It’s a common argument among Pagans–Witches in particular–when conversing with monotheists to say something like, “What you call prayer, we call spells,” or words to that effect.
No doubt we think ours are better. No one is testing them, but there have been a number of studies attempting to quantify the effects of “intercessory prayer,” usually meaning prayer for people facing health crises.
Some seemed to show that such prayer helped, results that were seized upon by Christians.
But the results of one are not so simplistic, reports Christianity Today magazine. (I urge you to read the whole thing.)
The study received some attention at the time [three years ago], but seemed to have escaped the notice of many Christians, probably because of its surprising—and for Christians, disturbing—conclusions.
. . . .
The result: The group [of surgical patients] whose members knew they were being prayed for did worse in terms of post-operative complications than those whose members were unsure if they were receiving prayer. The knowledge that they were being prayed for by a special group of intercessors seemed to have a negative effect on their health.
Where does that leave people who say that you should get permission before “working” for anyone?
The authors then turn theological:
Our prayers are nothing at all like magical incantations [!]. Our God bears no resemblance to a vending machine. The real scandal of the study is not that the prayed-for group did worse, but that the not-prayed-for group received just as much, if not more, of God’s blessings. In other words, God seems to have granted favor without regard to either the quantity or even the quality of the prayers.
And then they have to jump through more theological hoops to answer the obvious question, “Then why pray at all?”
Obviously, that is not our theology. Pagans do not expect the gods to conform to our standards of either/or logic.
But try reading the article and substituting our language for its authors’. How would you respond?