NBC's Today show proves that prayer really works

NBC's Today show proves that prayer really works

With Passover and Easter barreling down on us, NBC’s Today show is running daily segments under the header, “Do you believe?”  This is not going to be a survey, so, for the purpose of this piece we are going to treat that particular question as if it were rhetorical.

On Monday, segment host, Jenna Bush Hager asked college kids if they thought that prayer works.  She asked the same of Columbia University’s Dr. Lisa Jane Miller, a PhD who focuses on spirituality and parenting.

I found the answers less surprising than the question.

I’m not a huge Bush Hager fan, but I don’t mind her as much as I thought I would.  The fact that she looks like her grandfather, George H.W. Bush taints my perception of her.  Every time I see Mrs. Hager, I picture H.W. looking down his nose at the cameras, saying, “Read my lips, no new taxes.”

Read-My-Lips - newsericks.com

Hager is pleasant enough, with a sometimes infectious, sometimes vapid smile.

As is often the case in religious matters, there’s a blurring of meaning when it comes to the efficacy of prayer.  Does prayer work?  It depends on who you ask and what you mean by “work.”

There’s a convenience to prayer, because your religious leader (priest, rabbi, whatever) can always say your prayers were answered.  They’ll tell you that sometimes the answer is “no.”

For the faithful, there’s really nothing to make one question one’s beliefs.  If things go your way, God is great.  If they go badly, it’s God’s will.  Or, he’s got other plans for you.  If things go really wrong, there’s the one about God never inflicting more on you than you can take.

I dated someone like that in college once.  When I couldn’t take any more, I beat it like rug.

During the interview with Dr. Lisa Jane Miller-a PhD, not a medical doctor-MRIs of various brains were shown and it turns out that people who pray have thicker cortexes than people who don’t.  Hager asked Dr. Miller if, based on that evidence it could be concluded that praying actually works.

I would interject here that it is highly unlikely that any of those MRIs belonged to people who were praying for thicker cortexes.

There were other questions that went unanswered.  And unasked.  Is it possible that people with thicker cortexes tend to pray?  Are there other activities, like running or dancing or playing the trumpet that cause people to grow a thicker cortex?  Is there any significance to having a thicker cortex?

Dr. Miller asserted that people with thicker cortexes are smarter.  She did not, however address the area known as, the Bible Belt, where people are known more for their religious fervor than for their high intellects.

Of the students interviewed, most reflected some level of feeling a relationship with God or having some spirituality.  One girl, of mixed religious parentage said that she felt spiritual, but didn’t think she believed in God.

The most interesting of the students interviewed said that he achieved his state of nirvana through meditation.  He professed no belief in God, which may or may not be typical of people who meditate.  That would be consistent, though with the process of meditation, which focuses more on one’s breathing or belly button and includes soulful chants of, “Ohhmmmmmmmm.”

There may be many ways to thicken one’s cortex or it may be something with which you are born.  There is probably no scientific way, though to prove or disprove the efficacy of prayer, which should not be confused with the power of prayer.  The power of prayer has more to do with the person praying than on any external results.

If I can walk into a forest and touch a tree, it’s not a leap of faith for me to believe in trees.  If I’ve never seen a tree or a picture of a tree and don’t know anyone who’s ever seen a tree or a picture of a tree, I would have to take it on faith that trees exist.

Once I can prove that trees exist, it is no longer a matter of faith.

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