God Help Us

The scientists at Esquire have been following the rash of studies on the power of prayer. We’ve noticed these studies have been conducted by respected institutions with names like Harvard, Duke, and Johns Hopkins. We’ve noticed some of these studies indicate that prayer actually works. And not just any old prayer, but prayer by strangers, so-called long-distance prayer. We’ve noticed that these studies say that prayer can help heal everything from cancer to infertility to heart problems— even when the afflicted person has no idea he’s being prayed for.But most of all, we’ve noticed a gaping hole in the current body of research. These studies have all tested the power of

prayer over medical problems. But what about the less gloomy aspects of life? What about things like gambling, sexual performance, and fishing? Does God have no effect on those? Why should prayer he stuck hanging out with sick people? So we found a willing subject—a thirty-year-old Caucasian male with the initials BM—and performed some of our own experiments. In the name of science, of course.

Objective: To determine the relationship between prayer and equine performance for financial gain.
Methodology: Subject was directed to several online prayer sites. Many were Christian—including cybersaint.org and eprayer.com—but other religions were represented, too (the Islamic Prayer Group, the Healing Buddha Foundation, the Jewish group Midrash Ben Ish Hai, and the Welsh Faerie Witchcraft circle). Subject reviewed other people’s requests, including:

“Please continue to pray for my two boys who were exposed to pornography. Pray that Satan will be bound from playing the images in their minds over and over again.”

“God. It’s me, Mike. Remember me? You created me. You have also been ignoring my prayers for the past twenty years.”

Subject placed following prayer request on Web site prayer.la:

“Your help will be much appreciated. I need to win tomorrow at Pimlico for much needed financial gain. Also: world peace.”

Subject received several confirmation e-mails that said, “Someone Has Just Prayed for You.”

When the subject got to OTB, he heard a woman’s voice behind him. She said, “$5 Exacta Box 7-9.” He turned, but there was nobody there. Subject figured this was God speaking. He bet five dollars that the 7 and 9 horses would come in first and second.
Results: The race began, and there was 7 taking the lead. About halfway around, 9 started coming up on the outside, and for a few hanging seconds the subject was a winner and a believer. Then another horse made a charge and won. Subject got angry and yelled at the TV screen, “God hates you.”
Conclusions: Prayer was ineffective. Also, world peace was not achieved.

Objective: To assess the relationship between prayer and the outcomes of three consecutive baseball contests.
Methodology: Subject placed a request at Prayer Tower Online, run by the Dhinakaran sect of Christianity, based in India. He asked that the New York Mets win three games in a row Subject is under the impression that this particular test is unfair, since a positive outcome would represent “the biggest damn miracle since they rolled away the stone.” This has been duly noted.
Results: The team won two games against Philadelphia and then jumped out to a 6—I lead in the sixth against the rival Atlanta Braves. Subject began packing bags for India. In the ninth inning, however, closer Armando Benitez allowed the tying run to reach second base. The next batter hit a ground single to center field that was certain to tie the score, but Mets center fielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo made a perfect throw to home plate to end the game.
Conclusions: Prayer apparently works miracles.

Objective: To assess the relationship between prayer and skill at several popular card games.
Methodology: Subject phoned the World Ministry of Prayer hotline to speak with one of its Prayer Practitioners. The woman said she would be unable to pray for subject to beat his friends at poker. Subject asked if she could pray for him to succeed at activities of his choice. Woman said yes. Subject asked if she could pray for him to make correct decisions. Woman agreed. Subject asked if she could pray for financial gain. Again, the answer was yes. Matter was settled.
Results: it is our opinion that something must have been muddled in this convoluted transaction. How else to explain the uncanny series of bad cards dealt to the subject over the course of one evening? Moreover, subject reports he spilled an entire martini on his leg.
Conclusions: Without explicit instructions, prayer has no effect on one’s ability to play poker.

Objective: To assess the relationship between prayer and the smiting of hypocrites.
Methodology: Subject requested prayer for Attorney General John Ashcroft to become embroiled in a sex scandal.
Results: As of this writing, John Ashcroft has not been embroiled in any sex scandals. However, a potentially interesting phenomenon was noted. While our study was being conducted—but before subject’s request was made—the Justice Department under Ashcroft was accused of infringing on terror suspects’ civil rights in an internal report by the department’s own inspector general. We would like to note that prayer researcher Larry Dossey has explored the concept of “time-displaced prayers,” which are answered before they are made. Subject expresses the opinion, “I don’t care how it works, as long as someone nails that sanctimonious prick.”
Conclusions: We await further evidence.

