With most health experts saying a coronavirus vaccine is likely more than a year away, a cardiologist at the Kansas City Heart Rhythm Institute has begun a scientific study to see if something called “remote intercessory prayer” might initiate God to heal those afflicted with the virus.
On Friday, Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy launched the four-month prayer study, which involves 1,000 coronavirus patients who are in intensive care. While none of the patients’ prescribed standard care will be changed, 500 will be prayed for and 500 won’t be, and neither group will know about the prayers.
Half of the randomly-selected patients will receive prayers from five religious denominations: Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. According to NPR, the study will measure progress by monitoring individual patients’ organ heath, need for ventilators, and how many live.
Lakkireddy said that members of his research team “all believe in science” before going on to expound extensively on their faith: “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.”
“It has to be a true supernatural intervention,” he said.
Lakkireddy, who says he was “born into Hinduism,” continued, “I believe in the power of all religions. 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.”
According to a 2006 study published in the American Heart Journal that looked at the efficacy of prayer to heal, Lakkireddy may be in for a letdown. The study, which the New York Times called “the most scientifically rigorous investigation of whether prayer can heal illness” included 1,800 patients and showed that “prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people who were undergoing heart surgery.”
But as Lakkireddy said about his Hail Mary attempt, “A miracle could happen. There’s always hope, right?”