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Prayer for Rosemary

When we heard Jane E. Vennard, a spiritual director from Denver Colorado, talk about the Spindrift prayer-for-plants project in Salem, Oregon, we had to try it, ourselves. Jane said that the Spindrift project asked people to pray for different types of plant health -- general health, extra fruit, tallness, big flowers, and other things that people desire in their gardens. Jane says the prayers for general plant health had the best results.

We'd heard about prayer-for-plants projects before, but we'd always been suspicious that the prayed-for seeds got held, while the not-prayed-for seeds were just dumped out of their packets unceremoniously onto the dirt. So, we designed a project to test not only prayer, but holding the seeds. We chose rosemary because we'd accidentally bought the big sized packet with far more seeds than we needed. And, since we'd never grown rosemary before, we wouldn't be prejudiced by knowing what to expect.

We also asked our friend Nancy to join us. We sent her some of the rosemary seeds from our generous packet. We bought her a seed starting tray just like ours, and we ordered sterile potting soil from the our favorite company for her to make our experiments as identical as possible.

Both Nancy and we both divided our seeds into 4 groups:

held and prayed for

prayed for but not held

held but not prayed for

neither held nor prayed for

We didn't set time limits on our prayers because prayer takes as long as it takes, and there is no evidence that length of prayer has ever influenced results. We set the holding at 2 minutes. In no case were the prayers longer than 2 minutes. Then we planted our seeds. We also planted the rest of our seedlings. Our tomatoes came up. Our parsley came up. Everything came up except that rosemary.

Nancy started sending us email about her rosemary plants taking over her house, invading her shower to get extra water, but when we pressed her for more details, she admitted her rosemary seeds weren't sprouting either. Finally, two weeks after everything else had sprouted, our rosemary showed green. Nancy said she had mold on her soil.

We counted our plants (based on a 1/4 teaspoon measure of seeds per group):
  Prayer & Held Prayer Held None
Week 1 15 plants

1/2" - 15/16"

dk green, glossy

33 plants

3/8" - 15/16"

dk green, glossy

28 plants

1/4" - 15/16"

lt grn, no gloss

20 plants

1/4" - 15/16"

lt grn, no gloss

Week 2 21 plants

3/8" - 1 1/2"

dk green, glossy

45 plants

1/2" - 1 3/4"

dk green, glossy

45 plants

1/4"- 1 3/4"

some dk, some lt

33 plants

1/4" - 1 3/4"

2 dk, others light

Week 3 21 plants

1/2" - 1 1/2"

less glossy

45 plants

1/2" - 1 3/4"

less glossy

45 plants

1/4" - 2"

no gloss

39 plants

5/8" - 1 3/4"

no gloss

Week 4 23 plants

1/4" - 1 3/4"

no gloss

43 plants

3/4" - 2 1/4"

no gloss

48 plants

1/8" - 2 1/4"

no gloss

39 plants

3/4" - 2"

no gloss

Week 5 22 plants

3/8" - 2 1/2"

40 plants

1/2" - 2 1/2"

47 plants

1/8" - 2 1/4"

38 plants

3/4" - 2 1/4"

Week 6 19 plants

1" - 2"

36 plants

1/16" - 2 3/4"

37 plants

1/16" - 2"

40 plants

3/4" - 2 1/2"



So, it looks like prayer did have an effect on the first two weeks of growth. We turned the labels around and invited our skeptic neighbor Eric to look at the plants. He immediately noticed that two of the rows had significantly healthier plants than the other two. Being a scientist himself, he began proposing double blind experiments in which the prayer was not also the planter. Maybe some other time...

Additional results: The combination of prayer-plus-holding cut the sprouting rate nearly in half, in our experiment. This effect was not due to the prayer or the holding alone, because neither the prayed for group, nor the held group had such a low yield. Nancy's plants did finally sprout and she said she got a better yield in her prayed for groups, but then the mold killed everything, and she never did count or measure her plants.

We did not continue praying for the plants after we planted them. That might account for the effect wearing off. We're now growing the rosemary plants indoors and outdoors to see if that makes a difference. So far, We don't see any.