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Meditation 549
Prayer Studies and God

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Early this year, the results of a study into the power of prayer were released. The study, which looked at the effects of prayer on recovering heart surgery patients, was sponsored by the Templeton Foundation which, among other activities, sponsors studies into science and religion. It was possibly the most rigourous study yet conducted into the effects of prayer on patients.

The study, which involved 1800 patients and three Christian prayer groups found no positive impact from prayer. In fact, for the subset of patients with complications, there was a small negative impact.

Another study released later in the year involved 700 heart patients and 12 prayer groups including Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Muslims. Again, no positive impact from prayer was identified.

If the studies had shown that prayer works, I would have argued that this still established nothing about the existence of a god. The studies did not address the mechanism by which prayer was supposed to work. Given that, I would also not argue that the failure of the studies to demonstrate that prayer works establishes the non-existence of a god either.

But suppose you consider that the concepts of prayer and god are inextricably linked. Then given this assumption, any of the following possibilities can be considered:

  1. God does not exist;
  2. God used to exist but no longer does;
  3. God, having created the universe, went on to do other things and does not interfere in the operation of our universe;
  4. God does not care;
  5. The wrong God was prayed too;
  6. The wrong form of prayer was used;
  7. God does not get involved in studies;
  8. Too many prayers overwhelmed God;
  9. God only listens to prayers from those who know the patient;
  10. God was "on a break" during the period of the studies;
  11. etc. (Send in your other alternatives for discussion.)

In summary, a study into the effects of prayer will not lead to any conclusions about the existence of a deity.