Sent to The Star, Johannesburg Mon 29/08/2011 09:08, not published.
I am pleased to see people praying publicly for Julius Malema.
Scientific research (e.g. the STEP study) has shown that praying for others has no effect, except in one case.
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence in support of prayer, but none is unequivocal. In every case, other causes could have been responsible, and it is difficult to say if prayer was the cause. Some blindness appears to cure itself. Cancers go into spontaneous remission.
However there is an experiment you can do for yourself that will prove unequivocally whether prayer works.
Get a group of friends together and pray that, over the next month, all amputees worldwide re-grow their lost limbs. (You might ask Oscar Pistorius if he wishes to be excluded, lest it hurt his Olympic chances)
If this a worthy and selfless cause? Of course! A miracle? Given current scientific knowledge, yes. Would a positive result glorify god and bring lots of converts? Definitely.
So do it! I prophesy that absolutely nothing will happen. Because prayer has no effect.
Except in one case, according to the STEP study: When the person knows they are being prayed for. Then it is often counter-productive. The researchers hypothesised that a kind of "performance anxiety" was involved.
So if you want to waste your time, pray for Malema. But if you want to harm him, tell him that you are praying for him.