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Scientific Prayer Study


MOW
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I'm sure some of you have heard about the recent study of heart patients, and the effect of prayer on their healing. The study concluded that prayer had no significant effect on the patients, and some of the patients who knew they were being prayed for actually got worse.

 

Although I am a liberal Christian, I take issue with the use of the scientific method in this type of phenomena(spiritual healing and protection).

 

A couple of years ago ,I was involved in a automobile accident. A man driving behind me had a seizure and rammed into the back of my car at a high rate of speed. I spun out and hit a rail , and my car was totaled. However, I walked away without so much as a scratch . My Christian friends ,both Liberal and Conservative concluded that I was protected by the hand of God. The problem with trying to "proove" that that was true( by the scientific method), would mean that I would have to get back in my car, and get hit , over, and over , and over again. If every time I escaped without a scratch ,that would proove that God would protect me in a traffic accident.

 

This seems to come close to Satan's temptation of Jesus(" jump off this high tower and see if God's angels will save you" ) We shouldn't put God to the test. We should respect natural law,and be grateful for anomalies when they happen.

 

I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on this subject.

 

MOW

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We shouldn't put God to the test.

MOW

 

Why not? Because the authors of the gospels liked the story of Jesus not throwing Himself down to be saved by God because that would be testing God?

 

I forget the references, but I remember there being Old Testament verses where God invites His people to see if He won't deliver blessings to them if they do what He wants. Empiricism is not a sin.

 

I don't know if you were saved in an auto accident due to the hand of God or due to automobile engineers. I suppose a lot of analysis might show if there was something miraculous about that event or if the car simply protected you the way it was designed to by human beings. If you have faith, it doesn't matter. If you don't have faith, you likely have better things to do.

 

Experiments in prayer are looking for something to give people a reason to pray. Anyone who has gotten very far with a prayer life knows what prayer has done for him or her personally. I do. I also know it didn't do anything to pray to win the lottery a few times. Some prayer works. Some doesn't. What reason could there be for God not to want us to know the difference? Just living a life tests many things about theology. Who says we are supposed to shut up about that? That doesn't sound like the freedom of liberalism to me.

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No one complained about the first study where the heart patients were supposedly helped by the prayers... hmmm... seems the problem is with the end result itself.

 

I personally don't believe God allows some people to live and others to die or be maimed in automobile accidents or other accidents or even by birth. It happens because of physics or disease or genetics.

 

Miracles do happen but they are simply a label for when things don't go as planned in a good way versus a bad way. I don't believe God causes them to happen.

 

It was Gideon who tested God with the cloth and the dew. Probably in the prophets of the Hebrew Bible.

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I'm sure some of you have heard about the recent study of heart patients, and the effect of prayer on their healing. The study concluded that prayer had no significant effect on the patients, and some of the patients who knew they were being prayed for actually got worse.

 

Although I am a liberal Christian, I take issue with the use of the scientific method in this type of phenomena(spiritual healing and protection).

 

A couple of years ago ,I was involved in a automobile accident. A man driving behind me had a seizure and rammed into the back of my car at a high rate of speed. I spun out and hit a rail , and my car was totaled. However, I walked away without so much as a scratch . My Christian friends ,both Liberal and Conservative concluded that I was protected by the hand of God. The problem with trying to "proove" that that was true( by the scientific method), would mean that I would have to get back in my car, and get hit , over, and over , and over again. If every time I escaped without a scratch ,that would proove that God would protect me in a traffic accident.

 

This seems to come close to Satan's temptation of Jesus(" jump off this high tower and see if God's angels will save you" ) We shouldn't put God to the test. We should respect natural law,and be grateful for anomalies when they happen.

 

I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on this subject.

 

MOW

 

Greetings Mow,

 

I believe I have to agree with October on this one. Maybe the best thing to do when miracles happen,(and I believe they do) is to continue to thank God...even if we can't prove God intervened. I think that as we watch our minds

approach our souls,we will stop putting labels on everything that happens to us, and just be grateful for the good times. Chopra says" the more we get to Know God,we will finally realize that when we pray....we are really praying to ourselves"

I know that is a bit hard to accept, but lately when I pray,I ask God to help ME

answer my own prayer if possible. And you know what...sometimes it is possible.

