Saturday, April 01, 2006

I Was Just Joking About the Scientific Study

After our brief discussion about intercessory prayer, it was kind of creepy to hear this on Day to Day yesterday:

Study of Heart Patients Sees No Power in Prayer

JEFFERY DUSEK: So in fact the knowledge of receiving prayer seemed to result in a modest level of increase in complications in that group.

ALEX CHADWICK: If you knew you were having this intercessory prayer - strangers you didn't know praying for you - somehow that complicated your recovery in some way.

JEFFERY DUSEK: It did, and essentially within one small complication, which was rapid heartbeat essentially.

Not that this odd little study offers much proof of anything at all. It was just kind of creepy to turn on the radio and hear Alex Chadwick using the words "congregation" and "intercessory prayer".


D Love said...

This brings me to the question that I always ponder.

What does God actually DO in this world? How does God work in this world?

I guess I struggle with prayer because I feel that no matter what I pray for, it does not really have much of an effect. Despite this struggle, I still try to pray and trust in the mystery of God. So I was just wondering others people's thoughts about how God acts in this world. Maybe that can be a topic for another day but it is something I have wondered about a lot.

scoots said...

I just read an article my brother sent me about it, and it seems the study was neither "modest" nor "little," but in fact rather expensive and extensive.

A agree with dLove's struggle, as it's hard to see how prayer makes a difference in most cases.

On the other hand, it's worth wondering: the study may have been double-blind, but God presumably wasn't blind to who was on what list. While I hope (but wish I were more sure) that God acts, I wouldn't be surprised at all if he were hesitant to jump through our hoops to prove his existence to us, no matter how well-intentioned our hoop-building projects are.

"Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe" (John 4:48), says Jesus, who reveals God to us in his person, so that we can believe because of who he is, not what he does. (And incidentally, after that rebuke, he healed the man's son anyway.)

God acts, apparently (and amazingly) even at our request, but not at our bidding.

Matthew said...

I stand by my description of the study as both "odd" and "little". It's "little" relative to the scope of the question, and "odd" in how it went about getting its answers.

How do you control for even one freaking "background prayer"? And what if some saints got in on the action? I can understand trying to record the effectiveness of single prayers -- did you all pray for her? sure did. did she die anyway? yep. -- but the idea of being able to measure the relative effectiveness of prayer is just ludicrous.

And speaking of ludicrous, how about the suggestion that God fiddled with heart rhythms to trick researchers? Did God also put the dinosaur bones into the ground to trick us into believing the wrong things about Adam and Eve? Must God hide and sneak about the universe so that we don't accidentally discover the truth? Must God protect God's sovereignty by resisting the imperious commands of a little girl who is praying for her mother's life?

There must be some other explanation. The God of deception and aloof sovereignty is not a God I am willing to worship.

Jason & Nicole said...

I have been reading your blog since just prior to the ACU lectures. I'm a student at Harding University Graduate School of Religion and have enjoyed your blog, especially for the coverage of SoulForce. These comments on prayer are interesting, too, but I'm already a little worn out from discussing this "study" with some friends.

I noticed you are about to comment on Romans so I wanted to see if you had read Mark D. Smith, "Ancient Bisexuality and the Interpretation of Romans 1:26-27." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 64 (1996), 223-56. I read this last November in my class on New Testament World.

Looking forward to reading your commentary on Romans. I appreciate your liberal perspective.

Matthew said...

Jason and/or Nicole:

Thanks for visiting. I haven't read the article you mention, although I could probably find it at the ACU library, and it is available for purchase online.

Lots of people seem to reference it, although few seem to quote it; is the article worth a few bucks or a trip to the library?

Maybe you could share a summary.

Matthew said...

Many, many thanks to Connor, who has been generous enough to use his academic powers for my benefit, and has provided me with a copy of the article in question.

It's very good, Jason and/or Nicole. Thanks for pointing it out.

Jason & Nicole said...

Good! I'm glad that worked out. I'm looking forward to your response. You might/probably have a broader perspective than me. I don't read enough on this subject, but am keenly interested.

BTW, I'm Jason, the one who reads blogs. My wife, Nicole, is the one who writes ours.