Perhaps it's just because I've just finished editing a book about the benefits of spiritual and secular prayer, but I'm a little confused by a new long-term study that finds that prayer not only doesn't help patients recover from surgery, but that people who are prayed for actually have more complications that those that aren't prayed for. This appears to be true whether or not people knew they were being prayed for.
It makes simple sense to me that people who were prayed for had the same level of recovery of those that weren't. Prayer is too vague and personal a thing, I believe, to be responsible for efficient scientific cause and effect. But it seems odd that prayer hurts. Some speculate that perhaps people think if others are praying for them, things must be really bad, and their worry causes complications. The more religiously inclined speculate that the problem was that it was strangers praying, not friends or family. You could also speculate that the problem was that it was all Christian prayers, and maybe they needed some diversity in there.
Or you could decide that the whole thing, including the rigorous scientifc study, has too huge an element of chance in it to give us conclusions and that prayer is best left to individual choice, not to national debate, and not worth the millions of dollars the government and private funders have spent on it since Bush took office.