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Southern Religion

Does prayer ‘work’ (should it)?

Andrew Brown at the Guardian muses:

When I consider my Christian academic friends – people who are smarter, better read and harder working than I am – it’s clear that Christianity is a very dangerous profession. Three have daughters who died in their 20s; another has a daughter who is a drug addict. Parents and spouses get Alzheimer’s disease when they don’t get cancer. I imagine they all prayed for these things not to happen. I know they all still pray.

So what is going on here? What is the point of all that prayer? This is hardly a new question. It has been around at least since Job. Nor is there any hope of finding an answer that will convince everyone. But it is possible to tease out a couple of questions. The first is whether intercessory prayer works better than chance. There aren’t any reputable studies suggesting that it does, which is, I suppose another example of unanswered prayer, since at least some of these studies must have been commissioned in the hope that they would prove prayer is a worthwhile medical intervention.

. . .

The second question is whether prayer works on the pray-er as a form of pain relief. It obviously sometimes does and I can’t imagine any remotely plausible way to run a controlled trial of these effects. Now, my Christian friends would object at this point that the point of prayer is not “pain relief” and that prayer does not deliver from anguish. I don’t think it does. But it makes life capable of being borne, and that is sometimes the only possible step forward.

. . .

Read the rest here.

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September 30, 2010 - Posted by | Health, Medical Care |

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