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When Prayers Attack

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Praying_for_you_posterWell, it’s official. If you’re scheduled for a coronary bypass and the local Ned Flanders is busy organizing the congregation to pray for you, order the bastard to cease and desist immediately. Science has determined that intercessory prayer may significantly increase the risk of post-surgery complications for you.

This month’s issue of the American Heart Journal has a paper by Benson e. al., on the effectiveness of intercessory prayer. They begin the paper by saying:

Intercessory prayer is widely believed to influence recovery from illness, but claims of benefits are not supported by well-controlled clinical trials. Prior studies have not addressed whether prayer itself or knowledge/certainty that prayer is being provided may influence outcome. We evaluated whether (1) receiving intercessory prayer or (2) being certain of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with uncomplicated recovery after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.

And their conclusion?

Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.

In English: Prayer is ineffective at best, and knowing that you’re being prayed for can be a risk factor as well.

The doctors are to be commended for three things: (1) for having the cojones to study the supernatural; (2) for giving “intercessory” a slightly sinister connotation; and (3) for making the Universe a slightly funnier place.

Prayerstudy_2The basic idea of the study is quite simple. There are two control variables: prayer and awareness. Either a patient may or may not be prayed for and the patient may or may not be told this fact. That gives four groups of patients, and the figure shows the number of patients assigned to the various groups in the study. Note that a patient was never told that he is not being prayed for; that, of course, would be unethical.

What the doctors measured were the number of complications post-surgery (the Society of Thoracic Surgeons has defined these complications in a reasonably precise way). It is here that the study becomes interesting. What the Benson team found was that the least number of complications occurred in the group of patients who were not prayed for and were ignorant of that fact (Group 2). The largest number of complications occurred in the group of patients who were prayed for and were aware of that fact (Group 3). In the figure, the red arrows show the direction of increasing risk.

The results are statistically significant; that is, it is unlikely these numbers could’ve been obtained by pure chance. Benson et al., are strangely reluctant to make this conclusion. In their words:

We have no clear explanation for the observed excess of complications in patients who were certain that intercessors would pray for them (group 3)… the excess may be a chance finding.

But, in an otherwise laudatory review, the lead editorial in the same issue of the American Heart Journal heaped scorn on this pusillanimity:

While presenting these results clearly and noting them in discussion, the investigators take an almost casual approach towards any explanation, stating only that it “may have been a chance finding.” It is rather unusual to attribute a statistically significant result in the primary end point of a prospective, multicenter randomized trial to “chance.” If the results had shown benefit rather than harm, would we have read the investigators’ conclusion that this effect “may have been a chance finding” with absolutely no other comments, insight, or even speculation? [Amer. Heart J. 151(4).  pp. 762-764].

They go on to argue that cultural biases should not stand in the way of studying religious phenomenon. They’re absolutely right. Religion is not within the purview of science. But religious claims are. It’s an idea that has been gaining steam in recent years. Generally, scientists have held back, been apologetic for negative results, and avoided confrontation. It’d be interesting to see if Medicine becomes the new villain in the minds of the faithful; Evolution now bears the brunt of the animus.

Medicine has always been the cradle of scientific thinking. It is inherently democratic (the physician touches all), inherently rooted in natural explanations, and inherently self-correcting in that an idea that cures usually survives over one that doesn’t. These features make medicine a radical science.[ADBLOCKHERE]

Ancient Indian medicine offers one of the best examples of what happens when the theocracy understands this fact. Ayurveda, which started out as a materialistic, experimental study of diseases, dengenerated into a logical but irrational system of superstitions. Not many people are aware that both medicine and physicians are heartily condemned in most of the sacred Indian texts; text after text lumps physicians with thieves, fowlers, washermen, cobblers, harlots, and eunuchs. This was a historical shift. In the Rg-Ved, the Asvini brothers, twin physicians to all the other Gods, hold a high and honored place. But by the time the Yajurveda was composed, things had taken a drastically different turn. Brahmins are strongly prohibited from practicing medicine. Physicians are listed amongst the unclean. In the Taittiriya-samhita, one of the recensions of the Black Yajurveda, there’s a part where Ashvini twins are denied their share of their sacrificial offering. They are made to barter their services for a share and to undergo a purification ceremony (specifically, Bahispavamana); both would’ve been unthinkable in the Rg-Ved. Clearly, medicine had been put in its place.

