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Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

The Science of Prayer

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Earlier this week “Dr. Marshall” who describes himself as a retired M.D. & an atheist suggested in a comment on this blog that since science has failed to prove that prayer has no measurable effect on the sick, as a society we need to carefully consider the implications of certain elements of religious freedom – in particular how parents’ faith in prayer as a treatment can hinder a child’s chances to receive proven medical help.

Before taking up his broader, social values/policies question I’d like to tackle Dr. Marshall’s underlying assumption – that his “review of the medical literature on the benefit of prayer convinces me that it has no effect (other than one study in which cardiac patients who were prayed for, without their knowledge, did worse than those without prayer).” Is this true? Are there no validated studies that support the power of prayer?

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I challenge this assertion. In the last 25 years a series of well-designed empirical studies have repeatedly validated the physiological value of prayer and spiritual belief.  It seems a person’s faith can heal, or at least affect the health of their body. (See Backus, William Backus’ The Healing Power of a Healthy Mind, 1997). More remarkable still, and contrary to Dr. Marshall’s contention, other studies do suggest that a person’s prayer may be able to heal another person’s body, even when the other has no certain knowledge of having been the object of such intercession. (See Dale Matthew’s The Faith Factor, 1998). I suggest we discuss a few of these studies and the implications they offer.

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I acknowledge that “testing prayer” or even more, “testing God” does seem to challenge both established scientific as well as theological assumption. But I do believe there is good cause to pursue these studies and their results. Larry Dossey, a medical doctor and prayer researcher responds to the objections that transcendent “causes” can’t be measured by suggesting that science in general is still adjusting to Einstein’s theories that matter and energy are interchangeable and to the quirky world of quantum science. Measuring anything accurately is now a tricky business. Dossey dares scientists to look at measuring prayer the same way we now have to measure subatomic particles. There has to be an acceptance of randomness. “You can’t really see it,” says Dossey. “You just know that under certain conditions it manifests itself” (See Larry Dossey’s, Healing words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine, 1993).  

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So are the effects of prayer measurable? What do you think?

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Prayer for the Drug War in Juarez

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Drug violence in Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, is exploding into a war. So far this month, nearly 100 people have been killed. The death toll for 2009 stands at 2,000, more than 200 per month. Juarez now holds the pitiable title, “deadliest city in the world.”

I know Juarez. Our church has a strategic alliance with a Christian ministry that runs an orphanage, school and church in the heart of the city. In years past we have sent youth and young adult teams to work there. Our family spent a Spring break in Juarez with a few of the children who have become victims in the wake of the tumultuous living conditions of this border metropolis. We received far more than we gave!

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Now Juarez is in chaos. Streets are eerily empty at night and the corridors are filled with Mexican troops trying in vain to keep the peace. Eight thousand soldiers have flooded the city, to no avail. Every night victims have been found hanging from bridges, gunned down in vehicles, and left on street corners, bound and gagged with their throats slashed. Many victims are bystanders in the wrong place. But most are low level operators of the two feuding drug cartels: the Juarez Cartel and the El Chapo Guzman Cartel.

Let’s pray for the peace of Juarez. Prayer matters. God cares. Let’s join this war for peace and an end to the violence and the sources of violence there with the best and most effective weapon there is!

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“God, you are a God of peace. You hate violence and injustice. We ask you now to intervene in this horrible drug war in Juarez. We ask you to embolden the Mexican and U.S. officials dealing with this crisis. Give them miraculous insight to deploy their resources in the right places at the right times. Protect soldiers and police officers in this battle. Protect the innocent as well. We pray for the young men and women pulled – often by threats to their own families – into joining these gangs. Give them ways to escape. Give them hope and protection. God, bring judgment on the greed driven leaders of the Juarez Cartel and the El Chap Guzman Cartel. Help officials to find and arrest them soon. And God, forgive us as Americans for fostering an environment that drives the demand for these drugs. Break the grip of drug addiction in our nation. Give strength to those working with those addicted to chemicals. Deliver us from this evil and in the course and deliver cities like Juarez from the plight of the violence driven by our demand to find ways – other than dependence on you – to escape the pain of our lives. We pray this in Jesus…” 

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Goldy the Gopher Mocks Penn State Player’s Prayer – Going too Far?

posted by Mark Herringshaw

The University of Minnesota’s sports mascot, Goldy the Gopher joined a long list of mascot buffoons when he mocked a Penn State player in prayer before the teams played last Saturday. When defensive lineman Jerome Hayes stopped in the end zone and knelt in prayer Goldy knelt with him, then offered his hand when the player crossed himself. Hayes did not accept the handshake. Goldy then fist-bumped a Minnesota cheerleader and wiped a mock tear.

Penn State won 20-0… So who got the last laugh?

Did Goldy go too far by mocking Hayes’ faith? 

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Pray For Rifqa Bary – and Her Family

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Rifqa Bary, the teenage girl who said she ran away from her Ohio home to Florida because she feared physical harm for converting from Islam to Christianity could soon be returning to her home state. Rifqa fled after her parents, Mohamed and Aysha Bary, learned that she was baptized into the Christian faith without their knowledge. The parents reported her missing on July 19. Police used cell phone and computer records tracked the girl to an Orlando-based Christian church. This month, a Florida judge said stated that he would send Rifqa back to Ohio, but set no date for her return.

In a television interview aired on the Florida station WFTV, Rifqa, said she expects to be killed if she is forced to return to Ohio.”If I had stayed in Ohio, I wouldn’t be alive,” she claimed. “In 150 generations in family, no one has known Jesus. I am the first — imagine the honor in killing me.”

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Rifqa’a father Mohamed Bary, who emigrated with his family from Sri Lanka in 2000 responded in another interview that has no intentions of harming his daughter.

“I love my daughter and I want her to come back to the family,” he said, declining further comment.

This is a tough story. Where does parental authority begin and end? What is the right balance between religious freedom and parental choice? We’ve seen several examples of this question lately, with several well publicized child medical treatment/prayer treatment controversies. As a parent, and a supporter of societal support of the nuclear family I side with the girl’s parents. But as an individual believer in Jesus, firmly aware of the hostility Jesus-followers often encounter, my heart goes out this brave young woman.

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From a distance, the most we can do is pray.

“God we pray for Rifqa Bary and her parents and extended family and friends. We can pray that you would give Rifqa increased courage and conviction to maintain her personal faith in the face of opposition. We pray too that you will bring a miraculous reconciliation between Rifqa and her parents and family. Open everyone’s mind and heart in this matter, show them the path to walk. Give Rifqa relationships with people who can help her follow Jesus without believing that she has to leave every element of her culture. Show her how to honor her parents and yet retain a full loyalty to Jesus. There is no simple human solution here. It will take a miracle, which is why we pray! In Jesus…”

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