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29 October 2014
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New scientific study examines the power of prayer

Does Prayer Work? Everyman, Thursday 23 October, 9.00pm, BBC TWO

One of the biggest multi-faith prayer experiments ever devised has concluded that prayer made no significant difference to the outcomes of the cardiac patients involved.

Despite an earlier pilot study suggesting prayer could have a measurably beneficial effect, the experiment revealed that the recovery rates of the heart patients who were prayed for were no different from those who weren't.

Led by cardiologists from Duke University Medical Center, the MANTRA study investigated the value of prayer on healing and tested whether patients recovered more readily if they were prayed for.

The three year study involved 750 heart patients from throughout the USA and 26 prayer groups from throughout the world including Christians in Manchester, Buddhists in Nepal and Sufi Moslems in America.

Half of the patients in the study were prayed for but nobody involved in the study, including the participants, knew which half.

The preliminary study results were announced yesterday (Tuesday 14 October) at the Second Conference on the Integration of Complementary Medicine into Cardiology, a meeting sponsored by the American College of Cardiology.

The study findings showed that prayer made no significant difference to the long term health of the patients involved.

Cardiologist Mitchell Krucoff, who led the research, concluded: "The most basic data tables are negative; there is no difference."

However, there were certain anomalies in the data. The results indicated that prayer may help reduce patients' distress levels.

Sister Patricia, from the Carmelite Monastery in Baltimore, says: "A person can be healed in ways were not aware of.

"Maybe their heart wasn't healed in this particular study but... maybe they're meant to be ready for death in a fuller way... that's healing in itself."

Extra prayer groups were also added to the study, post September 11th, to pray for the initial prayer groups involved.

Curiously, the results also indicated that a 'higher dose' of prayer may have had an effect on the results.

However critics of such studies believe that you cannot put God to the test.

The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Tom Wright, says: "Prayer is not a penny in the slot machine, you can't just put in a coin and get out a chocolate bar at the bottom.

"This is like setting an exam for God to see if God will pass it or not."

The progress of the experiment - from the early stages of enrolment to the final revelation of the results - is the subject of Does Prayer Work? Everyman, to be shown on BBC TWO on Thursday 23 October at 9.00pm.

All the BBC's digital services are now available on Freeview, the new free-to-view digital terrestrial television service, as well as on satellite and cable.

Freeview offers the BBC's eight television channels, interactive services from BBCi, as well as 11 national BBC radio networks.



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