Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, a cardiologist at the Kansas City Heart Rhythm Institute in the US, has started a trial of prayer for corona-virus infection. The study will involve  1000 patients with COVID-19 infections severe enough to require intensive care. The four-month study will investigate “the role of remote intercessory multi-denominational prayer on clinical outcomes in COVID-19 patients,” according to a description provided to the National Institutes of Health.

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Male or female greater than 18 years of age
  • Confirmed positive for COVID-19
  • Patient admitted to Intensive Care Unit

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Patients admitted to ICU for diagnosis that is not COVID-19 positive

(Not giving informed consent is not listed as an exclusion criterion!)

Half of the patients, randomly chosen, will receive a “universal” prayer offered in five denominational forms, via:

  • Buddhism,
  • Christianity,
  • Hinduism,
  • Islam,
  • Judaism.

The other 500 patients in the control group will not be prayed for by the prayer group. All the patients will receive the standard care prescribed by their medical providers. “We all believe in science, and we also believe in faith,” Lakkireddy claims. “If there is a supernatural power, which a lot of us believe, would that power of prayer and divine intervention change the outcomes in a concerted fashion? That was our question.”

The outcome measures in the trial are

  • the time patients remain on ventilators,
  • the number of patients who suffer from organ failure,
  • the time patients have to stay in intensive care,
  • the mortality rate.

On this blog, we have seen many other ‘corona-quacks’ come forward with their weird ideas. I ask myself why we give them not the opportunity to test their concepts as well? Why do we not spend our resources testing:

In my recent book, I included a short review of the literature on prayer as a medical intervention. This is what I wrote:

  1. Prayer can be defined as the solemn request or thanksgiving to God or other object of worship.
  2. Intercessory prayer is practised by people of all faiths and involves a person or group setting aside time for petitioning god on behalf of another person who is in need. Intercessory prayer is organised, regular, and committed. Those who practise it usually do not ask for payments because they hold a committed belief.
  3. The mechanisms by which prayer might work therapeutically are unknown, and hypotheses about its mode of action will depend to a large extent on the religious beliefs in question. People who believe in the possibility that prayers might improve their health assume that god could intervene on their behalf by blessing them with healing energy.
  4. These assumptions lack scientific plausibility.
  5. Numerous clinical trials have been conducted. Most of them fail to adequately control for bias, and their findings are not uniform.
  6. A systematic review of all these studies is available. It included 10 trials with a total of 7646 patients. The authors concluded that the findings are equivocal and, although some of the results of individual studies suggest a positive effect of intercessory prayer, the majority do not and the evidence does not support a recommendation either in favour or against the use of intercessory prayer. We are not convinced that further trials of this intervention should be undertaken and would prefer to see any resources available for such a trial used to investigate other questions in health care.[1]


Lakkireddy says he has no idea what he will find. “But it’s not like we’re putting anyone at risk,” he says. “A miracle could happen. There’s always hope, right?”

Personally, I have a pretty good idea what he will find. I also find Lakkireddy not all that honest and think his assumptions are deeply mistaken:

  • Lakkireddy cites an extensive list of references; however, the Cochrane review (usually the most reliable and independent source of evidence) that arrived to the conclusions I quoted above, he somehow ‘forgot’ to mention.
  • As the review-authors tried to indicate, further trials of prayer are a waste of resources.
  • There are many much more promising interventions to be tested, and by conducting this study, he is diverting research funds that are badly needed elsewhere.
  • The study seems to have several ethical problems, e.g. informed consent.
  • Contrary to Lakkireddy’s belief, he will harm in more than one way; apart from wasting resources, his study undermines rational thought and public trust in clinical research.


49 Responses to ‘The power of all religions’ is being tested in a study with severely ill corona-virus patients

  • Perhaps a more pertinent question to ask a supernatural power is not whether prayers are answered but why permit this virus in the first place.

    Either way though the response will be ……. nothing.

  • This study should not have received IRB approval. As you say, it’s a waste of resources and the is no plausible phenomenal to test.

  • “The man who prays is the one who thinks that god has arranged matters all wrong, but who also thinks that he can instruct god how to put them right.”
    ― Christopher Hitchens, Mortality

    Readers may enjoy the following: Retroactive intercessory prayer

    • Exactly!

    • If you believe that an almighty supernatural being exists, then you must accept that this being
      * had no objections against the existence of this virus in the first place
      * approves the fact that SARS-CoV2 is especially harmful for humans who are of advanced age and/or suffer from prior health problems (let´s say cancer), therefore sinisterly targeting the weak among us.

      Why the heck would you even want to pray to such a being?!
      In my hometown, churches ring their bells every evening since church services have been prohibited.
      And every evening, I ask myself what strange kind of “Stockholm syndrome” these guys must experience.

    • @Pete Attkins

      Pete quoted;
      “The man who prays is the one who thinks that god has arranged matters all wrong, but who also thinks that he can instruct god how to put them right.”