Perhaps the results of the Benson study are not as significant as the fact that it was undertaken in the first place. Medical, pharmacological, and neurophysiological experiments may finally help Religious Studies achieve what William James so boldly hoped for almost a century ago: a genuinely scientific examination of religious phenomenon.

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About Anil Menon

  • Dave Nalle

    Interesting stuff. It does suggest that the power of prayer, both positive and negative, is entirely in the mind.


  • Anil Menon

    Dave: thanks. I think you’re right. Prayer is probably closely related to the placebo effect.

  • Amrita

    from the Rigveda to the yajurveda and back again in the modern world…
    text after text lumps physicians with thieves, fowlers, washermen, cobblers, harlots, and eunuchs – a look into the future and HMO-ized physicians

  • Ruvy from Jerusalem


    Maimonides, the greatest of Jewish scholars was a physician.

  • Lisa McKay

    These are interesting findings indeed, and I do wonder what the investigators are thinking privately about the results.

    If one accepts the notion that a positive mental attitude can improve recovery, perhaps knowing that one is being prayed over causes one to put it all ‘in God’s hands’, therefore nullifying any benefit that might accrue from thinking positively about one’s own health.

  • Steve

    Well, that’s the first survey I’ve heard of with those kinds of results, I would be curious as to how their methodology differs from studies that have been done before, which seemed to suggest the opposite. On the other hand, only the heretical ‘name it and claim it’ folks would argue that God has to answer EVERY prayer affirmatively.

  • The Cook

    Here is the recipe:

    Mark 11:24-25 “So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”

    Prayer has two requisites:

    1. Faith.

    2. Forgiveness.

    That is why prayer doesn’t always work.

    Try harder.

    Read more.

  • Anil Menon

    Amrita: :-)

    Ruvy: Interesting counter-example. The taboos against what may be studied in medicine seem to develop when a culture attains a certain degree of security. Perhaps the Jews were never so lucky. But the case of Maimonides does “complicate” the thesis that theocracy and medicine are necessarily at odds.

    Lisa: That’s the first plausible explanation I’ve heard about why awareness may be a risk factor. Putting oneself in the hands of God could be akin to a kind of giving up, at least from the immune system’s point of view.

    Steve: this is the sixth study on the effectiveness of prayer; ostensibly, it was conducted in response to the many methodological criticisms leveled against previous studies. The doctors maintain a neutral tone, bordering on apology, throughout their paper.

    The Cook: It’s a cruel God, I think, who’ll listen to only those without doubt. I can’t imagine a parent who’d deny succor to his sick child simply because the aid was being asked by someone he has a quarrel with. We need a God who can live up to higher standards.

  • Steve

    My point was, God is not a genie to be summoned in times of need to grant us our every wish. We can’t know all of his purposes for things, for all we know, our death may be a godsend to those beyond death. We all have to die physically sometime, anyway. You just can’t assume too much.

    Re. #7, Another reason for unanswered prayer is that we ask for the wrong reasons sometimes. I notice you missed that verse, I believe it is in the book of James.

    Bottom line is, if God is omniscient, as the Bible says He is, you can be sure He knows what He is doing, irregardless of the outcome.

  • chantal stone

    I’ve just been lurking around this thread, I haven’t commented because Steve, you’ve said everything I would have said, I agree with you completely.

    It’s a fine line to tread when you ask God for something and He does not deliver the outcome you desire, it’s often easy to assume that He does not care, or does not exist, even. But we can never know what His plan is.

  • Rich

    Did you read the actual study or abstract? Did they find the difference between 52% and 59% statistically significant? Then why did the authors say it could be due to chance? The design of the study was flawed and a waste of Sir John’s money, patients and Unity’s time. It was a 30 day followup, not a long-term followup. Coronary by-pass itself is controversial, with long-term studies finding no difference in viability rates between those with it and without it. There was no attempt to control for the amount of outside prayer. The use of the phrase “No complications” in the prayers was suspect. As Freud knew, the unconscious mind does not know the difference between Yes and No.
    Good April Fool’s joke.