 

Blessings to you my friend,

 

Jerry

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I think that Choprah believes that God is indwelling in a pervasive sense. This is not about continuing to elevate the individual as our culture has done so very well. I think the "arguement" is more about semantics - is God in me, but separate - holy spirit or is God in me in the sense that my every cell is connected to every other cell in the world because all are pieces of God and separateness is an illusion??? Honestly, I believe both. Our perception tends to lead us to feel separate - but more and more physics and the thousands of other double blind, robust research studies that have found prayer efficacious have to be taken into account. It's just as easy to take the evidence of your own life either way -

 

MOW, for example - the car accident - oxcam's razor - the simplest solution is usually the correct one. So, to me, that is clearly the hand of God. Intellectually, I know we'll never (at least this side of heaven) "really" know or have proof. Pragmatically, what does it hurt to see God? It does a lot of good and where's the harm? And, intuitively, we all know it was God.

 

Hope this makes sense - no coffee yet :P

 

We're due for some good discussions - I'm hopeful about this one! :D

Edited by Cynthia
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Thousands of good studies on prayer? I don't think so.

 

Physics showing separateness is an illusion? The illusion is that anything about physics relates to spirituality. Consider just about any author you like who says physics has some mystical application. You can find well-reasoned debunking of that author on the net. I was impressed by reviews of Roger Penrose's books at amazon.com. His is the only book I've seen there where both spotlight reviews are extremely negative, chosen even though amazon is in the business of selling books. I could reiterate that Penrose is an arrogant mathematician, with no understanding of neuroscience, that microtubules are far too large for quantum effects, but it's been done. All one has to do is read the criticism that's available.

 

The physical universe is one, connected by a physics that seems to be the same everywhere, but that cares nothing about me.

 

There is more, something spiritual, something that is not physical, that does love me. My connection to it has grown as I have grown spiritually. There is a partition in my mind. The part closest to me is what I've always known, but beyond that is Spirit. It's not a solid boundary. Is this the veil that tore when Jesus died? I don't know. Maybe that was something physical, maybe not.

 

The boundary between me and God is not well-defined. It may be as complicated as the boundary between the air spaces and capillaries in my lungs, but I don't see any reason to see it as physical. Ancient people saw it that way. It didn't get them that far. To see God as having no physical existence or relevance is a lonely position to take, but it's a possibility. Then what is my connection to God? It is through Spirit. To look for Spirit in the physical is to be distracted. Those who don't like such dualism might just have to get over that someday.

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Then what is my connection to God? It is through Spirit. To look for Spirit in the physical is to be distracted. Those who don't like such dualism might just have to get over that someday.

 

What is "Spirit?" Where is it? Is it "out there" looking at the cosmos? Does it intermingle with the cosmos? Does it touch it in any way at all? Is "Spirit" some ethereal gaslike substance? Untouchable? Intangeable? Who says there is such a thing as "Spirit" anyway? The Bible? Did God create the universe? Where did the "stuff" come from that she created the universe with? Was it pulled out of nowhere? Ex nihilo? Did God use spirit to create physicality? How do you know there is such a sharp delineation between "spirit" and matter? What if matter IS spirit? What if there is no difference at all?

 

Those who don't like such non-dualism might just have to get over it someday.

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Pragmatically, what does it hurt to see God?  It does a lot of good and where's the harm?  And, intuitively, we all know it was God.

 

Because then you have to explain the pregnant woman who was seriously injured in a car accident this week and her unborn child was killed... her fiance was also in the car, I'm not sure what his injuries were or what the drivers injuries were but where was God there? Why should one person be killed and another not?

 

Pragmatics doesn't play a part in it. God doesn't kill some and maim others and protect others. What kind of god would that be?

 

We don't "all know" it was God. It was not God it was physics. It is about where your body is and where the components of your car are and what protects you and what doesn't and how the car spins, how healthy your body is and how it is able to heal and/or protect itself.

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"Thousands of good studies on prayer? I don't think so."

