The Prayer Chain

The Texas Medical Center with the James Turrell Skyspace in front, on the Rice University Campus, copyright, 2016, StudentOfLife

I recently received a message from the husband of an acquaintance. It seems that she has cancer. He wanted my email address to put me on a prayer group list. This is the original message to me: “Its A___________, B__________’s husband. I’m trying to build a prayer group list for her to help her during her treatment for Stage 1 Breast Cancer. Can you please send me your email address. Thanks.”

This was my reply:

“A_________, instead of prayer, I’d rather help. I’m only a few blocks away from you and you can call me on my phone at 123-456-7890.”
Fast forward two weeks and this is what I’m receiving in my email inbox with replies from many mutual friends and acquaintances:
Dear Friends of B_____________,

I am reaching out for your prayers and good wishes for our friend, B__________.     This summer, B____________ was diagnosed with breast cancer and started chemotherapy this past week….Thankfully it’s stage one, but it is the fast growing type so a great reminder to us all to self-exam and get yearly mammograms….Her first treatment sent her to the ER in the middle of the night….

Please pray for the following:

1) side effects to be minimal

2) the treatment to completely eradicate this disease from her body,

3) B____________ and her family find peace in knowing this will be behind her in 2017.

B____________ is so blessed to have you to reach out to and appreciates your well wishes and prayers.

With love and gratitude from B__________ ——-

Thank you!

3 thoughts on “The Prayer Chain”

  1. I too am a firm believer in action, e.g. Actions speak louder than words. This is usually not an easy situation to handle when you’ve been approached by a Christian or hyper-religious friend of family member. I think you handled this the best way possible given the differing beliefs. Well done SCH.


  2. Thanks for the clear words. Scientists and physicians, 95% of them are atheists and give a shit on prayers, are the only one working hard to relief people from deadly illnesses. I have only a feeling of mercy for those who really think that another prayer can do miracles. But I get angry about those, who honestly thank God (and light a candle) after a patient has been cured from a life-threatening disease.
    God blog, I am currently thinking of subscribing for it. Best regards, Michael


  3. I’d like to make another point that might be relevant. We know that for the prognosis and therapy success of many diseases, including cancer, the “mental cooperation” of the patient has an influence. This is what scientist found out accidentally as a confounding effect in clinical trials: if a patient is convinced that he/she benefits from treatment, than it is really more efficient than on a patient who does not expect any cure (Placebo effect).
    In essence, it would indeed be much more helpful to explain to the patient the efficiency of the therapy, rather than add another voice to a prayer, that has shown again and again its uselessness.
    Since the placebo effect only works on per-se efficient therapies, but not on quack methods, it is also useless trying to “placeboriize” ghost or other magic therapies.
    The second point that worries me a lot on the impact of religious belief in medical treatment is the following:
    If the placebo effect, i.e. a positive expectation on the therapeutic success is crucial, what can in opposite the positive expectation of a life-after-death have of an effect ? There are also clinical studies showing the negative effect (“Nocebo”) if patients are a priory doubtful of a therapy. So the belief that a fatal disease will gain entrance to a new happy life after death is likely to reduce the efficiancy of classical treatments.
    Strange, but probably true, that our fear of death keeps us healthier. What to do to stay also happy, despite a fear of death, is a big challenge, of course.
    Best regards


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