(Mis)Using Prayer

July 28, 2006

Reverend Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition declared today that prayer works. While his statement is true, his evidence is quite weak. Following 15 murders in Washington, D.C. during the first 15 days of July, Mahoney's group decided to have a public prayer vigil on the National Mall.

He announced today that since there were no murders during the July 21-26 vigil, then that proves that prayer works. While it does seem that his statement is correct that there were no murders during that six day period, it does not prove that their prayers were the reason. Correlation does not equal causation!

In fact, since the last murder in Washington, D.C. was apparently on July 15, that means there had been six murder-free days prior to the six days of prayer. Maybe something on July 15 or 16 is what really stopped the murders. Or maybe everyone is being more careful. Or maybe the murderers already killed everyone they wanted to.

Mahoney is correct that prayer works. However, if it is working why stop after only six days? Why not keep praying? Is it perhaps because the event had less to do about prayer and murders than about seeking publicity? After all, this "prayer vigil" began with a news conference. I missed that part of how to pray by Jesus in Matthew 6!

Let us all return to our closets and daily pray that no one is killed—in Washington, D.C. or elsewhere. Let us all believe that prayer works. But let us not (mis)use prayer to gain publicity. Let us not be like the hypocrites.

UPDATE [7-31-06]: Turns out the original press release was incorrect; there was a murder during the vigil time after all. So much for their amazing prayers. Oh well, at least they still got their publicity!