 

 

So look them up. You keep writing the same post in response to many attempted discussions - just because you think this does not make it so. Presenting as a discussion point instead of as "fact" would be purposeful I believe this is a discussion board???

 

 

"Because then you have to explain the pregnant woman who was seriously injured in a car accident this week and her unborn child was killed... her fiance was also in the car, I'm not sure what his injuries were or what the drivers injuries were but where was God there? Why should one person be killed and another not"

 

 

Well... actually, I don't. That would be the God part. If we could understand and explain God then.... uh... the mystery, the spirit, etc would be gone. As for the woman, I'm sure God was there - I don't know why He didn't intervene... I never will. But Could He have intervened? Yeah, I think so. I don't know how it works, but sometimes the physics just don't work out.

 

I don't think God killed her child. I think chaos theory and free will "explain" how complex causation is for any given circumstance.

 

Jerry, I agree that labeling everything as if that makes it so is pointless. I think the mystery is the interesting part! :rolleyes:

 

In the past, people here seemed to agree that progressive was best defined by a spirit of receptivity to new ideas and an interested tolerance to other people's ideas. This used to be a great board to have discussions on with people who disagreed or saw things from different views but could have a civil exchange of ideas. I'd love to see discussions like those again.

Edited by Cynthia
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In the past, people here seemed to agree that progressive was best defined by a spirit of receptivity to new ideas and an interested tolerance to other people's ideas.  This used to be a great board to have discussions on with people who disagreed or saw things from different views but could have a civil exchange of ideas.  I'd love to see discussions like those again.

 

Ironically that's why I have been hanging out at a conservative Christian board - they are more open to dialogue than this place has been in the past few months. Who would have thought I'd be more comfortable discussing heretical and unorthodox theology with a bunch of conservatives? :rolleyes:

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Well... actually, I don't. 

 

Then what is the point? You claim you want a discussion but when your point, taken to its logical conclusion falls apart, you simply refuse to discuss it? You can't blame God. It sounds like you are putting blinders on to reality. You can't have it both ways. God either killed her child or didn't save MOW's life.

 

 

BTW, It is actually not uncommon at all for a car to be totaled and a person walk away unscratched. Modern cars are designed to protect their passengers.

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In the past, people here seemed to agree that progressive was best defined by a spirit of receptivity to new ideas and an interested tolerance to other people's ideas.  This used to be a great board to have discussions on with people who disagreed or saw things from different views but could have a civil exchange of ideas.  I'd love to see discussions like those again.

 

To me it means using my logical mind to be able to approach a discussion. I'm not open to some of the ridiculousness I see coming from various people or groups of people in the world. While I respect people's right to have their own beliefs if someone poses a comment which flies in the face of logic you had better believe that I'm going to challenge it. I will do it here just as I've done it in other places. I refuse to go to a church where I am expected to turn off my brain at the door and I refuse to participate on a board where I'm expected to turn off my brain when I log in.

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"Ironically that's why I have been hanging out at a conservative Christian board - they are more open to dialogue than this place has been in the past few months. Who would have thought I'd be more comfortable discussing heretical and unorthodox theology with a bunch of conservatives?"

 

 

I googled for you oct. - "Results 1 - 10 of about 7,260,000 for scientific study prayer" = so, millions actually.

 

I'll be joining you - - - I used to think it was just the conservatives who were afraid of anything they didn't understand. So many very angry people here now. sad.

Edited by Cynthia
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I googled for you oct. - "Results 1 - 10 of about 7,260,000 for scientific study prayer" = so, millions actually.

 

That isn't a cite. That is a google search for someone one somewhere talking about it!

 

You have to go to the professional journals which you will only be able to access through a University or College in order to find any!

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Hmm, Aletheia, what board might that be. I find that groups change over time, and not always for the better. Of course, people drift away and that may change the group dynamics.I have never seen such changing happening for the better.

 

As for prayer. I am quite agnostic about intercessory prayer. I would have said maybe a year ago that I didnt' believe in it at all. But I have decided that might be too extreme a position and leaving out some possibilities that might be. I also prayed about my work situation. Funny thing, I prayed that I would be "where I am needed the most". Be careful re: praying for such a thing as I think I might be there. Yikes. ;-}

 

The prayer I tend to believe is more a contemplative prayer sort of more in placing yourself in tune with the universe and Creator, for lack of better analogies.