      Nonsense Pete
      Christians that pray, do so because God himself ordained the ritual of prayer. God therefore instructed his followers to submit prayers to him.
      BTW- all prayers are not prayers of petition.

      You’re out in left field, stick with what you know

      • RG,
        I can’t see the point of your post other than to confirm what Pete Atkins wrote.

      • @RG
        “God himself ordained the ritual of prayer.”
        Please provide evidence. Not the Bible, that was debunked decades ago.

        • lol…. debunked ? …. Les, you can go stand in the corner with Frank.

          Please remember: if you make a claim in a comment, support it with evidence.

          • @RG
            When was the last time you provided evidence? And since you ask:


          • @Les Rose

            The link you provided is a study about prayer…. not the Bible.

            I’m still waiting for the evidence to your claim that the Bible was debunked decades ago.

          • oh dear!

          • @RG
            You should read the work of Bart Ehrman; He is a professor of theology and teaches a historical/analytical approach to the Bible. Let me try you on one question.

            In the Synoptic Gospels Jesus repeatedly states that before the present generation dies the Kingdom of God will come into being. The Gospel of John says nothing about this. Why?

          • @EE

            Professor…. your rules…. right ?

          • I said ‘oh dear’ when I realised that you seem to believe that Eve was created out of a rib from Adam.

          • @EE

            You are full of double standards here professor.

            The rules of the forum only apply when you want them to.

          • @Les Rose

            Les, thanks for your input. I appreciate your current tone more than the previous. We all know you can catch more bees with honey than vinegar… but sometimes we need to be reminded.

            I checked out the link you provided, perhaps I just might pursue his writings.(Bart Ehrman), thanks.

            As for your question about the the book of John not coinciding with the other gospels with regard to; “that before the present generation dies the Kingdom of God will come into being.”

            The book of John is not an account of the life of Jesus as the other three are. Matthew Luke and Mark focus on what Jesus said and did, while John’s focus is on who Jesus is.
            I’m not sure of your question, are you asking why there John might no be in literary unison with the other gospel writers ? If so, I respond, is there some valid reason it has to be this way ? Would this somehow give more validity to the New Testament ? Does it detract from the validity because all four writers don’t mention the same concept ? … or because John omitted something that Jesus said ?

          • @RG
            The answer is that John was written about 70 years after the events it covered. Scholars have analysed the text and there is a strong consensus on this. So Jesus’ prophecy should have been fulfilled. It didn’t happen, so it was too embarrassing for John to mention it.

            I could go into vastly more detail about the inconsistencies in the Bible. For example the accounts of the death of Judas in John and Acts are quite different. But Ehrman has this well covered – I can recommend his material.

            We have gone a bit off topic, but the reason was that when I asked you for evidence I said don’t bother quoting from the Bible. I’m still waiting for the evidence.

  • I feel ashamed to find a fellow South Asian at the heart of this utter nonsense. Lakkireddy, as a trained physician, SHOULD have known better, and yet, he chose to go down the irresponsible road of arrant superstition and unethical quackery. As Les Rose said, this study should never have received IRB approval, especially when the cumulative evidence base for intercessory prayer shows how pointless, ineffectual, and not to mention, counter-productive it is.

    Good grief.

    • A minor premise of a vast majority of Christian faiths is that all other religions are false religions. I’d like to see a breakdown of the efficacy of each prayer denomination. If Christianity is the least effective method, the rebuttal will be that this study is blasphemous. If the results show any affinity towards the Christian religion, then it will be touted as infallible proof of their deity’s superiority. Either way, the results will show no relevance and this study will fade quietly into obscurity. It needs to be yelled from the rooftops.

  • I see a huge confounder. People who aren’t in the prayer group might be being prayed for. Not that prayer makes a difference.

  • @Ernst

    Since the study results are not yet published, I’ll be praying for your admission you condemmed the study results too soon.

    • pray along my dear girl

    • Oh gawd, one of the resident loonbags is back with more nonsense, because she seemingly believes transcribing medical notes into typed or digital form makes her equivalent to a doctor. Is it any wonder she believes in a genocidal, celestial fairy?

      As Dire Straits said to music, “Two men say they’re Jesus, one of them must be wrong”.

    • Sandra,

      The study is designed (A+B versus B) such that it cannot produce a negative result.
      A: “universal” prayer offered by 5 religious denominations;
      B: standard care in ICU.

    • Quelle surprise that someone with an unevidenced belief in the nonexistent powers of an imaginary medicine also has an unevidenced belief in the similarly nonexistent powers of an imaginary sky-fairy.

      The studies have been done, Sandra. The prof has provided a link above. I’ll put it here again for you.

      You could, of course, use the formidable analytical powers granted you as a retired medical transcriptionist to do a full critical appraisal of the paper because, of course, given that you believe yourself to know more than the experts in so many things I’m assuming that trial design and statistical analysis are also within your fields of self-appointed knowledge.

      “Faith: Strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof”

      We’re laughing at you, Sandra. Again.

