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.

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).

Finally, however, we need to bear in mind that the Lord answers all prayer. His answer, whatever it is, is always for our benefit and for the good of others. That is why we celebrate prayer of adoration, contrition and supplication, but we know that the greatest and most powerful is the prayer of thanksgiving. The Mass is the highest form of the prayer of thanksgiving.

The Rev. Richard Albarano

St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church,

Burbank

Regarding the topic of the power of group prayer, the first thing that comes to mind are the words of Jesus: "Whenever two or more are gathered together in my name, there am I in their midst" (Matthew 18:20).

In Unity, we believe that the "Name" of Jesus represents the nature of the spiritual, or Universal Christ Presence. A simple interpretation of this scripture quote would tell us that whenever we join our prayers, in the name or nature of the Universal Christ, which is the spiritual self indwelling every human being, we acknowledge the same overcoming power that Jesus demonstrated.

Yes, it helps to have group prayer. The belief of one faithful mind and heart is multiplied with increased energy, when that one mind and heart is joined by others who are focusing upon the same prayer. For instance, I may receive a telephone call at our church office from an individual who is requesting prayer for healing. I will then ask our church prayer ministry to join with me in prayer for that individual's improved health and strength. After 30 days, the prayer request for health will be sent to Silent Unity (the 24-hour prayer ministry located at Unity Village in Lee's Summit, MO) where the prayer request will be kept in the Prayer Room for an additional 30 days.

At a minimum, the individual prayer request for health has now been personally blessed by hundreds of people. That same prayer request becomes part of the continuous prayer energy of Silent Unity (which celebrated its 120th Anniversary on Sept. 9). There are over 900 Unity ministries worldwide. I don't know exactly how to calculate how prayer groups exist in each church ministry, but I do know that what started out as one telephone call to our local Unity Church in La Crescenta has now connected with the increased energy and high spiritual vibrations of a great multitude of loving hearts and minds.

Of course, the power of group prayer, meeting after the name and nature of Jesus Christ, has a great effect upon the prayer results for the individual who requested a healing blessing.

The Rev. Jeri Linn

Unity Church of the Valley,

La Crescenta