 

--des

 

 

In the past, people here seemed to agree that progressive was best defined by a spirit of receptivity to new ideas and an interested tolerance to other people's ideas.  This used to be a great board to have discussions on with people who disagreed or saw things from different views but could have a civil exchange of ideas.  I'd love to see discussions like those again.

 

Ironically that's why I have been hanging out at a conservative Christian board - they are more open to dialogue than this place has been in the past few months. Who would have thought I'd be more comfortable discussing heretical and unorthodox theology with a bunch of conservatives? :rolleyes:

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I'd like to thank everyone for their comments so far. Part of the reason I started this thread is that I'm going through some health issues in regards to my eyes. After choir rehearsal recently ,one of my choir members came up to me, and said she was praying for me. I simply thanked her, and I think that is enough. Sighting the results of a recent scientific study on prayer to her, would have been rude and disrespectful of her. Plus two Christians saying to each other " I'm praying for you", is a much more natural setting than in a lab experiment anyway. I guess I'm feeling kind of " Fortean" recently( Charles Fort was an early 19th century writer who cataloqued natural anomalies that science has not been able to explain).

 

With respect David ,I think you took my statement" Don't put God to the test". out of context . This was part of Jesus' reply to Satan in the temptation story. Satan had made the ridiculous suggestion that Jesus jump off a tower to proove that a scripture was true. Jesus zen like response that by not jumping off the tower, he would be safe also. Granted people have fallen from great heights and survived (some I 've heard have even walked away), but that doesn't mean I should jump out of an airplane to see if I would survive too. Putting God to the test for me means, i.e. spending your rent money on lottery tickets and praying that God will let you win. Leaving your car unlocked ,with the motor running and seeing if God will keep it from being stolen.

 

MOW

Edited by MOW
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So even under the heading of debate, some of you only want to read the comments you want. How religious of you to make judgments about why that's not what you got.

 

Yes, Cynthia, I have said before that physics has nothing to do with spirituality. My saying that doesn't make this a fact any more than others saying the opposite makes that a fact. What I was saying was that there are plenty of resources to explain why whatever mystical interpretation of physics that catches someone's fancy is wrong. I can't make anyone read them.

 

As far as the difference between the physical and spiritual, Aletheia raises some interesting questions. Why can't we know all this? I think that's interesting. Others would rather have a theology that claims to know everything. They're welcome to it.

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After choir rehearsal recently ,one of my choir members came up to me, and said she was praying for me. I simply thanked her, and I think that is enough. Sighting the results of a recent scientific study on prayer to her, would have been rude and disrespectful of her. Plus two Christians saying to each other " I'm praying for you", is a much more natural setting than in a lab experiment anyway.

 

 

I thinkyour response is completely appropriate and of course telling her about the most recent experimental study would have been inappropriate! For starters one study does not make the truth! And believe it or not there is definately psychological benefits to having someone pray for you (assuming you know it or believe it) just as there are benefits to having someone say they are thinking about you!

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The prayer I tend to believe is more a contemplative prayer sort of more in placing yourself in tune with the universe and Creator, for lack of better analogies.

 

--des

 

 

I remember praying for atheist friends in middle school/high school. The effect? I grew to love them and see them as people who weren't that different from me.

 

I prayed before a test for God to help me remember what I studied. The effect? I relaxed and was able to focus on taking the test.

 

I prayed for a situation I was not in control of. The effect? I gained acceptance that I can't control everything. (Still working on that one!)

 

I prayed for someone who was in need. The effect? I realized I could personally help them or could lead them to where they could get help.

 

 

I think these are all examples of what you say, Des.

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To me it's all pretty simple, and I've studied and researched these matters for some time now. There is reality, and there is illusion. Despite what some may advocate, physics and computation are intimately involved with the creation of both, especially at the quantum levels.

