I realize this is quite uncharitable of me, since people who say things like that are just trying to tell you they care about you, but I can’t help it – I have a reflexive irritation when people assume everyone shares their beliefs.
But now, in case it ever does happen again, I can whip out some concrete evidence to justify my flinching. Believe it or not, some researchers from the Mind/Body Medical Institute, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Harvard Medical School got together back in 2006 to find out whether intercessory prayer worked.
I remember feeling gratified (and also a bit miffed that they were spending somebody’s money to do this totally anti-rational thing) when the study results were first announced. The criterion was the incidence of an uncomplicated recovery among people who had surgery for a coronary artery bypass graft; and it turned out there was no difference between a group of people who were prayed for, and those who weren’t (complications occurred in 52%, versus 51%, respectively).
Here’s the interesting thing. They also told one group of people they were going to be prayed for, and another group they might or might not be – and 59% of that first, unlucky group had complications (versus 52% of the other group).
One flaw in the study, from my point of view: they didn’t tell anybody they were definitely not going to be prayed for. Next time I have a coronary artery bypass graft, I’m going to insist on it.