Touted as the largest scientific examination of prayer’s effect on hospital patients, the Templeton Foundation arranged for Christians to pray for 1800 heart patients and tracked the results. Prayer was not effective. According to CNN, “[t]he patients . . . 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.” Arrangements were made for 3 different Christian groups to pray “starting the night before surgery and continuing for two weeks”.
But the study was flawed. And it was flawed in a way which reveals the underlying absurdity of prayer itself. CNN reports that “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.”
And that’s the problem. With only the first letter of the last name, how was God supposed to know for whom each prayer was intended?
Christians believe that God already knows everything, after all he can see into the hearts of the people praying. But in this case, those people themselves didn’t know who they were praying for. Still, God knows everything, we are told. Certainly he knows who’s having heart surgery, and at any rate he could always sneak a peak at the Templeton heart study records if he had any questions.
But God is omniscient. He already knows who needs his assistance and who doesn’t. And he already knows whether he intends to give his assistance or not.
Prayer is predicated on the opposite. By its very existence it assumes that God doesn’t know. It assumes more as well. Prayer takes for granted that God can be talked — literally prayed – into helping when otherwise he wouldn’t have.
Within the context of Christian beliefs about God — that God is omni-benevolent and omniscient — prayer is incoherent. In fact, prayer is nothing but a magical attempt to control events through the use of powerful words. I can tell the powers that rule the world what I want them to do — and they will do it! That’s the rationale of prayer.
It follows that the very concept of prayer is inconsistent with the Christian belief that God knows all and God knows best. Consequently it has no place in the Christian worldview. Prayer is nothing but a throwback to the age of magic, an incoherent and superstitious rite that Christians themselves ought to reject.
* Note: the original CNN news article referenced above has moved or is no longer available. Information about the study can be found at MedicalNewsToday.