• The power of prayer…

    I received this email today from an old friend:

    Hi mate,
    Hope you’re well.
    I’m reading your little book of unholy questions at the moment and thought I’d share a prayer story with you. When XXXX was pregnant with YYYY and we had the 12 week scan, the physical measurements and blood factors indicated that YYYY had a strong likelihood (60%+) of having a chromosomal disorder (Down’s syndrome or worse). This was all very upsetting at the time, and though atheistic, we were happy for people to say they’d pray for us.
    Anyway, XXXX had a procedure similar to amniocentesis to check the foetus’s chromosomes, and everything turned out to be fine. We shared the news and of course all our friends and family who we had spoke to earlier were delighted. Then one of my colleagues, a very intelligent lady with a science degree who works in a scientific role, and a practicing Catholic, declared it a miracle. I think “praise Jesus” was even said. I was a little surprised at this of course but let it slide as I didn’t want to cause offence, particularly as it was on the back of such good news.
    This, I think, is a fantastic example of where religious folks leap on simple chance and declare it the power or prayer. YYYY never had a chromosomal disorder, and was never miraculously cured. Furthermore, the genetic material sampled was harvested before any prayers were even offered; therefore the record of her chromosomes could not have been affected by prayer.
    The whole scenario arose only because of a statistical indication of a problem, not an actual diagnosis. Yes, statistically, and based on good science and a large dataset, over 60% of foetuses with the same indicators as YYYY will have a chromosomal problem. But equally, nearly 40% must be fine, and YYYY  is and always was in this camp. Prayer did not change anything and there was no miracle.
    Happy for you to use this story in your writing subject to anonymisation.

    Please submit any other such stories!

    Category: FeaturedPrayerSkepticism


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce