what people were doing. Whatever they said they were doing (e.g. praying, not praying etc.) couldn't be verified. Plus you don't know what anyone outside of the study may be doing. The whole thing is ridiculous. These studies are a huge waste of time and scarce research funds, regardless of the (meaningless) outcome.
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Old 03-31-06, 09:24 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vibiana
Okay. In praying for God's will to be done, I'm trying to resolve my own conflicts about a situation too -- through prayer. Of course when my friend Karen got cancer I wanted her to be healed. But I knew that what happened to her was up to God. By praying for her, I was able to communicate with God about how I felt, how much she meant to me, and ask him for strength for myself, as well as for Karen and her family. Maybe it seems superfluous and like telling God to go ahead and and do whatever He's going to do, but it's really a way of trying to discern what His will might be and prepare myself for whatever happens.
That's how I look at prayer, too.
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Old 03-31-06, 09:24 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mllefoo
Venusian, it isn't free will if a person is dying. It's the course of life. You can't just say "Oh, I don't feel like being sick with cancer today, I think I'll stop." You just deal with things as they come. It has nothing to do with free will. And it has nothing to do with God.

My feeling is if there is a deity up there watching us, it doesn't have time to cater to every single request made of it. I think whatever higher power there may be just allows things to follow their natural course. You can pray for things not to happen, but that won't stop the natural progression of things.
Because if God granted everyone's request, it would end up just like in Bruce Almighty. Everyone would win the lotto.
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