In the Spindrift experiments, two different types of prayer were tested:
Directed Prayer: The prayer is specific in its request, for example, praying that the seed receives water and nutrients from the soil.
Nondirected Prayer: The person praying doesn’t assume what’s best for the situation but simply asks that the seed move toward its norm, as in “Thy will be done.”
While both types of prayer yielded better results than the control group, the seedlings that received nondirected prayer did significantly better than the directed prayer group. One example of this was a mold-growth experiment: Mold growing in a dish was purposely damaged by an alcohol rinse to create a stressed state. A string was placed down the middle to separate the prayed-for, or treated, side from the control side. The treated side received directed prayer (for example, please let the seed receive water and nutrients from the soil) and, like the control side, showed no growth. Directed prayer was then replaced by nondirected prayer (for example, Thy will be done), and, while the control side remained static, the treated side began to grow. At the end of the experiment, the control side showed 2.5 rings—the same size at which it started. The mold receiving nondirected prayer, on the other hand, showed four completed rings with a fifth started.
The difference between these two types of prayer, says Bill Sweet, former president of the Spindrift Foundation, is that one is a personal appeal—my will—the other is a matter of turning control over to a higher power—Thy will. Both show a psychic phenomenon, says Sweet, but “when we go further with this, there’s a difference between someone putting their own thoughts on it versus the holier thoughts of nondirected prayer.”
Larry Dossey, MD, an expert in the field of healing and spirituality, acknowledges that he’s seen different results with different types of prayer. Yet he feels that because both methods work, each person should do what feels best for him or her. “I think you need to pick a strategy according to who you are,” he says. “I’m a hopeless introvert. The nondirected form of prayer just feels natural for me. On the other hand, most Americans are extroverted; they want to make it happen. For them, I’m convinced directed prayer is the way to go.”