HIGH STAKES TESTING….I guess everyone’s heard the news about the new prayer study, right? A team of researchers asked several church congregations to pray for heart surgery patients at six different hospitals and then tracked how well they recovered from surgery compared to patients who weren’t prayed for. The result was null. Neither group did better than the other.
But I’ve got a question about this. As I recall from Sunday School, testing God is supposed to be a no-no. In the second of the three temptations of Christ, Satan takes Jesus to the top of a temple and tells him to jump off in order to prove that God will save him from death. Jesus refuses, saying, “It is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
It’s the same deal for prayer: it works, but not if it’s being done for the purpose of testing that it works. It’s sort of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of Christianity.
So here’s my question. Christian doctrine says that testing the Lord won’t work, which means a study like this is useless. Scientists say that science isn’t meant to test supernatural phenomena, which means a study like this is useless. But if everyone agrees that a study like this is useless, why did the John Templeton Foundation spend $2.4 million on it? What’s the point?
UPDATE: Just to make this super-duper clear, I’m not saying the study was useless because I’m an atheist and I don’t believe in prayer. I’m saying it’s useless because even Christians don’t think a study like this would produce any positive results. That’s assuming I understand Christian doctrine correctly, of course.
And don’t bother suggesting that the folks doing the praying didn’t know they were part of a test. Double blind protocols might work for us earthly humans, but they wouldn’t fool God.