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The power of prayer?
Date:6/17/2009

development of the clinical trial as the gold standard of biomedical research, said Cadge.

"I do not know why physicians and scientists conducted these studies," said Cadge, "but personal religious beliefs appear to have played a role, along with curiosity."

The earliest studies undertaken in the sixties were based exclusively on Protestant prayers, while more recent studies, reflecting growing social awareness of other religions, combine Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and other prayers, Cadge discovered. Some studies suggested that prayer worked, while others said it didn't.

The researchers leading the studies applied clinical scientific methodologies to the study of intercessory prayer, but Cadge found that even that approach was fraught with problems. For example, researchers asked whether the people not being prayed for by the intercessors were truly a control group, since their family members were probably praying for them. Researchers also asked what the right "dosage" of prayer would be, how prayers should be offered, and what to do about non-Christian intercessors.

"With double blind clinical trials, scientists tried their best to study something that may be beyond their best tools," said Cadge, "and reflects more about them and their assumptions than about whether prayer 'works.'"

Reflecting a recent shift toward delegitimizing studies of intercessory prayer, recent commentators in the medical literature concluded: "We do not need science to validate our spiritual beliefs, as we would never use faith to validate our scientific data."


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Contact: Laura Gardner
gardner@brandeis.edu
781-736-4204
Brandeis University
Source:Eurekalert

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