Ms. Kairos rarely approaches me with sermon topics, but she said I should think about preaching someday on all of this.
The day after I watched the PBS broadcast of The New Medicine a study on the effects on prayer for others (or intercessory prayer) is out, showing, at least with this sample, little medical benefit:
The largest study yet on the therapeutic power of prayer by strangers has found that it provided no benefit to the recovery of patients who had undergone cardiac bypass surgery.
In an unexpected twist, patients who knew prayers were being said for them had more complications after surgery than those who did not know, researchers reported Thursday.
The complications were minor, and doctors surmised that they could have been caused by the increased stress on patients worried that their conditions were so bad they needed prayers.
Dr. Herbert Benson, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and one of the study’s lead researchers, added: “Nothing this study has produced should interfere with people praying for each other.”
Interesting, for sure. But then again, what do we think prayer is all about (which is the fundamental question, I gather). Do we think that prayer must yield what we are praying for to be effective, or worthwhile, or heard by God? No. On the other hand, should we assume that God doesn’t have the ability to answer our prayers in this way? No.
Prayer is attention to and communication with God. We bring others to God in prayer out of our love and concern for both God and for them, in our hopes and beliefs that God will tend to their needs, and ours. The
assurance is that God will do so. Not always by better medical outcomes. Maybe not often by better medical outcomes. But God will so tend to our needs. And by praying we pay attention to God who is already at work in that situation, making all things new…