ME and Ophelia

Thursday, May 13, 2004

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Is there any evidence?

At the beginning of 2002, the world's religions got together to pray for peace. Has the planet seen any impact? Is there any evidence that praying works? What are people's perception of peace?

Following on from my posts about genocide in Bosnia and the Sudan, I've been thinking about these questions and the BBCs report does prayer work?
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On the agenda in the House of Lords

In January 2002, the Pope led 200 religious leaders from round the world in prayers for peace. The venue for this landmark occasion was Assisi - the place which, fittingly, gave the world St Francis and his prayer "Make me a channel of your peace".

A month later, the impact of the day of prayer went on the agenda for Wednesday 27 February (2.30pm) in the House of Lords as crossbench peer Lord Hylton asked the government, quote: "What conclusions have been drawn from the day of united prayer for peace, held by the leaders of world-wide faiths in Assisi, Italy and in particular the declaration renouncing the use of violence."
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The findings are quite staggering

Some of the first experiments to try to answer it came in the 1800s, when the worlds of science and religion began to eye each other uncomfortably. The tests used crude methods, concluding for instance that prayer was proved by the long lifespans of royals - people who were much prayed for. These methods have been superseded by more rigorous trials. But emarkably, many modern tests have reached similar conclusions.

Professor Leslie Francis of the University of Bangor has studied 31 experiments (conducted to the "highest professional standards") into the effectiveness of prayer. The trials would typically take a group of hundreds of patients recovering from heart surgery, randomly divided into two groups, one of which is prayed for. None of the patients would know they were or weren't being prayed for. "The findings are quite staggering," he says. "Studies show that patients in hospital who are being prayed for (even when they do not know they are being prayed for) are more likely to recover."
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Note, in February 2002, BBC News online asked its readers: "Does prayer work?" Here are some of the comments.
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People praying for peace, looking to become peaceful people

Extracts from BBCs report does prayer work?:

For believers, whether there is any point in praying can be a complicated issue, crucially taking in two distinct aspects:

Can praying change "external" things, for example the weather?
Can it have an "internal" effect on the person who is doing the praying?

Believers can answer the latter point for themselves, but the former point is more open to debate.

Dr David Law of the University of Manchester says: "the inner effect on praying people has a bearing on prayers for world peace such as those said at Assisi. For me it's not a matter of persuading God to do something, but of people praying for peace looking to become peaceful people. It starts with the internal effect and that, hopefully, will have an impact on the outside world."

Crossbench peer Lord Hylton says the fact of the religious leaders praying together was a significant statement in itself, and one which has made its own contribution to a more peaceful world. In particular, he says, a declaration the leaders made that their religions should not be used as pretexts for violence or wars could have a huge impact. He believes that even now, the religious leaders in the Middle East have become more inclined towards engaging with each other.

Professor Leslie Francis of the University of Bangor says: "I'm not surprised research shows an impact on people who are praying. But the studies also show an impact on people who are prayed for." He suggests that should another day of prayer for peace be organised, subsequent levels of fighting should be monitored, as should people's perceptions of peace.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 5/13/2004
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