  • Jet in Columbus

    Steve and you and Chantal might want to read a debate Ruvy and I were having between #65 & 72 before you pass too harsh a judgement on me on the thread-I don’t have enough faith to be an Athiest.

  • Steve

    Oh, Chantal, that’s sweet of you to say so. Amen.

  • http://http// Anil Menon

    Steve: The expt. was testing whether intercessory prayer is more effective than tossing a fair coin. Suppose we think of God as a black box: uncertain motives, uncertain attributes and uncertain behavior. The box has a handle called “prayer,” which people say is useful in controlling the output of the box. It’s not hard to test that claim. We don’t have to know how the box works or what the box’s plan is, etc. All we’re testing is whether the handle is effective. A handle that works on a 50% basis is basically equivalent to throwing a fair coin. Anything less and the *handle* is ineffective. Anything more and it’s effective. The expt. showed that the *handle* called intercessory prayer is not effective. It doesn’t say anything about the black box.

    It’s possible the black box changed its behavior *because* it was being tested. But even such measurement-dependent systems may be studied; Quantum mechanics is one example.

  • chantal stone

    The interpretations of this study also have a lot to do with whether or not you believe in God and in the power of prayer. A non-believer will just surmise that God does not exist after all. A believer will argue that you can’t test God, and that you can’t change His will, prayer or not.

    One can argue that the results of the study speak for themselves, but then how significant is the difference between 52.2% and 58.6%?

    Any surgery involves risk, with or without prayer. So any complications can be easily medically explained, regardless of the intercessory prayer.

  • Steve

    Rich, above, made some interesting points. I look forward to more studies, like I said, I have heard of opposing outcomes, so I would be curious as to what similarities/differences there are between those being studied.

  • The Cook


    What a ridiculous statement!

    “We need a God who can live up to higher standards.”

    Your standards or mine or…(?)

    The question is who sets the standards?


    If you think that’s the way it works, it helps explain your problem.

  • Jet in Columbus

    We had a whole nation of God loving God fearing Christians and a born again President praying for those minors in West Virginia.

    tha same group prayed for the people of New Orleans.

    I prefer to believe in his power within me to give me strength


  • Cedo

    I am quitting my church.

  • Anil Menon

    Steve: Second you on the “look forward to more studies.” And I agree it’s premature to decide whether the scientific evidence is for or against intercessory prayer. I’m just glad we’ve begun to study it.

    Chantal: I really don’t know what to say other than that statistical testing can usually weed out the kinds of explanations you offered. And “statistical significance” is different from the normal use of the word “significance”; I used the word in the former sense. There are rules in statistical testing that characterize when a difference makes a difference.

  • Jet in Columbus

    Chantal, I sure’s hell hope you understood that, because I didn’t

  • The Cook

    A difference makes a difference when there is a difference.


  • chantal stone

    umm okay, let me try…that kind of went over my head, but here goes:

    Anil…again, that all goes with a persons perception of God’s existence and belief in prayer.

    A true believer (not all, mind you) might argue that despite statistical evidence, prayer DOES work or that God’s will can prevail. A believer might even say that God doesn’t give two shits about “statistical significance”.

    A non-believer might argue that all the praying is futile.

    In relation to THIS study, I would like to point out that whatever the evidence, I would not go so far as to say that prayer, or intercessory prayer does more harm than good. For many people, praying to a god they believe can help them can provide the proper mental attitude needed to overcome illness.

  • Kurt

    Jesus said; Again it is written Do not put the Lord your God to the test.
    I assume they are testing God, if thats where the prayers are directed.

  • Ruvy from Jerusalem

    Anil writes, “We need a God who can live up to higher standards.”

    G-d revealed Himself to you in various works known as “Vedas.” They are part of your heritage and you understand them better than I, but I’m sure that least some of them would be considered “works of Divine revelation”.

    He revealed Himself to us Jews in the Tana”kh, the Hebrew Bible.

    It is my theory, that given that we Jews were not ready to carry out the charge given us by G-d, that He revealed Himself further in forms that became Christianity and Islam. They have succeeded the way they have because they are Judaism worked over a bit, and provide the basic curriculum for the future, when Jews will have to guide mankind in following the Seven Laws of Noah. But that is merely my theory, the ramblings of an undeucated Jew.

