On Prayer pour Petri


                                              Lord, what fools these mortals be!  Puck.


Be glad you are not a bacterium.  If you have an identity crisis, if you don’t know who you are, or your place in the universe, and this upsets you, while no one else cares, then be comforted by considering the plight of bacteria.  Some authorities consider bacteria plants; others think they are neither plants nor animals, but a completely separate life form.  All authorities consulted agree they are not animals. If a choice  be forced, they are flora, not fauna. If they were on the ark, they were stowaways.  Most people care less about them and their problems than they care about you and your problems.

Divine intercession has been sought for bacteria.  It had to happen.  Faithful readers perhaps recall that we have, in these pages, considered many events that may seem to us extraordinary–visits of the B.V.M., custody fights over frozen fetuses, satanic plots to stop abortions, public prayer as the cause of social disfunction, together with diverse other matters too numerous to recount–yet never, for all of our commentary, uncritically perceived by some as blasphemy or religion bashing, have we had occasion to reflect on so curious an idea as praying over bacteria in petri dishes.  We didn’t dream this up.  We saw it in a T.V. documentary, so it has to be true.  A secular humanist couldn’t have concocted  a fantasy so funny.  The hysterical reality of this event sprang unprompted from the creative energies of certain of those numbered among the righteously saved.

It came about in this wise.   Many have long maintained that prayer changes things, and that, upon proper petition, god will supernaturally intervene in human affairs to alter the course of events that would, without prayer, proceed according to the laws of nature.  It is alleged that this divine intercession extends to the healing of sick people.  If one prays for the sick, god will heal them or at least make them better.  Without the prayers, god will simply let the sick suffer.  Many believe this and have offered narrative proofs.  There have been “studies” of questionable reliability done to demonstrate the power of healing prayer.  The research results showed, to the satisfaction of the faithful, that people who were prayed over did better than those not so favored.  The data were challenged by certain of those cynical sneering religion-bashing secular humanist skeptical-of-everything godless types that religious faith knows so well and would be so much better off without.  These scoffers thought that maybe the mere belief that prayer worked caused the improvements, if any, and that the results sprang from the mind of the believer, not from the intercession of divine providence.  Equally effective, claimed the critics, would be any other conviction the stricken might believe would cure them.  By way of example of this principle, our household, for some years now, has remained free of the scourge of leprosy by avoiding the eating of possum.  To prove prayer, not placebo, worked the miracles, and to eliminate insofar as possible, as religion likes to do anyway, the menace of the mind, it was decided to test the effects of prayer on experimental and control batches of bacteria.  Guess what?  The occupants of the prayed over petri plates did better (whatever that means) than the prayerless petri plates.  Proof positive to shake to their very foundations the demons of doubt.

While this research and its results have not been published, to our knowledge, in any learned journals, nor have we learned of its details, nor heard of its replication, the implications, apart from proving the truth of religious faith, are awesome indeed.  We need no longer waste money in secular medical research trying to cure such things as cancer or AIDS.  Biological research labs can now close.  Departments of microbiology can now become departments of miracles.  Imagine if the human race had this knowledge when we were struggling with smallpox, polio, typhoid, malaria, and even the bubonic plague.  Think how many innocent rats could have been spared with this new knowledge.

But no use lamenting the mistakes of the past.  We must press forward into the new frontiers of faith.  To this end, the following is suggested as a petri prayer.  You are welcome to use this sword and shield of the spirit, at home in your closet, in the certain trust that it will prove divinely beneficial against anything biological that might prove bothersome.

“All mighty and all powerful god, maker of all things visible and invisible, maker of the mighty beast behemoth, and of the bacteria found in the bowels of behemoth, and of all of those least of thy plants that trouble thy creation man, hear, oh lord, this our prayer of supplication and grant intercession unto us.  We most humbly confess we have, in our blindness, followed other gods.  We have sinned against thee and forsaken thy path.  We have blindly ignored thy eternal truths, and forgotten thy ways that are above our ways, as we have sought to cure the sick through the teachings of the false gods of science.  In our weakness and folly, we have followed and whored after the medicine of man.  We repent of our error, and ask thy divine forgiveness, as we now reject those idols of the mind that have separated us from our god, the only true source of all good and perfect gifts of  healing.  Stretch forth thy mighty hand and smite the plants of thy creation that are unseen. Remake, oh god, the bacteria you made.  Remold their tiny forms to forms less harmful.  In dish, in dessert, in duodenum, they ravage us.  Restore to them the innocence they had before the sin of our first parents, before our fall from grace.  Render them, we pray, harmless to us, and, in thy infinite mercy, cure us, and protect us from them.  We are weak, and they are strong.  Nevertheless, oh god our strength and our salvation, not our will but thine be done.  Amen.”

Please let us know if this works.  It should.  Can’t think of any reason it shouldn’t.

Edwin Kagin (c)



  1. F says

    This is purely anecdotal, but I don’t think it worked. Maybe I didn’t believe hard enough, or the bacteria were possessed by demons.

  2. aspidoscelis says

    Some authorities consider bacteria plants; others think they are neither plants nor animals, but a completely separate life form. All authorities consulted agree they are not animals. If a choice be forced, they are flora, not fauna.

    As a botanist, I find this deeply offensive. Bacteria are not plants. They are equally closely (which is to say, equally distantly) related to both plants and animals. More to the point, they aren’t half as interesting.

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