What the Spindrift experiments can teach us about prayer
Healing, growth, discernment and grace are all clear outcomes of prayer. We know prayer is powerful but how many of us are confused or even embarrassed by prayer? Or if we try praying for ourselves, we may feel undeserving of having it answered.
Beginning in the late 1960s, father and son team Bruce and John Klingbeil of Spindrift Research began research into prayer. Using members of their Salem, Oregon-based organization, they conducted simple experiments with people praying about batches of seedlings. They planted rye seeds in 2 rows in a container. One study assigned people to pray for the seedlings in one group and not the other. Researchers found a significant difference between the number of sprouts across the 2 groups. In multiple experiments, using different subjects praying, the group of seeds for which prayers were said yielded more shoots than the control group. The research concluded that prayers for a specific group of organisms produce positive effects.
Based on their research, here’s how to make your prayer more powerful and effective when applied to yourself, others or even your plants:
1) Pray in times of challenge or stress.
Prayer works best when there are greater challenges or increased stress. The Spindrift researchers altered the seeds to make them “unhealthy.” In repeated experiments with the unhealthy seeds that were treated in salt which puts stress on the seeds, or given high temperatures, discouraging growth, results were even more dramatic. The greater the stress on the seeds, the better the seedlings grew with prayer, versus the similarly stressed but non-prayed-for seeds.
2) Pray often.
Greater amounts of prayer have stronger effects. The Spindrift researchers conducted experiment to give more prayer to one set of seeds, versus others. The sets of seeds that received double the prayers actually performed twice as well than the lesser-prayed-for seeds.
3) Pray with knowledge of the situation.
The more you know about the subject of your prayer, the more effective the prayer. It’s also a good idea to stay objective by avoiding projecting your own judgments and desires into prayers.
When the pray givers in the Spindrift experiments didn’t know anything about the nature of the seeds, the positive results of their prayers were significantly lower than those praying who had information about the seeds.
4) Be general in the outcome you pray for.
For best results, don’t be too specific regarding the outcomes you ask of God or spirit. Instead, ask for the best outcome, or in the case of the Sprindrift research, pray for the seeds. Conversely, with a goal-directed prayer, the saying “be careful what you wish for” comes to mind. Goal-directed prayers, known as petitionary prayers focus on a specific target.
Sometimes praying for a specific outcome may not be the best thing in the long run: God or the universe often holds a greater plan for us or others which we may not be able to understand at the time. As the Spindrift Research website notes, the effects of non-goal-directed prayer flow to where they are needed. Having flexible goals or outcomes is empathetic prayer that listens for “Thy will be done” in a situation.
In the Spindrift seedling experiments, some prayer-givers prayed for a quicker rate of germination (goal-directed), while others prayed in an open-ended or indirect manner. Results showed that while both non-directed and goal-directed prayer were generally effective, indirect prayer, without a specific goal attached to it, sometimes doubled positive results. On the other hand, goal-directed prayers, often don’t recognize the long view though there are times when asking for a specific result is the proper approach.
In similar fashion to Spindrift’s research, Spirit Times conducted its own prayer experiment with green bean seeds. Over a period of about 10 days, one person prayed daily for the best outcome in the group of seeds on one row of the egg carton (seen in the bottom of the image shown, lower row). Sure enough, the seeds on that side of the carton sprouted with gusto, compared to the seeds on the upper row (seen in the top of the image shown). Soil, water and light conditions were the same for each row.
As the Spindrift prayer research shows, there are ways you can apply prayer techniques to your own prayer life. Remember, pray simply, without complex language or bargaining. You could be disappointed if you make it a one-way request versus opening the dialogue with God or spirit.
By praying with faith, the belief that your prayers will be heard, you can co-create with God or spirit in powerful ways, encouraging a two-way conversation that more directly aligns you with spirit.
Sources used in this report:
Ciarvanio, Helene, How to Pray: Tapping Into the Power of Divine Communication, Square One Publishers, 2001.
Spindrift Research. https://www.spindriftresearch.org/