    The essential point of commonality to all of these revelations was that there is a G-d, or a G-dhead that stands supreme over all creation.

    Who are you or I to “fashion” a god who can live up to “higher standards?” Demanding such a thing makes us idolaters. If G-d, or the G-dhead is the Creator, and we are the created, than for us to “fashion a god that lives up to higher standards” makes us idiots indeed, doesn’t it?

    I would suggest attempting to understand our respective heritages of revelation better, before looking for “higher quality” gods to bow down to.

  • MAOZ

    Did I miss something, or how do the researchers know that someone isn’t being prayed for? Did they get access to my own particular “Mi SheBerakh” list? (A neat trick if they did, since it’s not written down.)

    Might people be putting the cart before the horse? I.e., perhaps others are more likely to pray for precisely the patient who is in a riskier circumstance to begin with (and who therefore is more likely to suffer complications).

    Or should I pay more attention to the date of this piece? (I’m aware of the significance of April 1st for Americans, and maybe others.)

  • Elvira Black

    Quite a fascinating, provocative read, Anil. From my personal perspective, I find it a bit obnoxious in a way when someone says “I’ll pray for you” as if they have a direct connection to G-d. Seems a bit egotistic and presumptuous, though well meaning. But I have read anecdotal evidence (see Dr. Bernie Siegel, for example) that positive versus negative “vibes” in the operating room (in terms of the surgeon’s attitude and the surgical environment) can help improve the odds of a good surgical outcome. But that might be because the patient can hear or sense the stimuli on some level–and maybe because the doctor is just a better physician with a good bedside manner to boot. In any case, very interesting stuff.

  • Anil Menon

    @Elvira: thanks. I remember reading a magazine article about Dr. Siegel. If I’m ever trussed up in a hospital with cold metal speculums inserted here and there, that’s the guy I’d want.

    MAOZ: No, it’s not a April Fool’s joke. The American Heart J. is a real journal, the expts really happened etc. etc. The scientists don’t (can’t) know people are being prayed for. The expt. studied two things simultaneously: (1) does intercessory prayer make a difference in post-surgery recovery and (2) does knowing you’re being prayed for by a group of strangers make a difference. Part 1 of their study is problematic, because as you said, you can’t tell whether someone is being prayed for. The good folks at the three churches did their best, I imagine.

    Ruvy: Ref to: “We need a God who can live up to higher standards.”

    Most of us would now reject a God who demands/sanctions human sacrifice, slavery, ritual mutilation, child prostitution, widow burning, witch burning, the genocide of unbelievers, etc. There is some support for many of these actions in the holy texts of the major faiths (at least, our ancestors thought so). We interpret the texts differently these days.

    Kurt: the Bible does say no-testing. Still, in 1 Kings, the heathen God Baal is tested by Elijah in what is really an outcome-based experiment. :-) But the testing of God aside, the study did reveal a potentially important result: for a cardiac-bypass patient, knowing that they’re being prayed for may be a risk factor.

    Chantal: “In relation to THIS study, I would like to point out that whatever the evidence, I would not go so far as to say that prayer, or intercessory prayer does more harm than good.”

    Agreed. Personally, I’d focus on understanding the Placebo effect. If we understand how little sugar pills can trigger massive immune responses in people, we might get closer to understanding how beliefs cure as well.

  • Dewi Morgan

    I have read only the abstract, as the article is not freely available on the net. However:

    Group 1: 303 0f 597 (50.9%) complications in those not told and not prayed for.
    Group 3: 352 of 601 (58.6%) complications in those told they’d be prayed for.
    That’s a 7.7% difference – 46 (no, not 49) more people affected in the group 3 than should have been.

    The expectation when designing the experiment was that those percentages would be 50% (bang on the nose) and 30% (not even close).

    To find out if the difference between these two numbers is “statistically significant”, you need to look at old records from the same locations that the study was done. Clump those records randomly into groups of 600, and see how much the variation between those clumps is. The vast majority will be within certain boundaries. Any result outside those boundaries is a “statistically significant” effect.

    These results were outside the boundaries that were expected by chance. They were “statistically significant”.

    So you can’t use chance as an excuse if the results don’t go your way.

