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In Theory: Pray alone, or in a group?

November 04, 2010

A study published in the September issue of the Southern Medical Journal, titled "Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Proximal Intercessory Prayer on Auditory and Visual Impairments in Mozambique" involved examining two groups of people — 14 with impaired hearing and 11 with impaired vision — before and after members of a local church prayed for their healing. The subjects reported a small but statistically significant improvement in hearing and vision following the prayers. Critics of the study say it did not account for psychosomatic factors (such as the placebo effect), the pre-existing beliefs of the patients, and the small number of patients studied.

What do you think? Is there strength in numbers? Do you believe group prayer works better than praying alone. Or does it all get to God either way, regardless of the numbers?

As a Catholic, I believe firmly in the power of prayer. I also believe that the highest form of prayer is the celebration of the Mass. The Mass is a communal celebration. The assembly gathers to hear the word of God together and to come to the altar to pray the great eucharistic prayer. Afterward, we share the consecrated bread and wine which is the body and blood of Christ.

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Catholics believe that, through the Mass, we as a community are formed into a living sacrifice of praise of the Father. We hold that Christ is the victim and the riest at each Mass and that his offering of himself is fully accepted by the Father.

Does this powerful prayer of the Mass affect the assembly gathered? The intentions offered? The forgiveness, the healing, the peace prayer for? I have no doubt and neither does any other Catholic Christian who celebrates the Mass in full, conscious and active participation.

As a matter of fact, the greatest gift that we, as Catholics, can give one another is to say: I will remember you at Mass. If someone is sick, troubled, facing an operation, suffering, in psychological or physical pain, we say: I will remember you at Mass. If a loved one dies, we say: I will remember you, your family and your loved one at Mass.

All prayer is good. We need both prayer alone with the Lord and prayer in community. The first actually prepares us for the second.

Prayer alone with the Lord is powerful. Prayer with the community is most powerful, for the Lord himself said: "Where two or three are gathered in my name I am in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20).

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