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Studying the Benefit of Prayer

The experiment cited most often by advocates of prayer is one by a cardiologist at San Francisco General Medical Center (Randolph C. Byrd, "Positive Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer in a Coronary Care Unit Population," Southern Medical Journal 81, July 7, 1988: 826-829. )

Byrd studied 393 patients between August 1982 and May 1983, dividing the group into 192 patients who were prayed for, and 201 who were not.  He reported that, among other things, the people who were prayed for were five times less likely to develop pulmonary edema; that none required endotracheal intubation, and fewer of them died. 

Since 1988, there have been a few studies to try to prove or disprove the benefit of praying for others.  None of the studies has been sufficiently rigorous.  Indeed, this is a topic that involves such a variety of factors the existence of some of which we are not likely aware, that it might never be possible to come to any definitive conclusion.


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