NFN Quaker meeting and Creative Conversation 2 September 2021

Dear Friends,

Thank you for registering for our Quaker Meeting and Creative Conversation, organized by the NFN, UK.

Martin Barker will share his presentation, Does prayer work? Evidence from science and the human experience, on Thursday 2 September at 7PM UK time by Zoom.
Please arrive early, as the Meeting will start promptly at 7PM.  The Zoom Room opens at 6:45PM.
If you are interested in attending and have not registered, please
email the Clerk ( to register.
• Zoom Room opens at 6:45PM, please arrive early.
• 7PM: Welcome and Quaker Meeting: approximately 20 minutes for quietly gathering ourselves and connecting.
• Creative Conversation: up to 20 minutes for presentation or raising a question.
20 minutes for small break-out room creative exchanges, expressions, and reactions.
20 minutes for open discussion in main room about ‘new discoveries or surprises’ that occurred in small break-out rooms.
• Conclusion: ending with a few moments gathered in silence.
• Duration:1hr:20m-1hr:45m
You will automatically receive Zoom links to subsequent Meetings, approximately one week before each Meeting. There is no need to re-register. We ask that you please do not share the Zoom link with interested Friends, but encourage them to email the Clerk ( to register. You may unregister/unsubscribe at any time by replying to this email address.See you soon.

In Friendship,
The QM+CC Working group (Gisela Creed, John Senior, William Purser, and Kiera Faber)
Nontheist Friends Network

3 thoughts on “NFN Quaker meeting and Creative Conversation 2 September 2021”

  1. Martin speaks of ‘Evidence from science and the human experience’. I’m certainly curious about what scientific evidence there could be in this context.
    Here is a fascinating recent article from Friends’ Journal about theistic and nontheistic ‘mystical experience’:
    You can comment on the article there but I hope you might (also) choose to comment here – I may set up a page on ‘Quaker Mystical experience?’ here for that purpose later, but in the meantime please comment here!
    Now experience is by definition, I think, subjective. But I would like to see (and to have seen) cited references to research on the physiological (and perhaps psychological) consequences of such mystical experiences.
    It may be unlikely that a Quaker meeting (‘gathered’ or otherwise) could ever be meaningfully ‘measured’ for such physiological correlates, but there is research (not all of it of high quality) on the physiological effects of various forms of meditation and other meditative or spiritual practices, including the practice of silence. I hope we might be able to unearth some of that research (please help!) and perhaps stimulate more such – so that we might know what we are talking about ‘scientifically’.
    That might also reveal the benefits of spiritual practices, including prayer.


    1. Trevor, I could have focussed mostly or only on the science, but the main messages that I wanted to communicate were: (a) prayer is fundamentally a personal phenomenon. I suspect that for those who pray, efficacy is their own sense of well-being and sense of fulfilment, (b) attempts to test the efficacy of prayer using science have tended to conclude that there is no effect that cannot also be explained by chance or other factors.
      One study concluded that “For a multitude of reasons, research on the healing effects of prayer is riddled with assumptions, challenges and contradictions that make the subject a scientific and religious minefield. We believe that the research has led nowhere, and that future research, if any, will forever be constrained by… scientific limitations” (
      But I do feel that if prayer is part of our lives then we should ask ourselves why and how.


  2. Thanks Martin.
    Your questions prompted a lot of discussion – and maybe ‘soul-searching?’
    A member of my Quaker meeting spoke to me of vague recollections of what must have been the ‘Harvard’ study you spoke of.
    Thank-you for a thought provoking session.
    This is the text on prayer that I mentioned discussed at the Lisbon worship group (FWCC-EMES) on Sunday 29 August:
    QF&P 2.23
    Prayer is experienced as deeper than words or busy thoughts. ‘Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit from thy own thoughts’, said Fox. It is marked by a kind of relaxed readiness, a ‘letting-go’ of the problems and perplexities with which the mind is occupied, and a waiting in ‘love and truth’: the truth about oneself, the truth about the world, deeper than the half-truths we see when we are busy in it about our own planning and scheming, the love in which we are held when we think of others more deeply than our ordinary relations with them, the love that at root holds us to the world. Prayer is not words or acts, but reaching down to love: holding our fellows in love, offering ourselves in love; and being held by, being caught up in love. It is communion, an opening of the door, an entry from the beyond. This is the point where secular language fails, for this cannot be spoken about at all: it can only be known.
    Harold Loukes, 1967


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