According to a story in the New York Times, prayer by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people undergoing heart surgery, a study had found.
The study was conducted for nearly a decade involving more than 1,800 patients. Whether or not the patients were prayed for, or even if they knew they were being prayed for, it did not speed up their recovery.
“In the study, the researchers monitored 1,802 patients at six hospitals who received coronary bypass surgery, in which doctors reroute circulation around a clogged vein or artery…
The patients were broken into three groups. Two were prayed for; the third was not. Half the patients who received the prayers were told that they were being prayed for; half were told that they might or might not receive prayers…
Patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of post-operative complications like abnormal heart rhythms, perhaps because of the expectations the prayers created, researches have suggested.” (Benedict Carey, New York Times, March 31, 2006)
It’s one of the most popular studies skeptics have used to say, “See, prayer doesn’t work!”
But, those skeptics, and those who conducted the study, don’t understand how prayer works. There are qualifications for prayer:
If I cherished iniquity [sin] in my heart the Lord would not have listened to my prayer. (Psalm 66:18)
You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions. (James 4:3)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
And, 1 Timothy 2:5 says he’s the only mediator between God and man.
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)
So, prayers to Mary, or a false version of God, aren’t received. We are to pray in Jesus’ name. (The groups who prayed in the prayer study featured in the NY Times included a contemplative Catholic order, Catholic monastery, and a New Though organization, all of whom deny essential Christian truth and core Bible teaching.)
But even then, the Bible does not promise God will grant a person’s wishes.
The Apostle Paul prayed three times for the Lord to take away what was tormenting him. But God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” Paul said he would boast all the more gladly of his weaknesses, content with hardships, insults and persecutions so the power of Christ would rest upon him.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)
Prayer works for God’s glory before it’s for our benefit.
With Thanksgiving to the Lord, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
…when we understand the text.