Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Prayer's purpose

Published:Thursday | November 20, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Devon Dick, Contributor

Ethon Lowe, medical doctor, claimed that 'Prayer is pointless' (Nov 5). To make his point he stated that 'At least 10 studies to determine the efficacy of prayers carried out in the last six years had mixed results'.


However, he did not quote from any of those 10 studies but rather he quoted from a 2006 study funded by Templeton Foundation, which was at least seven years old. Nor did Lowe tell us what the mixed results were. Instead, Lowe concluded that 'Prayers were made for god to spare the people from the ravages of the virus, which alas, many have now learnt, was an exercise in futility'.

That Templeton, a Christian organisation, did the research into the efficacy of prayer shows a commitment to scientific research and openness to truth wherever the data leads. Sadly, this is lacking in Lowe's point about the efficacy of praying against the chikungunya virus. One would have expected that he would have stated the number of persons who had the virus and do an experiment. He should have three groups, with group 1 being those who were prayed for and they did not know they were being prayed for; group 2 would be the control group who were not praying and did not know they were not being prayed for; and then group 3 would be those who were prayed for and told they were prayed for and see if there is any difference among the groups. He did no such research and yet he concludes with his faith statement that prayer is pointless in regard to the chikungunya virus.

Since he is a medical doctor, one would even anticipate further research to show the number of persons who went to a medical doctor with the virus and followed the prescription of the doctor, and the number who got healed by following that advice. Would the findings show that it was futile to visit a medical doctor?

SOLACE AND COMFORT

Lowe did admit that 'Prayer does seem to work at least psychologically. It provides solace and comfort. It may relieve stress and anxiety, and promote a more positive outlook'. He should know that a visit to a medical doctor can work even psychologically and that medications have side effects. What Lowe does is to concentrate on the abuse of prayer and misunderstanding of prayer wherein persons might 'remain passive in times of crisis waiting for divine deliverance, rather than taking effective action'.

Prayer is to discern the will of God for the common good, others and ourselves. Prayer is to help us align our will and desires with God's will and desires. Prayer is to acknowledge that God is worthy of worship as Creator of all, redeemer of us from sinful ways, sustainer of our earthly existence and hope for an eternal life. Through prayer we get strength, guidance and protection to live a full, meaningful and purposeful life. In prayer we recognise that all we have and will get comes through the goodness of God.

Prayer is not primarily about informing God about our needs because he knows better than we do what our needs are. 'And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words ... your Father knows what you need before you ask him' Matthew 6:7-8. Jesus spent time explaining what prayer is, how to pray and demonstrated the efficacy of prayer.

Does prayer work? I prayed that Lowe writes more reasoned and reasonable articles on religion and if there is an improvement in his writings on religion then we can say prayer works again!

Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.