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“”I like it. There should be a button on my desk I can press and forty-nine people instantly pray for me.
|— Jed Bartlet, The West Wing|
Intercessory prayer is the act of praying for something to happen to someone else. It usually refers to a religious person praying for the health of another individual, but there is no reason it cannot refer to prayer with less altruistic purposes.
Perhaps because of the influence of fundamentalist Christians in the U.S., intercessory prayer has undergone much more study than other forms of faith healing. The results are not encouraging. A large scale review of the available evidence failed to show medical utility to the practice.
Several large, randomized controlled trials have showed little or no effect of prayer. A double-blind study published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet demonstrated no effect of prayer for patients undergoing heart surgery.
Another study, supported by the Templeton foundation in the respected American Heart Journal, showed little effect. Furthermore, and somewhat disappointingly for the Foundation, the only effect noticed was a negative effect in respect of those patients who knew they were being prayed for. It has been speculated that this was the result of "performance anxiety" on the part of the prayees.
When studies are designed well and double-blind, the effect of intercessory prayer disappears. This strongly suggests that any purported effects of prayer are due to placebo effects or poor research design.
Intercessory prayer is different from other forms of pseudoscience in that lot of people, particularly Americans, seem to believe in it. Despite this widespread belief, medical science has failed to confirm any significant beneficial effects from the practice. It would be wise to stop wasting resources on studies, given that most studies have been negative and no plausible explanation for the efficacy of the practice exists. However, the use of prayer is unlikey to cease due to a lack of evidence as people who truly believe in it will say that science can't measure it anyway.
 See also
- ↑ Roberts L. Ahmed I. Hall S. Intercessory prayer for the alleviation of ill health. update of Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2000;(2):CD000368; PMID: 107963500. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. (1):CD000368, 2007.
- ↑ Krucoff, M.W., et al. (2005). Music, imagery, touch, and prayer as adjuncts to interventional cardiac care: the Monitoring and Actualisation of Noetic Trainings (MANTRA) II randomised study. The Lancet, 366(9481), 211-217.
- ↑ abstract prayer
- ↑ Benson H. Dusek JA. Sherwood JB. Lam P. Bethea CF. Carpenter W. Levitsky S. Hill PC. Clem DW Jr. Jain MK. Drumel D. Kopecky SL. Mueller PS. Marek D. Rollins S. Hibberd PL. Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: a multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer. American Heart Journal. 151(4):934-42, 2006 Apr.
- ↑ Performance anxiety problem
- ↑ Would these people still say it couldn't be measured if science got a positive result in favor of prayer? Unlikely.