I just stumbled across the very interesting STEP study:
Intercessory prayer is widely believed to influence recovery from illness, but claims of benefits are not supported by well-controlled clinical trials. Prior studies have not addressed whether prayer itself or knowledge/certainty that prayer is being provided may influence outcome. We evaluated whether (1) receiving intercessory prayer or (2) being certain of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with uncomplicated recovery after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.
The results reveal what should be obvious anyway: Intercessory prayer doesn’t work. One amusing aspect of the study results is that the test group that had been told it was going to be prayed for showed significantly more complications in the 30-day period following the operation (58.6%) compared to the other groups (52.2 and 50.9). That is probably just a chance statistical burst, but maybe also due to some psychological effect. This is totally unfounded speculation on my part, though.
On a related note, Daniel C. Dennett, author of Darwin’s Dangerous Idea and Breaking The Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, recently had to undergo surgery due to a dissection of his aorta, but seems to be recovering well. Thank Goodness, and please don’t pray for him!