Prayer does not even offer a placebo effect:
The three-year Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP), published in the April 4 American Heart Journal, was the largest-ever attempt to apply scientific methods to measure the influence of prayer on the well-being of another. It examined 1,800 patients undergoing heart-bypass surgery. On the eve of the operations, church groups began two weeks of praying for one set of patients. Each recipient had a praying contingent of about 70, none of whom knew the patient personally. The study found no differences in survival or complication rates compared with those who did not receive prayers. The only statistically significant blip appeared in a subgroup of patients who were prayed for and knew it. They experienced a higher rate of postsurgical heart arrhythmias (59 versus 52 percent of unaware subjects).
So we know, without a doubt, that prayer has no effect and may make things worse. That, however, does not deter the insane people who are members of the cult of Christian Scientists:
Prue Lewis listens as they explain their symptoms. Then Lewis — a thin, frail-looking woman from Columbia Heights — simply says, “I’ll go to work right away.” She hangs up, organizes her thoughts and begins treating her clients’ ailments the best way she knows how: She prays.
This is health care in the world of Christian Science, where the sick eschew conventional medicine and turn to God for healing. Christian Scientists call it “spiritual health care,” and it is a practice they are battling to insert into the health-care legislation being hammered out in Congress.
Leaders of the Church of Christ, Scientist, are pushing a proposal that would help patients pay someone like Lewis for prayer by having insurers reimburse the $20 to $40 cost.
The provision was stripped from the bill the House passed this month, and church leaders are trying to get it inserted into the Senate version. And the church has powerful allies there, including Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who represents the state where the church is based, and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), who said the provision would “ensure that health-care reform law does not discriminate against any religion.”
You have to pay someone for their prayers? Insanity.