  • “Multi-denominational” (as @NP points out) seems to be the hinge-pin of religious absurdity and hypocrisy. Religions were built on their singular “truth”, immutability and allegedly historically-true “events”. These things separate it, not only from the apostate and atheist but most importantly from other religion-competitors. For some reason “thoughtful, diplomatic” people seem to want to glom ALL religions into a commonality i.e. belief, supplication and prayer to a Supreme thang. IMO these fellows will need to further separate EACH religions’ prayers into a sub-group….so we, the unconvinced can be shown WHICH god knows how to mitigate the virus “it” created and let loose on us. Perhaps however, like giving us painful childbirth, gene defects, degenerating lumbar discs and cancer “it” enjoys our suffering and prefers being utterly desultory in dishing-out favors, irrespective of our particular pandering, obsequiousness or begging.

  • Also it hardly seems appropriate to plan the study from the standpoint of faith.

  • Religion is a control factor developed to control people with Fear and Anxiety.

  • the test has been done and the result is on the table:

    • @Ernst

      My apologies. I had not seen the link to the published results you provided.

      That said, I think this type of research should be eencouraged. Or, has a mind body / connection to disease and recovery been totally excluded from the ‘science’ and practice of medicine?

      • No, except any such research and outcomes are premised on evidence, not fanciful notions about some imaginary fairy which seemingly enjoys killing and maiming children for its enjoyment.

  • So, what many people already know, you decided to out them? Sometimes, in regards to religion, it is best to leave the subject alone. I am guessing many religious folks will not buy your book. Many of my religious friends are really in par with medical science, actually many hospitals are catholic owned still. Many hospitals in fact are funded by christian funds and endorsed by them. I am guessing these hospitals believe in prayer and medical science, considering they derived from a religious entity? Religion and science can coincide, proven many centuries.

    • @john
      “So, what many people already know, you decided to out them?”
      What do many people know? Please tell. Or is it rather what they believe? There is a difference.

      How are philanthropic activities of churches in any way related to whether prayer works at curing disease?

      No I am not going to leave religion alone. When claims are made I will challenge them.

    • @ john
      what an absurd statement – they ALWAYS put their religion first – and science suffers
      have you forgotten Galileo?
      or the poor woman who died in hospital in Galway, Ireland because the Catholic Church insisted that she couldn’t have surgery to remove her fated 22 week fetus to save her life as that would be immoral so she had to die too?
      This sort of thing happens all too frequently in the advanced first world hospitals of the USA where Christian hospitals have strict rules banning procedures that would count as abortions or sterilizations even in an emergency.

      religious nutters (and they’re all nutters – you have to be to believe in a sky fairy against all the odds) will always put their daft beliefs before the science.
      we have seen this with mega church pastors infecting their flocks by holding services during Covid-19 pandemics.
      The insanity of religious freaks refusing to accept abortion in deserving cases, contraception, blood transfusions and so on. Religious insanity based of “prophets” ravings or on their so called religious books knows no bounds. Science will always take a back seat.

      And you can see that here – a so-called scientific cardiologist indulging in a religious promotion with a half-baked trial wasting research funds on a useless study that can never hope to prove anything. He is misguided and foolish, misled by his religious nuttery.

      • My Dr. at a catholic hospital has never preached to me, I don’t even know if he is God fearing. This hospital has high ratings for cardiology. Yes, clergy come visit and pray for you, I just smiled and thanked him, I am agnostic but believe in respect. Where I live there are few hospitals that are not religiously affiliated and my insurance tells me which hospital to visit or pay out of pocket. Many hospitals in US are affiliated with a religion, they are not necessarily religious though.

  • I have to get something off my chest. I just prayed for all of the studies’ participants, and it no longer has a control group. I send my apologies to Dr. Lakkireddy for ruining this study.

  • “I believe in the power of all religions,” he says, “I think if we believe in the wonders of God and the universal good of any religion, then we’ve got to combine hands and join the forces of each of these faiths together for the single cause of saving humanity from this pandemic.” Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy.

    In a religious society like Kansas, Dr Lakkireddy’s study should be good public relations for him and his Institute, no matter what the results are. He can’t lose. I do not predict a miracle, though he says he lives in hope of one. He’s talking Kansas to Kansas. His Institute is funding the study. Think of it as a guaranteed investment.

    • Addendum: Pew Research Center poll on Religion & Public Life.

      79% of the Kansas population say that religion is an important part of their life.

      Of those who say that religion is very important (50%), 93% are Christians.

      Pew does not enquire as to the importance of prayer specifically, but I think it’s safe to assume that prayer plays an important part of Christian faith in Kansas.

      Canny Dr Lakkireddy.

  • Damn, so glad religion beliefs don’t put me over edge like some on here. Who really cares? Are scientists trying to save them or change them, vice versa? People choose, you won’t change them, regardless of science or religious doctrine. I love those who go crazy on religious beliefs, same as religious nuts who do same on science nuts. I lean science, not republican, wait….wrong site, sorry

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