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The Power of Prayer: An Empirical Test, Day 3

On Tuesday, November 13, Republican Governor Sonny Perdue of Georgia brought in hundreds of religious and political allies to pray with him for rain in a Christian-dominated official ceremony. Perdue adopted the role of minister as he intoned:

Our Father, as we come before you today, we acknowledge that we are needy people, and we need you. It is you that we need, and it is your power and your miracles that we need.

And, Father, we call upon you today to meet that need. Father, we acknowledge our wastefulness. We acknowledge that we have not done those things that we should. And, God, we call upon you today to meet that need. We do believe in miracles. We do believe that you are the miracle Creator, the Creator that established the water and the land and the air and even us.

God, we need you. We need rain. Father, may we go forth in this place today with bended hearts towards you, acknowledging our total and utter dependence upon you moment by moment for your blessings. Father, forgive us, and lead us to honor you, as you honor us with the showers of blessings.

Thank you, Lord, for the rain to come. Amen.

Perdue has called down God’s power as the miracle Creator to solve Georgia’s water problems with a prayer vigil including hundreds of religious and political leaders and headed by himself. And when 0.21 inches of rain fell on Atlanta on Thursday, Perdue responded to the news by calling it a “great affirmation of what we asked for…. I am just a person who believes it comes from God.” That’s right: Governor Perdue congratulated himself for bringing on the rain.

Well, is Perdue right? Will the prayers of these religious and political leaders bring any unusual rain to Georgia? Here’s the empirical test. The average rainfall for the city of Atlanta in the month of November is 4.10 inches. Divided by thirty for each of the thirty days of November, that gives us an average expected rainfall each day of 0.13666 inches. If Perdue and the Gang have succeeded in their prayers, then Georgia should receive an above-average rainfall during the succeeding days. If, on the other hand, Georgia receives less rainfall than average in the remaining days of November, it’s a sign that either a) the power of prayer proved bogus in this instance, or b) God has rejected Republican Governor Sonny Perdue and his politically religious pals.

From November 14 to November 30, we’ll track the actual rainfall in Atlanta and compare it to the expected amount so far. We’ll also track results for each day to see the great or not so great effect Perdue’s prayers wrought.

Here’s what’s happened in the three full days to pass so far:

Rainfall in Atlanta Georgia November 14 to November 16 2007

Well, one out of three days — the one day that Republican Governor Sonny Perdue told the press was an affirmation of his prayer — was above average in rainfall. But one other day was below average in rain, and yesterday had no rain at all. Overall, Atlanta has had 0.2 fewer inches of rain than average since Governor Perdue and his ministerial supporters set up their prayer show.

We’ll keep tracking as the days march on, but it doesn’t look good for either God, or Sonny Perdue, or perhaps both. The forecast for Atlanta today and tomorrow offers only a 10 percent chance of precipitation.

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