Prayer Study Reveals Surprisingly Negative Findings

April 1, 2006

Source: The Guardian,,1744492,00.html

On April 1, 2006 The Guardian reported, "If a religious person offers to pray for you next time you fall ill, you may wish politely to ask them not to bother. The largest scientific study into the health effects of prayer seems to suggest it may make matters worse. Two-thirds of Americans and more than a quarter of British people say they pray regularly, but the study, which took almost a decade and cost $2.4m (£1.4m) suggested that they may be wasting their time. It found that patients undergoing heart surgery did no better when they were prayed for by people unknown to them than those who received no prayers. But 59% of those patients who were told they were definitely being prayed for developed complications, compared with 52% of those who had been told it was just a possibility... The study, which will be published in the American Heart Journal next week, drew criticisms from religious groups, who argued that science cannot illuminate questions of faith, and from other medical scientists, who said it was a waste of money... [Dr Charles Bethea, of the Integris Baptist medical center in Oklahoma City] and his colleague, Harvard professor Herbert Benson, emphasized that their investigations had been restricted to 'intercessory prayer' by strangers - excluding prayer from family members and oneself. Praying for oneself has been shown in many studies to be effective."