The idea that prayer can heal the sick has been around for a very long time. Today, the results of the world's largest study were released, and guess what? Prayer has no effect on health or on recovery. The study was done over a span of ten years and involved 1,800 patients. I'm satisfied with the results given the paradigms of the study and the number of top-notch researchers involved (some of them with a religious bias I might add). What annoys me is the response that I know will meet these results.
The same religious people who have quoted previous, less reliable research that showed prayer to be effective will dismiss this study. Others will argue that science cannot test religion and that its silly to try (Of course, had the results been positive the same people would be shouting from the rooftops, "Science proves the existence of God!") and then there will be the obvious, God knew we were testing him and withheld his amazing healing powers as an attempt to teach those silly scientists a lesson. Nice God.
When a stance, whether it be religious or otherwise, requires so much mental gymnastics that you're tied up in a knot or leads you to take all your reasoning skills and put them on a shelf, you might just want to re-examine your position.
Carl Sagan, as usual, says it best...