Monday, September 12, 2011

Intercessory Prayer – The Big Texas Test

Even as a Christian I never believed in intercessory prayer, primarily for ethical reasons. There have been numerous studies regarding the effect of prayer, and none of them, to my knowledge, have shown that prayer does anything other than perhaps make the person stating the prayer feel better. The largest of these official studies, back in 2006, involved about 1800 cardiac bypass surgery patients and showed that prayer provided no benefit to their recovery. Christian responses were the typical examples of cognitive dissonance, such as “God's way of working with people is a mystery and that technology really can't determine the effects of prayer.”

Rick Perry, our beloved governor of the great state of Texas, however, initiated perhaps the largest and most comprehensive real-life-not-a-scientific-test of intercessory prayer ever conducted, involving literally millions of people.

Here’s the facts:

1. Way back in spring it was apparent that Texas was experiencing a major drought. 3 months of little or no rain with high temperatures and winds were fueling wildfires over nearly a million acres. Hundreds of homes had burned, livestock was suffering, and several deaths were attributed. Rick Perry decided that us mere mortals needed help from his god and declared:

"WHEREAS, throughout our history, both as a state and as individuals, Texans have been strengthened, assured and lifted up through prayer; it seems right and fitting that the people of Texas should join together in prayer to humbly seek an end to this devastating drought and these dangerous wildfires;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RICK PERRY, Governor of Texas, under the authority vested in me by the Cons...titution and Statutes of the State of Texas, do hereby proclaim the three-day period from Friday, April 22, 2011, to Sunday, April 24, 2011, as Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas. I urge Texans of all faiths and traditions to offer prayers on those days for the healing of our land, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of our normal way of life."

2. The population of Texas is over 25 million.

3. Texas has one of the highest percentage of people calling themselves Christian in the nation, with over 50% of the population associated with some form of Christianity. The largest group, at least in 2000, where the Evangelical Protestants at just over 24% of the population. I think it’s safe to assume that they believe in the power of prayer.

4. Sticking with the Evangelicals, 24% of 25 million means over 6 million Texans were likely taking Rick’s advice and praying to God for rain. Imagine, if you will, the Christian families, circled around their dinner tables with the father, as proper head of the household, leading his flock in prayer, “Dear God, please, for the sake of your children suffering through the loss of their homes, of their livelihood, and of their loved ones, bring rain to this great state to ease their pain. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

5. The drought map shown here is the level of the drought back in April, when Perry issued his proclamation and for the end of August, the latest data I could find. The drought has got significantly worse.

6. Over 1500 homes have been burnt to the ground in the latest wave of wildfires. 17 people are unaccounted for, 4 confirmed dead. Agricultural loses are well into the billions.

Either God ignored those prayers or no one is listening. No other reasonable conclusion can possibly be made.