    The above article lops out an important part of the editorial quote, which explained this:

    “…a prospective, multicenter randomized trial to “chance.” In fact, such attribution is antithetical to the very definition of what a error and statistical certainty imply: that the worse outcomes are almost certainly related to the therapy and not the play of chance. If the results had shown benefit rather than harm, would we…”

    Let me translate: we can be confident the extra complications were not from stuff that wasn’t being measured, not from chance, not from the prayed patients having a worse medical history, not from the quality of the prayer groups to which they were given, not from the fact that family and friends were by chance praying more for the ones who weren’t told: those 46 lives were endangered BY THE EXPERIMENT ITSELF.

    Now we need to find out what caused this effect.

    Was it stress? Bias in care by doctors? (the worst group was the one with no double-blind protection) People leaving their care up to God, rather than fighting? Did knowing they were being prayed for mean that relatives of those who were told, prayed less forcefully for them because of that?

  • Icanread

    “Most of us would now reject a God who demands/sanctions human sacrifice, slavery, ritual mutilation, child prostitution, widow burning, witch burning, the genocide of unbelievers, etc. There is some support for many of these actions in the holy texts of the major faiths (at least, our ancestors thought so). We interpret the texts differently these days.’

    Jesus taught none of the above.

    There always are those who want to misinterpret.

    It happens today.

    Today some want to misinterpret the First Amendment of the US Constitution which protects political speech, to be interpreted as also protecting pornography.

    Today some want to misinterpret the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution which protects the right of all citizens to vote, to be interpreted as also protecting abortion,.

    And today some want to misinterpret the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution to sanction homosexual marriage (likely to be followed by sanctioning polygamy).

    There are always some who want to misinterpret.

  • Jet in Columbus

    Yeah Icanread, and then there are people like you who take glee in putting words in not only God’s but our Founding Father’s mouths.

    …but that’s only my opinion

  • Icanread

    What words?

    Be specific.

  • Dewi Morgan

    Well, one set of words would be where you claimed that the first amendment only applied to political speech and not to, say, anti-religious, pro-sex, or other “controversial” types of information in the press.

    The text of the amendment is as follows:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Now, in what way did you manage to munge the second clause in with the third? Would you munge all three clauses together, and believe that the government can interfere in religions that are not “political religions”? Hopefully not, as that’s an oxymoron.

    It is very clear that the clauses are separated by semicolons, and that the third clause refers to an entirely separate right to the prior clauses. It’s also clear that the second clause refers to entirely separate freedoms.

    Now, what IS negotiable is whether the government has the right under this amendment to disperse peaceful gatherings that are not for political or religious ends. Some might argue there are in reality four clauses here, with a separator between “peaceably to assemble” and “petition the Government”. Others argue that six rights are protected (each clause separated into two subclauses by commas). However, that there are at least three distinct and disparate rights discussed is incontrovertible… unless you want the government to have the right to interfere with the running of your church? 😀

  • Jet in Columbus

    …and tax it too!

  • Icanread

    Dewi Morgan

    My comment was:

    “Today some want to misinterpret the First Amendment of the US Constitution which protects political speech, to be interpreted as also protecting pornography.”

    There was nothing in my comment except what dealt with political speech and pornography.

    My comment alluded to the First Amendment being used to support the porn industry.

    Political speech has nothing to do with the remainder of the the First Amendment.

    The intent of the Founders was to protect political speech, not pornography.

    Get it?

  • Steve L

    I don’t quite see the relevance of trying to measure the impact of a group praying for a patient as if something is being ‘transmitted’ to that person if he/she were a radio receiver.

    Certainly its the individual’s own faith (and whatever that may be – involving or not involving God or a god) that will have the largest effect. If that person’s faith is bolstered by the thought that others are prayiny for them how can that be refuted as a negative? Did the study measure the person’s level of faith? How can that be done?

    More insidious to this whole study are the overtones. Researchers are trying to cover up the failure of medical science with an attack on anything theraputic outside of their direct control. Its a way of bolstering their own agenda. Shameful. If the researchers were more sincere, a greater scientific effort would be made, taking the time to fully explore the subject. This study shows contempt on the part of the medical establishment. That may explain the sheepish conclusions attributed to the researchers and the strong rebuke by the editor of the journal for not being more damning.

    Have you noticed how much press this has gotten while we seldom hear (up until recently) about how doctors are failing to help their patients (and in many cases making things worse).

