Little surprise in new Duke prayer study
It's another slow news day, so here's another story that probably wouldn't otherwise make many headlines, if only because it sounds so familiar.

Duke University researchers are touting a new study as "the first time rigorous scientific protocols have been applied on a large scale to some of the world's most ancient healing traditions," including prayer. "The trends they observed may yield important clues to understanding the role of the human spirit in modern, technology-laden cardiovascular healthcare," says a press release.

The Washington Post has a different take on the study. Its story begins, "Praying for sick strangers does not improve their prospects of recovering, according to a large, carefully designed study that casts doubt on the widely held belief that being prayed for can help a person heal."

The study of 748 patients with coronary artery disease investigated the effects of distant intercessory prayer and of a therapy called MIT (bedside music, imagery, and touch). These were divided up roughly into quarters: One group got prayer and MIT therapy; one only got prayer; another only got MIT therapy; and a fourth got neither. Those getting prayer didn't know what group they were in, since the people praying were off-site strangers. Given the nature of MIT therapy, those receiving it knew it.

The headline-grabbing finding is that heart patients in the prayer group prayer were just as likely to have complications from their heart treatments, end up back in the hospital, or die within six months.

The details, however, are important.

"The prayer groups for the study were located throughout the world and included Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, and multiple Christianity-based denominations," ...

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's editorial director. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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