God comes up empty-handed in the largest, longest study of the effect of intercessory prayer. In a study of 1,800 heart bypass surgery patients, the American Heart Journal finds that remote orisons not only don't make any difference, they actually make things worse. (If that seems paradoxical, consider the lilies of the field.)
The team recruited patients who were about to undergo coronary bypass surgery at six US hospitals. They randomly assigned them to one of three groups: about 600 were told that they might be prayed for but were not; 600 were told that they might be prayed for and were; and another 600 were prayed for and knew about it…
Each night of the trial, the team faxed a list of the patients to be prayed for to three Christian groups, whose members prayed for successful surgery and a quick recovery…
The investigators found that praying made no difference to the health of patients who didn't know whether they were being prayed for or not. But the group who knew that they were being prayed for was approximately 14% more at risk of complications, mainly abnormal heart rhythms. Perhaps, the investigators suggest, this was because it made them more anxious.
"It may have made them uncertain, wondering am I so sick they had to call in their prayer team?" Dr. Charles Bethea tells The New York Times.
An earlier Duke U. study came to a similarly ungodly result.
"Don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines," said Satchel Paige. More prayer quotes here.