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Steve L. writes,

    I don’t quite see the relevance of trying to measure the impact of a group praying for a patient as if something is being ‘transmitted’ to that person if he/she were a radio receiver.

    While I agree with most of what you say in your comment, the concept expressed above is precisely one which scientifically would define “soul,” or more porperly put “neshamá” – a spirit communicating with G-d.

    Group praying is the action of a group of “neshamót” seeking for the well being of a different “neshamá.” So the group prayers send out a ‘signal’ to the Almighty which if picked up, may be translated into a certain amount of healing for the sick creature prayed for. This healing is then received via the appropriate means by the sick person.

  • Icanread

    The use of prayer is prevalent in both the Old and New Testaments.

    A search in brings up 119 ‘hits’. There are 61 references in the Old Testament and 58 in the New Testament.

    Interesting reading.

  • Steve

    Of course, the importance of prayer is to get to know God better, to have a relationship with God. What He does for us as a result, is only a by product.

  • gonzo marx

    me…olde apostate and heretic that i am, i find it patently ludicrous that any mere mortal can have any kind of “personal relationship with God” on any level…

    pure hubris, and the cause of more strife in the history of Humanity than any other single Cause…

    your mileage may vary


  • Steve

    When did God tell you that you couldn’t have a relationship with Him, gonzo?? If we are indeed created in His image, why not??? What kind of God do you worship (if any)??

  • Nancy

    Something they didn’t seem to have taken into account as a bias: maybe the effects of prayer on patients were deleterious because only those in serious & deteriorating conditions were prayed for. After all, one would think a congregation would pray more for someone undergoing a 5-way bypass than someone getting a facelift or having a tonsellectomy?

  • gonzo marx

    well Steve, does “God”..the omnipotent, omniscient, creator of the multiverse…speak with you on a regular basis?

    burning bush and all that…or just the Voice in your head?

    just curious

    me? i figure any such Entity woudl be a bit busy, as well as Existing on sucha totally different Scale ( Time, Dimensions, Size et al) that it might be akin to the bacteria in your stomache praying and worshipping you (their Creator)…but you don’t really notice…

    just a Thought


  • Nancy

    BTW, I will be disappearing from this most excellent blogsite for awhile because I’ll be having some fairly stiff surgery myself at the end of the month. So those of you who can’t stand me, go ahead & pray if you like. Won’t bother me in the least. When I come back (if I do) mayhaps we can compare notes, what you all prayed for, vs what I experienced.

  • Paul

    Prayer is a LIE

    Jesus is LIE

    God is a Control Device

    Only science which can be tested and tested again by multiple parties can be trusted.

    The bible is a fairy tale…. written by whom? GOD, LOL hilarious =P

  • Icanread

    Evidently, Paul is in charge.

    He is all-knowing.

    Tell us more, Paul.

  • gonzo marx

    oh yes…for the Record…

    i don’t “worship” anything

    the very Concept of “worship” is anathema to me, the thought that any Entity capable of Creation as we know it (from Quarks to quantum mechanics to the duck-bill platypus), coudl give a flying rat’s ass about how i/we “feel” about it…or how we spend a certain portion of one day a week (worshipping) would only serve to give the appearance of a very petty a picayune Entity

    a far cry from what would be the case for such a Being as we are discussing….

    hope that helps


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Nancy, may you have a full recovery from whatever stiff surgery you face. If you send your mother’s name, I cans stick you on my prayer list – unless this article has you spooked.

  • Where’s Waldo

    You say the conclusions were statistically significant. Do you have the p-value?

  • Anil Menon

    1. Effect of intercessory prayer on outcomes (group 1 versis group 2): 52% in group 1 and 51% in group 2 had at least one complication (relative risk 1.03, 95% CI 0.92-1.15, P=.67).

    2. Effect of certainty of receiving intercessory prayer on outcomes (group 3 vs group 1): 59% in group 3 had at least one complication compared with 52% in group 1 (relative risk 1.14, 95% CI 1.02-1.28, P=.025).

    There are lots of details on how they handled missing data, multiple centers, reporting, the fine points about the way complications are counted, etc. So a few variant P’s are also reported. But the overall conculsion in the paper is the one I quoted in the blog.