 

For over a hundred years now, there has been a war going on to convince us that illusion is reality, and that reality should be ignored. This dichotomy of warfare has taken center stage the last forty years or so, especially since 1968 when certain leaders of new ways of addressing reality were brutally slaughtered through cartoonish acts before our eyes. And yes, it is my belief that physics was involved in that also. It is this reality that is behind the surface illusions that we are treated to in the commercial media each second, hour, day, week, year, and it is slowly destroying our ability to collectively hold real, heartfelt beliefs over time.

 

Two weeks ago I watched my Dad struggle with double pneumonia. I knew that it was serious, and several cartoonish and illusory episodes at the hospital convinced me that the powers that be had determined an unfavorable outcome. I prayed that this very talented and humorous 90 year-old musician, who was still joking with the nurses, who had lived a full life and had been loving and supportive to all those that he touched with his life, not be made to suffer for the benefit of those whose lives are dedicated to creating destructive illusions for their selfish enjoyment and benefit. Two days later he had a severe coughing episode and he left us suddenly. My prayer was answered

 

Let us not confuse belief with watching and believing cartoonish presentations that are always short-lived and transitory, leaving us with emotional voids that we attempt to fill and satisfy with our addictive behaviors. Only real people that are connected through love and understanding can overcome this modern plague that is slowly tearing us all apart. That's why I choose to contribute to this group.

 

Scientific studies cannot prove belief. Only shared-personal experiences can.

 

flow.... :(

Edited by flowperson
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I think we have every right to expect our belief and understanding in a new reality to be validated by science and reason. It is not for everyone, but for intellecuals who need some questions answered to acknowledge God’s presence it is not unreasonable. For others the spiritual sense will awaken our original, eternal self to God’s rhythm and the harmony that is operating undisturbed. Turning from material beliefs to spiritual beliefs is hard and there are so many different personalities to change so we have so many different techniques to arrive at the spiritual destination. Some people are artist, some intellectuals, some into service, and some will play the flute tol change the perspective and reveal the ever-present divine Love that is in pure consciousness.

 

I like the Sufi saying trust in God but tie up your camel.

 

Believe in God, but do what it takes to keep that spiritual experience alive.

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Guest wayfarer2k
I remember praying for atheist friends in middle school/high school.  The effect?  I grew to love them and see them as people who weren't that different from me.

 

I prayed before a test for God to help me remember what I studied.  The effect?  I relaxed and was able to focus on taking the test.

 

I prayed for a situation I was not in control of.  The effect?  I gained acceptance that I can't control everything.  (Still working on that one!)

 

I prayed for someone who was in need.  The effect?  I realized I could personally help them or could lead them to where they could get help. 

 

 

I think these are all examples of what you say, Des.

 

This rings true for me also.

 

I tend to see prayer, not as seeking divine intervention (implying that God is not here and hoping he will be), but as changing and focusing me. If I were to pray for traveling mercies during my drivetime to and from work, I would hope that it would make me much more alert to my environment rather than a petition to try to get God to show up and protect me with angels.

 

My wife, on the other hand, is a firm believer in the power of prayer. She does expect God to show up when she prays and to deliver an answer, even if it is not the answer she hopes for. While I love her dearly, we simply have a different outlook on prayer and what happens when people pray.

 

I agree with many of the posts that prayer (and answers to it) does not submit itself to scientific study well. As mentioned, scientific analysis depends greatly on a repeatable outcome to repeated input. I think life is simply to random and all of us too unique to try to create a "surefire" formula for prayer or divine intervention. I just don't think life or God works that way.

 

On the other hand, I am the first to admit that there is much that science hasn't (and probably can't) explain. But I'm reluctant to chalk these things up to God or to divine intervention. For me, that is going back to pagan superstition that God is behind the weather, sickness, sudden death, catastrophe, or blessing. As soon as I say that God blessed or cursed me, the focus immediately becomes, "What did you do?" i.e. how did you get God to act?

 

It is at that point, I feel, that our experiences undergo a subtle shift from being life to becoming doctrine. In other words, folks want to turn what happened to them into a theological concept that others can tap into if they can just recreate a similar attitude or circumstance. "Here is what happened to me, it can happen to you to if..."

 

Prayer is still, in many ways, an enigma to me. Especially the way that the Bible presents it. But my experiences seldom line up with the experiences of those in the Bible.

 

wayfarer

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