Rivka Levy said he came across a couple of very interesting experiments, designed to test whether prayer actually ‘worked’, when it came to healing illnesses and other health issues.
In the first experiment, researchers at the Spindrift research lab in Oregon used an alcohol rinse to half-kill a mould culture they were growing.
Then, they put a string down the middle of the culture dish, and asked half their volunteers to pray in a ‘directed’ way for side A of the mould, (ie, requesting a specific outcome) and the other volunteers to pray in a ‘nondirected’ way for Side B, (ie, simply requesting whatever outcome would be best, without specifying it.)
Nothing much happened on Side A, but the mould on Side B, started multiplying at a rate of knots, and quickly sprang back to life.
In repeated experiments, the Spindrift researchers found that: “prayer works, and that both methods are effective. But… the nondirected technique appeared quantitatively more effective, frequently yielding results that were twice as great, or more, when compared to the directed approach”(emphasis mine).
The second experiment was conducted at the University of Redlands in 1951.
A group of 45 volunteers with a range of physical and mental issues were divided into three groups, of 15 people each. The first was called: ‘Just-Plain-Psychology’; the second: ‘Just-Plain-Prayer’; and the last group was called: ‘Prayer Therapy Group’.
In the first group, no-one mentioned religion or prayer, it was just straight-up psychotherapy, as the patients in this group had indicated they wanted.
In the second group, no-one mentioned therapy. It consisted of a bunch of ‘true believers’ who already thought they knew how to pray, and that prayer was all they needed to get well. This group spent every night for 9 months praying that God would cure them of their specific illness, or emotional problem (emphasis mine).
The last group combined two-hour weekly prayer sessions with psychological testing. Each week, participants in this group got an envelope telling them about a negative aspect of their personality that the therapists had identified, and asked them to pray on eliminating it.
After nine months, the results of the experiment were as follows:
Just Therapy Group: 65% improvement.
Just Prayer Group: No improvement.
Prayer and Psychological Testing: 72% improvement.
These results puzzled and even disturbed many ‘religious’ people at the time – but I’ll explain why really, they make perfect sense.
The first thing to remember is that you can’t force God to give you exactly what you want. That’s why non-directed prayer – where you pray for your general good, as opposed to a specific outcome – is far more effective than asking for something concrete.
The second thing to remember is that God only sends us our illnesses as a wake-up call, to get us to change, or fix, something in ourselves, lives, relationships or beliefs.
Groups I and III were actively working on themselves, albeit in different ways, and were making changes in response to their illness or issue.
By contrast, Group 2 weren’t working on anything, or apparently willing to change anything – so to a man (or woman… ), their illnesses and issues remained the same at the end of the nine months, as they had been at the beginning.
In addition, this group was praying specifically for God to take away their illness or issue (which is ‘directed’ prayer), as opposed to asking God to do whatever was best for them (‘non-directed prayer‘).
So what can you learn from all these scientific experiments about what really works, when it comes to praying for your health and wellness? Let’s try to sum it up:
1) Don’t ask God to ‘take away’ your specific health problem (‘directed’ prayer); instead, ask God to do whatever’s best for you (‘non-directed’ prayer);
2) Be prepared to change something in yourself or your life if you want to get well – because the illness is only coming to give you a message. Once you get the message – and act on it – 9 times out of 10, the physical and / or emotional illness will vanish by itself.
3) Prayer really works – and its success rate is often much greater than more conventional therapeutic techniques and approaches.
But only once you really know how to do it properly.