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Editor's Correspondence
June 26, 2000

God, Prayer, and Coronary Care Unit Outcomes: Faith vs Works?

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2000 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2000

Arch Intern Med. 2000;160(12):1877. doi:

I wish to share a few comments on the study of Harris et al1 that appeared in the October 25, 1999, issue of the ARCHIVES. The purpose of this study was to see if there was any scientifically measurable effect of remote, intercessory prayer on the outcome of seriously ill patients in the coronary care unit.

The analysis of Harris et al seems to indicate that the main effect of intercessory prayer was on physicians and their medical decisions and not on patient outcome itself. That the same outcome was achieved with fewer controversial medical interventions in the prayer group is a bit sobering. In reading this study, I asked myself: Why should God allow the patients who received the remote, intercessory prayer to do better than the control group? Does God love those for whom strangers pray more than those who were randomly assigned not to receive their prayers? I was taught that God is not capricious and that faith is not a matter of scientific proof.

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