    Incidentally, I’m moving on to other topics. Thanks for all comments, people.

  • Icanread

    gonzo says

    “i don’t “worship” anything”

    Confuscius say:

    Man who say he not worship anything, worship self.

  • gonzo marx

    interesting “quote”

    well Icanread…could you please cite or link the spot in his writing that K’ung Fu Tzu said this?

    or are you just making up fortune cookie platitudes in a vain attempt at baiting?

    i woudl guess the latter, since the accepted english spelling of the Sage’s name is Confucius..and most of the “sayings” attributed to him were written well after his death by various beaurocrats who studied under the governmental system he implemented…

    Enquiring minds want to know


  • Where’s Waldo

    I would trust a 95% confidence interval, but i would like to know the subgroup size.

    If god has a divine plan than wouldn’t praying for something be like asking your dad for something after he already made his decision? Stop nagging god.

  • Icanread

    Where’s Waldo

    Part of God’s plan appears to be letting the implementation evolve.

    A plan does not have to disclose the final implementation.

  • gonzo marx

    well now, it appears “Icanread” is just excercising his abilities at sophistry…since no Answers appear to be forthcoming

    a bit of a clue for ya…if yer gonna be a troll…

    at least be either

    hope that helps


  • Icanread

    gonzo — you may worship yourself, but I don’t see why others should.

  • gonzo marx

    Icanread sez…
    *gonzo — you may worship yourself, but I don’t see why others should.*

    well now, as a great Teacher once said to a King…

    “that’s what you say”

    again, poor showing at baiting…if you want to grow up to be a big troll…

    try harder


  • troll

    gonzo – please be gentle with the TITs (trolls in training)


    ps I worship you

  • gonzo marx


    that’s how it’s done…funny and sub-referential

    but i digress…


  • Icanread

    troll is subservient to gonzo because troll believes gonzo is really Billy Goat Gruff.

  • Andy Marsh

    I was just thinking…maybe they were praying to the wrong god??? There are a few out there to chose from and who’s to say which one is the right one? Or that the right one has even been found yet…or if there’s a right one at all???

    Just a thought…

  • Icanread

    Relax Andy. There’s only one God with different names.

  • Jet in Columbus

    “In his name they could slaughter
    In his name they could die,
    Many there were, believed in him
    Still more believed he lied


  • Icanread

    Jet wants to be a poet and he wants us to know it.

  • Jet in Columbus

    Duh, I quoted Genesis, I credited Genesis…

  • Rodney Welch

    More science news: regular church attendance lengthens your life. Maybe the prayer study group talked to the wrong folks?

  • Nancy

    Ruvy – just out of curiousity, why my mother’s name? She’s not having surgery, I am. Is that something peculiar to Isreali practice? Thanks. No, I’m not spooked. In fact, one of my more interesting experiences was having a shaman/medicine man work on me. Whether it was the power of the mind or the herbal tea, it seemed to have worked! Shoot, maybe I should go back to him instead of having surgery…?

  • Christopher Rose

    Rodney: It’s certainly true that membership of a self-referring and self-rewarding feedback group like a church or even the boy scouts conveys benefits to the group.

    That’s why it’s always been more risky to be an outsider. Though I rather suspect that to be a phenomenon of human psychology rather than a validation of the god theory…

  • Rodney Welch

    “A self-referring and self-rewarding feedback group” is a self-flattering outsider’s description, and I for one don’t find it accurate. The way I look at church attendance is that it takes you outside of yourself and makes you part of a community whose members otherwise may have little in common but their faith.

  • Christopher Rose

    I rather think it’s a technical description of a group Rodney, whereas your term sounds like a personal attack. It’s also inaccurate – I’m as certain as a chap can be that you won’t find me flattering myself that often nor am I an outsider unless you mean outside the cult.

    There are a million ways to be taken outside yourself and be part of a community that are far more profound than turning up at some tax haven building once a week and singing a couple of songs.

  • Rodney Welch

    Like wallowing in self-righteous contempt, perhaps?

  • Christopher Rose

    Ooh, you can be really beastly when you want to, eh Roger? I’m hurt, I really am.

  • Jet in Columbus

    All right you two enough! Kiss and make up, and be sure to post pictures :)