Some research has shown that the benefits are more for the people praying than those prayed for. Do you disagree with that?
Oh yes. There are many studies that show the contrary. A group out of California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco did a study published last year in the Western Journal of Medicine looking at remote intercessory prayer for patients with advanced AIDS. The patients didn't know whether they were in the prayed-for group or the control group. Those who were prayed for did significantly better on a number of parameters, both psychological health and physical. They are now repeating that study with breast cancer patients. And there are a handful of others.
So the upshot is that patients benefit even if they don't know they're being prayed for?
Right. And even if they don't know the people praying for them.
The prayer circles on Beliefnet, in fact, are one of our most popular features. They are a prime example of people praying for people they don't know.
Which is interesting. There are still few studies looking at remote intercessory/blinded kind of prayer, because, in fact, that is not how most people receive prayer. They go to a church and know that they are on the prayer list there. Or they know that their friends or family are praying for them. But things are changing in an interesting fashion with the Internet. You can be on an Internet prayer list that is in turn forwarded to other groups, and pretty soon there can be people all over the world praying for you and you have no idea who they are.