Don’t pray for me

I flinch when someone tells me they’ll pray for me, which actually hardly ever happens because I choose my friends very carefully.

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.

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3 Responses to Don’t pray for me

  1. terrymarotta says:

    what a cranky girl!

    • celebratingtime says:

      no, not cranky. To me it’s the same as if someone assumed you were, as they say, “hetero-normative.”

  2. Curtis says:

    Just getting to this now that I’m home. What makes prayer “work” or “not work” is almost entirely where the
    pray–er (the person) is coming from. Hence a useful study isn’t really possible. I once prayed very hard for the daughter of a teaching colleague at EA when she had leukemia. She died over Christmas break and I doubted prayer’s efficacy for many years afterward. Now I understand that “successful outcomes” aren’t necessarily the object, particularly if they conflict with the big picture. 52% vs. 51% is a startlingly accurate outcome!

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