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Kindness Korner

Research on Prayer

Serious Material About Prayer

Larry Dossey M.D. tells about some experiments with prayer undertaken by an organization called Spindrift. This group set out to test how praying people might affect other living things, in this case seeds. The question was whether prayer can make a difference in the rate of germination in ordinary garden-variety seeds.

Rye seeds were divided into two equal groups. One set was prayed for, the other was not. The results consistently showed more slender green rye shoots among the prayed for seeds than on the other side.

Satisfied with these results, they tried something else. They added salt water to the "prayed-for" tray. It was like making the seeds sick. The results this time were even more striking. Prayer worked even better when the organisms prayed for were under stress.

Several different models were used to test the results of prayer for the sickened seeds - extra salt, humidity, heat. The outcome was consistent. Prayer worked best on the ill seeds!

The Spindrift people explored other logical questions in their seed-based experiments:
1. Does it matter how much one prays? Answer: Twice as much prayer produced double the positive effects.
2. Does the praying person need to be informed about the conditions of the seeds prayed for or can she pray effectively with minimal awareness of the subject? Answer: The more clearly the practitioner is aware of the object of prayer the more effective it will be.

Another remarkable dimension of their tests was the exploration of the difference between what they call "directed" and "non-directed" prayer.

Directed prayer is the kind where a very specific outcome is focused on like the shrinking of a tumor, healing of an illness, or the knitting together of a broken bone.

Non-directed prayer is open-ended. God is not told what to do in this mode of intercession and a very specific result is not imaged or asked for.

The Spindrift Folks wondered which of the two would get the desired outcome. They found that both ways of praying got good results but the non-directed was twice as effective as the directed. They concluded that the "Thy will be done" attitude seems superior. Therefore, if we can generalize from seeds to humans, we should hold persons up to God and pray for the awareness of God's presence and a fresh infusion of Divine love, healing and well-being, in a general and open way. This way seeks and accepts 'what is best' whatever that might be, leaving specific outcomes to God.

I believe we should be incited to greater conviction about prayer by these reports. Skepticism is understandable, but in this scientific age it may be that God gives us these timely means for fresh awareness of His divine presence. By means appropriate to the 20th century mind-set, God calls us back to life's true Power Source.

We ought to conclude there is good reason to pray. But we are also compelled to be open people, open to disappointment as well as victory. Not every seed germinated. Unexpected cures are still unusual. Mystery remains.

Control of these powerful life-impacting forces still resides Somewhere Else. The "wind blows wherever it pleases." But there is given to humankind, some capacity to direct or influence it. Life experience, Biblical teaching, and this research, provides a lot of motivation to be praying people.

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