PRAYER-GAGE DEBATE, THE: A controversy evoked by an unsigned communication by Prof. John Tyndall in the Contemporary Review, July, 1872 ("The 'Prayer for the Sick.' Hints toward a Serious Attempt to Estimate its Value," vol. xx. 205-210). The article proposed that "one single ward or hospital, under the care of first-rate physicians and surgeons, containing certain numbers of patients afflicted with diseases which have been best studied, and of which the mortality rates are the best known, whether the diseases are those which are treated by medical or surgical remedies, should be, during a period of not less, say, than three or five years, made the object of special prayers by the whole body of the faithful, and that, at the end of this time, the mortality rates should be compared with those of other leading hospitals, similarly well managed, during the same period. Granting that time is given and numbers are sufficiently large, so as to insure a minimum of error from accidental disturbing causes the experiment will be exhaustive and complete." This was replied to by Richard Frederick Littledale (ib., pp. 430-454) who, while acknowledging the probability that prayer belongs to a region of law which permits inquiry concerning its practical operations, objected to the scheme, that it was impracticable, and that we can not quantify prayer. Professor Tyndall (ib., pp. 763-766), in a rejoinder, asks for restoration of prayer to its rightful domain and for verification. The author of the proposal (ib., pp. 766-777) cites as reasons why his suggestion was not complied with, inadequate conceptions respecting prayer and God's relations with his creatures. The discussion was continued by James McCosh, William Knight, the duke of Argyll (ib., pp. 777-782, vol. XXI., pp. 183-198, 464-473), and Canon Liddon. Francis Galton ("Statistical Inquiry into the Efficacy of Prayer," Fortnightly Review, new series, vol. xii., 1872, pp. 125-135) drew attention to the longevity of sovereigns and clergymen, suggested inquiries concerning missionaries and comparison of the death rate at birth of children of praying and non-praying parents, and maintained that insurance companies take no account of prayer as an asset in assuming risks. The interest quickened by this proposal bore fruit in many sermons and in many articles in periodicals in Great Britain and America, some of which were gathered and published in The Prayer Gauge Debate (Boston, 1876).
C. A. BECKWITH.