Comments: The power of prayer

Before publishing this article I asked Church House for a comment. They said:

The rationale for the wording was that, if people have something they would pray about, they must believe there is some purpose in that prayer. The release was totally transparent in including the full question asked and the full results of the survey (as it does on the website) so that recipients could judge the content for themselves.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 27 March 2013 at 1:59pm GMT

It would be interesting in a country where 25% claim no religion, if 80% believed in the power of prayer, wouldn't it? I think someone has been little bit silly.

Posted by Tony B at Wednesday, 27 March 2013 at 2:25pm GMT

Oh dear. This 'survey' is of some slight interest in showing the range of responses, but perhaps like many sociological inquiries the reported conclusions are not strongly supported by the data. It seems to me that a somewhat popularist approach has been over-dressed as scientific research. The conclusions as presented are not rigorous enough to be useful in the ways the authors seem to be suggesting. It will get people talking, I suppose, but it doesn't prove much, other than the Church has a lot to learn about conducting convincing surveys.

Posted by Tony Shutt at Wednesday, 27 March 2013 at 2:39pm GMT

I have to say that I agree with the BHA - if you ask people what they would ask Father Christmas for most would give an answer - even if they don't believe in Father Christmas.
Why do we shoot ourselves in the foot like this?

Posted by Alan at Wednesday, 27 March 2013 at 2:52pm GMT

The question is completely loaded: whether you 'currently' - if pray 'at the moment'. So the assumption is anyone would, could, did, do... I'm surprised it doesn't claim 100% of people pray.

Plus some people, like me, 'pray' in the sense of contemplate matters along with others. There is no sense of 'an other' listening in, or something going to act, or some ether transmission going to make any difference. There is no supernature and no magic. It is just a form and placing of thought.

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 27 March 2013 at 3:04pm GMT

The press release is utterly crass. The question clearly might have implied, to some at least, that they were being asked to answer on the assumption that prayer works, not indicating, by answering, that they believe it does so.

Those responsible wholly merit the scorn poured out by Dawkins et al. This sort of nonsense does the Church no good whatsoever.

Moreoever, the survey itself is total frippery and utterly vacuous. I hope the Church did not pay for it.

Posted by Simon T at Wednesday, 27 March 2013 at 3:21pm GMT

I had to say that I checked my diary to see if it was April Fools' Day when I read the press release from the Church of England Comms Department. When I ask my congregation to give to the mission of the church, it never occurred to me that our mission included this sort of ridiculous posturing by the Comms/Research & Statistics Department. They embarrass us all and they need to grow up.

Posted by Simon Butler at Wednesday, 27 March 2013 at 6:18pm GMT

Church House's defence is absurd:

"The rationale for the wording was that, if people have something they would pray about, they must believe there is some purpose in that prayer. The release was totally transparent in including the full question asked and the full results of the survey (as it does on the website) so that recipients could judge the content for themselves."

This is a complete non-sequitur. It shows no such thing. People also have things they would wish for, but it doesn't follow that they believe that there is any "purpose" in wishing for them. I am frankly embarrassed.

Posted by Newfred at Wednesday, 27 March 2013 at 7:12pm GMT

I am very uncomfortable with phrases like "the power of prayer," because they suggest that we can somehow manipulate God, who would otherwise remain indifferent to us. Prayer, I believe is essential, but it is also a mystery. Didn't Michael Ramsey define intercessory prayer by saying something like "bringing the people and situations about which I am concerned into the presence of God" and leave it at that? Yet he was a very prayerful man.

Posted by Old Father William at Wednesday, 27 March 2013 at 7:47pm GMT

Totally agree with Simon T.

Posted by John at Wednesday, 27 March 2013 at 7:51pm GMT

Oh dear. Lord save us (that is a prayer).

Posted by Craig Nelson at Wednesday, 27 March 2013 at 11:11pm GMT

This ridiculous and already discredited 'poll' does nothing to enhance the reputation of the church. Further stupidity and another own goal.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 28 March 2013 at 10:13am GMT

How can anyone have thought this press release was a good idea? It's embarrassing. It just makes us all look stupid.

It takes something to make me agree with Richard Dawkins.

Posted by Will Douglas Barton at Thursday, 28 March 2013 at 5:46pm GMT

Absurd piece of spinning.

Would not have happened in my day.

Posted by Jonathan Jennings at Friday, 29 March 2013 at 9:51pm GMT

I suspect that if a Government department or a minister reported statistics in this way, they would be reported to the Chair of the National Statistics Authority. Though to be fair, by publishing the actual question, the Church has allowed itself to be exposed to the ridicule it deserves for this. If they had wanted to know if people actually do pray, why not ask them? In a recent You Gov survey, the proportion who say that have prayed in the last month is 21%.

How much did this survey cost?

Posted by Professional statistician at Saturday, 30 March 2013 at 10:28am GMT
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