Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 211–219 | Cite as

The effect of prayer on physical health: Experimental evidence

  • Paul N. Duckro
  • Philip R. Magaletta


There has been enough published scientific work on the direct effects of prayer upon physical health in the past thirty years to merit review. While experimental evidence has yet to reveal large direct effects of prayer on physical health, the effects which have been found are notable and encourage further study. In this article the authors review the major studies, discuss problems in their interpretation, and suggest considerations for future experimental study of prayer.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Martin, J. and Carlson, C., “Spiritual Dimensions of health Psychology.” In Miller, W.R., and Martin, J., eds.,Behavioral Therapy and Religion. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1988, pp. 57–110.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Koenig, H.G., Bearon, L.B., and Dayringer, R., “Physician Perspectives on the Role of Religion in the Physician-Older Patient Relationship.”The Journal of Family Practice, 1989,28(4), 441–448.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Poloma, M.M., “The Effects of Prayer on Mental Well-being.”Second Opinion, 1993,18(3), 37–51.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Levin, J.S., Lyons, J.S., and Larson, D.B., “Prayer and Health during Pregnancy: Findings from the Galveston Low Birth Weight Study.”Southern Medical Journal, 1993,86(9), 1022–1027.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Foglio, J.P., and Brody, H., “Religion Faith and Family Medicine.”The Journal of Family Practice, 1988,27, 473–474.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    King, D.G., “Religion and health Relationships: A Review.”Journal of Religion and Health, 1990,29(2), 101–112; Levin, J.S., and Schiller, P.L., “Is There a Religious Factor in Health?”Journal of Religion and Health, 1987,26(1), 9–36; Levin, J.S. & Vanderpool, H.Y. (1991). Religious Factors in Physical Health and the Prevention of Illness.Prevention in Human Services, 1991,9, 41–64.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Joyce, C.R.B., and Welldon, R.M.C., “The Objective Efficacy of Prayer: A Double-Blind Clinical Trial.”The Journal of Chronic Diseases, 1965,18, 367–377.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ibid., pp. 367–377.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Collipp, P.J., “The Efficacy of Prayer: A Triple-Blind Study.”Medical Times, 1969,97, 201–204.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Ibid., pp. 201–204.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ibid.,, pp. 201–204.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Rosner, F., “The Efficacy of prayer: Scientific vs Religious Evidence.”Journal of Religion and Health, 1975,14, 294–298.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Collip,op. cit., “, pp. 201–204.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Loehr, F..The Power of Prayer on Plants, New York, Doubleday, 1959.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Wulff, D.M.,Psychology of Religion: Classic and Contemporary Views, New York, John Wiley and Sons, 1991.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
  17. 17.
    Spindrift Papers. Published by Spindrift, Inc., 100 West Main Street, Suite 408, Lansdale, PA 19446 (Telephone: 215-361-8499).Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Rockwell, T., “[Review of the Spindrift Papers].”The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1993,87, 387–396.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Joyce and Welldonop. cit., “, pp. 367–377.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Rockwellop. cit., “[, pp. 387–396.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Ibid.,, pp. 387–396; Rush, J.H., “A Postscript on Rockwell's Review of The Spindrift Papers.”The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1993,87, 397–398.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Rockwell, T.op. cit., “[, pp. 387–396; Rushop. cit., “A Postscript on Rockwell's Review of The Spindrift Papers.”The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1993,87, pp. 397–398.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Byrd, R.C., “Positive Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer in a Coronary Care Unit Population.”Southern Medical Journal, 1988,81(7), 826–829.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Ibid.,, pp. 826–829.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Galton, F., “Statistical Inquiries into the Efficacy of Prayer.”Fortnightly Review, 1872,12, 125–135. Cited in part inArchives of Internal Medicine, 1970,125, 580–581, 587.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Kloss, W.E., “Spirituality — The Will to Wellness.”The Harding Journal of Religion and Psychiatry, 1988,7(1), 3–8.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Loehr, F.op. cit.,. pp. 826–829.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Dossey, L.,Recovering the Soul: A Scientific and Spiritual Search, New York, Bantam Books, 1989.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Rosner, F.op. cit., “, pp. 294–298.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Institutes of Religion and Health 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul N. Duckro
    • 1
  • Philip R. Magaletta
    • 2
  1. 1.Saint Louis University Health Sciences CenterSaint LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology of Saint Louis UniversitySaint LouisUSA

Personalised recommendations