The Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) -- the most thorough study on prayer to date -- measured the impact of prayer for the well-being of another and found no evidence that prayer is beneficial.
The study, conducted by a team of doctors, clergy and a psychologist from six institutions, including Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic, involved 1,800 patients having heart-bypass surgery.
Church groups began praying for one set of the patients two weeks before the procedure. About 70 people prayed for each patient in the group, whom they did not know personally. There was no difference in survival or complication rates for those who received prayer as compared to those who did not.
Interestingly, a subgroup of patients who knew they were being prayed for had a 7 percent higher rate of postsurgical heart arrhythmias than those who did not. The researchers suggested that anxiety that arose from knowing about the prayer, and thinking they were sick enough to need the prayer, may have been responsible for the effect.
Meanwhile, the study's authors suggested that the study had a potential flaw: a lack of community. The prayer in this study was impersonal, but no plans have been made to conduct a follow-up study to determine whether prayer from friends and family would have a different effect.
This really is a major study and is one of the few that is published as a free full-text journal article. So all you have to do is click on the American Heart Journal link above and you can read the full study.
Many people don't realize that this newsletter is really a summary service and we typically provide the full links to the original article so you can review the evidence and come to your own conclusions.
I certainly provide my own comment that frequently points out something the article excludes or the hidden funding behind it so you can better understand the bigger picture and avoid being deceived. However, you are certainly more than welcome to reach your own conclusions based on the evidence.
There is clearly no question about bias in the funding of this study, as it was sponsored by the highly impartial John Templeton Foundation and actually cost $2.4 million to run.
When you carefully examine the study it really does not discount individual prayer but does question the "impersonal" value of praying for others. One of the researchers believes the results of the study suggested that the healing power of prayer may lie in the personal connections those praying have with those who they are actually praying for.
Dr. Larry Dossey is probably the leading expert in the United States or world on the topic of prayer and has written many books on it. If you have an interest in this area you may be interested in an article of his I have previously posted, which appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
On a slightly different level I have shared photos of a powerful demonstration of the power of prayer on intentionality on actually changing the molecular structure of water. This is really some strong support for praying for your food prior to eating it.
However, prayer is not merely some "magical ritual." Clearly there must be a strong intention of gratitude and appreciation that will resonate and actually cause physical changes in the food. Unfortunately, as the pictures demonstrate.