Much has been written about the power of prayer in recent years, but few people have delved into a most perplexing question: Why are some prayers answered and others not? A team of researchers at Allahabad University in India seem to have unraveled part of the mystery. "If you want to play cricket tomorrow, you might pray for a sunny day," said Dr. N.R. Jha, leader of the research team. "But what if there are hundreds of farmers praying for rain? There's a good chance that their prayers will be answered and you will be all wet."
The researchers have tested their theory several times in the last five years, most recently during the 2006 elections in America. They recruited 2,000 people in Uttar Pradesh to pray for the re-election of U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. "We asked them to pray night and day, with as much intensity as possible," Jha said. "As a result, while many of his Republican colleagues lost their seats in Congress, Mr. Jindal won 88 percent of the vote."
Jha believes that Jindal did not get 100 percent because a small number of people were praying for his Democratic opponent David Gereighty. "Unfortunately we have no control over the number of people praying for a particular outcome. Who knows, perhaps there were 20 people in Tamil Nadu praying for Mr. Gereighty."
Another recent test involved a pregnant woman in Allahabad. The researchers recruited 1,000 people to pray for a girl baby and 200 people to pray for a boy. "The woman, of course, gave birth to a girl," Jha said. "But the girl had an Adam's apple. So those 200 people did have an impact."
But India can benefit financially too. Several companies are already offering outsourced prayer. For just $100, you can get 1,000 people in India to pray for whatever you want. "We get all kinds of prayer requests," said Arvind Rooprai, president and CEO of Unlimited Prayer Inc. "One man wanted his son to return from Iraq. He was discharged the next day. Another man wanted his ailing wife to get better. She was cured the next day. A third man wanted to marry Aishwarya Rai. I had to tell him the truth: He didn't have a prayer."
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