Why pray against God's will, anyway?
Here’s an interesting story just off the MSNBC headlines:
NEW YORK – In the largest study of its kind, researchers found that having people pray for heart bypass surgery patients had no effect on their recovery. In fact, patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications.
Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School and other scientists tested the effect of having three Christian groups pray for particular patients, starting the night before surgery and continuing for two weeks. The volunteers prayed for “a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications” for specific patients, for whom they were given the first name and first initial of the last name.
The patients, meanwhile, were split into three groups of about 600 apiece: those who knew they were being prayed for, those who were prayed for but only knew it was a possibility, and those who weren’t prayed for but were told it was a possibility.
The study looked for any complications within 30 days of the surgery. Results showed no effect of prayer on complication-free recovery. But 59 percent of the patients who knew they were being prayed for developed a complication, versus 52 percent of those who were told it was just a possibility.
I’ve always agreed with George Carlin that praying to an omnicient omnipotent God is just about the most illogical thing you can do, even from a Christian perspective.
After all, don’t the religious folks always say things like “it’s God’s will” or “If it is to be in God’s Plan”? The idea being that God has a plan for all of us, and He’s all-knowing, so He’s imminently more qualified to determine your fate than you are. I mean, if it was God’s plan to knock you down for heart bypass surgery, and it is God’s will that you die on the table, then who are you, pathetic human, to question God’s Plan? Who are you to think your requests in prayer will be answered if it contradicts The Plan?
So, if God wants you to die, and you pray to live, you’re suggesting that God was wrong. If God heeds your prayer and lets you live, He’s admitting His own fallability, which is nonsense. If God ignores your prayer and lets you die, then what was the point of praying? If God wanted you to live after all, your prayer was also a wasted effort.
It’s interesting that the prayed-for subjects had higher complications. Could it be that a true believer who’s anticipating everything will be all right through prayer is somehow letting his guard down and weakening his immune system? Could it be that when people are unsure they are being prayed for, they fight harder to live and pay more attention to their doctors? Or could it be that God is pissed about puny humans questioning his plan so he snuffs out the sick relative they prayed for? (Don’t put it past Him; He once sent bears to maul to death 42 children who teased a bald man.)
[Cross-posted at Radical Writ in Dr. Zaius’ name, amen.]