Objective: To assess the relationship between prayer and sexual performance in a thirty-year-old male.
Methodology: Our modest subject made the following online prayer request: “Please pray that I have the strength to give my girlfriend all the love she deserves, thrice over.” Fearing that this might be too vague, we added a supplementary prayer: “Please pray for BM, who has been having trouble with his sexual stamina. If he were able to perform his responsibilities better by having sex three times in one night, perhaps it would help.”
Results: Subject has been cagey about the details of this phase of the experiment. He will only cite the famous speech from Inherit the Wind in which Clarence Darrow makes the point that while God may have created the world in seven days, who is to say that God recognizes a day as twenty-four hours? Subject adds that in God’s eyes a “night” could easily last fifteen hours and include “first thing the next morning.”
Conclusions: With some reservations, we accept subject’s reports that prayer was successful.

Objective: To assess the relationship between prayer and dinner reservations.
Methodology: Researchers submitted the following to the prayer page at americancatholic.org~ “Please pray for our friend BM to get into Peter Luger Steak House or WD-50 tonight. It’s really hard to get reservations at either restaurant, and he could use a really good meal. Perhaps his elevated mood could lead him toward a permanent positive outlook on life.”
Results: Subject reports that he is still haunted by hostess’s horrible, horrible laughter.
Conclusions: There is no power in this world or the next that holds any sway over a New York City reservationist.

Objective: To assess the relationship between prayer and catching fish.
Methodology: This test was designed as a double-blind experiment. Subject was told to go fishing with a friend, initials GE, while researchers placed an undisclosed prayer request for one of them to catch more than the other.
Results: Subject returned home intrigued. GE had exhibited some unusual fishing prowess. GE caught a total of nine fish while our subject’s line remained slack the entire time. Subject concluded that GE was prayed for, and this was evidence that prayer indeed works. Subject was surprised and confused to learn that the prayers had been for him, not his friend.
Conclusions: Results are inconclusive, though it seems that something was going on here.

Objective: To assess the relationship between prayer and the behavior of executives at major motion picture studios.
Methodology: Subject submitted a prayer request asking that Jeffrey Katzenberg, cofounder of DreamWorks studios, take his call to discuss a movie idea.
Results: Subject called DreamWorks switchboard and asked to speak to Mr. Katzenberg. Upon reaching a very polite secretary, subject mentioned that he had a movie idea to discuss. Very polite secretary very politely explained that while Mr. Katzenberg would love to he able to listen to every assuredly brilliant movie idea, Mr. Katzenberg was unfortunately a very busy man. Subject suggested that she give him the message anyway.
Conclusions: Pending.

Objective: To assess the relationship between prayer and the random motion of spheres.
Methodology: Subject launched what he termed a “prayer blitzkrieg” toward the goal of catching a foul ball at a baseball game. In addition to placing requests on the aforementioned sites, he mailed twenty-five dollars and a picture of himself to the Healing Buddha Foundation, requested placement on the Sufi Healing Order’s prayer list, phoned in a request to Truckers for Christ, and placed a PowerPrayer request at awesomepower.net, which promises to forward prayers to twenty worldwide praying organizations. In addition, subject scouted the seating arrangement at Shea Stadium, checked lineups for predominance of right-handed versus left-handed hitters, and avoided sitting near children with gloves who might snatch a ball intended for him.
Results: Subject arrived midway through the first game of a doubleheader. Foul balls landed to the right and left of him. For the second game, he switched sides of the stadium, only to watch a ball land in the seat he had abandoned.
Conclusions: Given such a huge window of opportunity—fourteen innings— for divine intervention, we can conclude only that subject’s prayers went unanswered. In fact, as our study comes to a close, we have narrowed down our conclusions to several possibilities: 1) God, Buddha, “the Universe,” “the Absolute”—whatever you might call him, her, or it—does not exist. 2) God, Buddha, “the Universe,” “the Absolute” exists but does not take requests. 3) God, Buddha, “the Universe,” “the Absolute” exists and hears our prayers but answers only when he, she, or it feels like it. We are not unaware that these are more or less the same possibilities we had before beginning our study. We can only recommend, now and perhaps forever, that the field requires further investigation.

Several weeks after concluding this study, we received a communique from the subject. It seems that once released, he found himself in Denver at a Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field. In the eighth inning, the subject returned to his upper-deck seat, carrying a Philly cheesesteak, when a pop foul began coming his way. Subject reached out a hand. Subject did not drop his sandwich. The ball slammed off the hand, raising an ugly red welt, and was retrieved by a child several rows behind the subject. Given this startling turn of events, we can only amend our previous conclusion by adding another option: God, Buddha, “the Universe,” “the Absolute” does exist. And he, she, or it hates the subject.