When someone begins an inquiry into prayer by asking “Are silent prayers transmissible to, or readable by, a supernatural being?” you know right off that the results will be inconclusive. Exactly how does anyone propose to measure the receptiveness of a hypothetical supernatural being?
Nevertheless, as the author of this piece, David C. Haas, at Committee for Skeptical Inquiry goes on to explain (and to redeem what I thought was not going to be worth the time to read), that problem need not put prayer itself outside the realm of empirical study completely. And not surprisingly to me, scientific investigation of prayer, at least intercessory prayer, to date has not been able to validate what the faithful faithfully go on believing about it.
The author gets into the difficulties that plague the notion of transmissible thought in neurological terms, which imo cannot be easily dismissed. There is also this cogent point — should we try to skirt around these problems by theorizing that prayer is neither matter nor energy, what is it then, and what means are there within the laws of nature by which it might be transmissible? Prayer, telepathy, ESP, and such are nifty ideas which have an understandable appeal, but unfortunately the problems in constructing a scientific model which works aren’t going away any time soon.
I’ve decided this is a good thing. I don’t want anybody hacking into my head ever. Besides, they wouldn’t like what they see.