Does prayer work? Only God may know for sure.
There were more than a few raised eyebrows on Tuesday when Georgia’s governor, Sunny Perdue, gathered with ministers, lawmakers and citizens to pray for rain.
It's one thing to pray privately to the God of your choice, but it's another to pray on the steps of state capitol in full view of the secular media, and the world watching. Let's not even bring up the whole "church and state" debate. That would take another blog at least, or a doctoral dissertation.
What forced the governor to such a desperate move? A massive drought — the worst the state had experienced in 100 years. Atlanta, as well as other cities, are apparently less than four months away from running dry.
Even if you're not particularly religious, sometimes the most desperate situations will drive you to do crazy things — like even pray. For Governor Perdue, it might be politically expedient since he's been criticized for not taking action early enough to thwart the impending drought. Published reports say, despite months of warning, outdoor water use wasn’t banned until this past September. Prior to the ban, lush golf courses continued to be watered, and even a year after the drought began, prisoners were still allowed two showers a day.
At the heart of the criticism about the prayer event, is skeptic disbelief in the power of prayer itself. Does it work — or is it only something that makes us feel better, but doesn't do much good?
Prayer is the central theme of one story we're doing for the Christmas Special here at FOX called, Miracles: Fact, Fiction or Faith. Down in Florida, cardiologist Dr. Chauncey Crandall supposedly brought a man, who had died of a massive heart attack in the emergency room, back to life by prayer. The story seemed amazing to me because I first heard mention of the story after Dr. Crandall, an evangelical Christian, gave a presentation to a group of doctors (also Christians) explaining what had happened. He used medical records and charts to prove his claims.
After interviewing Dr. Crandall, the patient and the patient's family, I found it very hard not to believe something miraculous happened in that ER. We're told that after 30 or 40 minutes of electric paddles and other methods of trying to resuscitate the patient, the hospital called Dr. Crandall down to the Emergency Room to give a final say of whether to give up efforts. Crandall arrived to find the patient not breathing and unresponsive to the electric volts. His extremities were black, indicating no blood was flowing through his body. Dr. Crandall said, "OK, let's call it," which means to tell the morgue to get ready for another guest.
As Dr. Crandall left the room he said he heard God's voice telling him to go back and pray for that man. He did. He prayed "in the name of Jesus..." He told the staff to give one more shot of the paddles. They did. Immediately, the man's heart began to beat. His hands began to move, and he once again began to breath.
You'll hear more details during the Christmas Special, and they are compelling. But did prayer bring that man back? Or was it simply something that has an unknown, medical explanation?
Dr. Richard Sloan, author of BLIND FAITH: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine, believes that whatever happened in that emergency room had nothing to do with prayer. He said there are many things we don't know about science and medicine, but that the more we learn in the future, the less we'll attribute these kinds of events to so called "miracles."
Prayer itself is hard to document. Even Dr. Sloan says there is no way to empirically prove it works or doesn't work. Most of the studies are quite flawed only because how do you control the groups who are prayed for and the groups that aren't? How do you know that someone miles away isn't praying for a person in the control group where no one is praying for them? There is no way to know for sure.
Let's face it — the understanding of prayer belongs to theologians. The Bible instructs followers to "pray without ceasing." Muslims are required to pray five times a day. Jews, as well, have prayer at the core of their faith. So, there must be something powerful in it, if it's a major theme running through most religions.
Dr. Keith Boyd of Trinity Baptist Church in New York City, says prayer is a way to converse with God, but that not all prayers are answered the way we want or expect. The person must ask God what's on his or her heart, but that the bottom line is that God's will, must be done. Now how do you know what God's will is? We don't. But we know God's law and God's love. And God's law is not just a set of arbitrary rules and regulations, but a description of who God is, His very character. So aligning yourself with God's law can at least put you in the same ballpark of understanding his will. But it still doesn't assure us of getting what we asked for. After all, God is not a genie. He is not a fairy godmother, sent to give us everything we asked for.
In the case of Dr. Crandall, what we do know is that if he hadn't stopped and taken a few more minutes to pray, that patient WOULD have been dead. The extra time afforded was just what was needed to give the patient another chance to live, instead of being left for dead.
Now in Georgia, there is a little rain predicted, but not enough to end a drought. But if it does begin to rain and bring moisture to a parched land, will it be because of the prayer — or because nature simply took its natural course?• E-mail Lauren Green
Lauren Green serves as a religion correspondent for the FOX News Channel. Prior to this, Green served as a news anchor for “Fox and Friends,” where she provided daily news updates and covered arts for the network. You can read her complete bio here.
Lauren Green currently serves as Fox News Channel's (FNC) chief religion correspondent based in the New York bureau. She joined FNC in 1996. Her new book is "Lighthouse Faith: God as a Living Reality in a World Immersed in Fog."