Peeranormal 22: Intercessory Prayer

Peeranormal 22: Intercessory Prayer

Nearly twenty studies of whether intercessory prayer has a positive (or any) effect on seriously ill patients have been conducted by physicians and other medical researchers since 1965. Results are mixed, ranging from mild positive effects to an increase in adverse effects. The assumptions of the very idea have been challenged—is prayer something that can be scientifically tested? Since it involves the existence of God, whose reality cannot be scientifically tested, does research of this type make any sense? In this episode, the PEERanormal panel discusses six scholarly articles on the subject: four actual studies, and two critiques of the enterprise and its assumptions:


Byrd, Randolph C. “Positive therapeutic effects of intercessory prayer in a coronary care unit population.” (1988): 826-829.

Harris, William S., et al. “A randomized, controlled trial of the effects of remote, intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients admitted to the coronary care unit.” Archives of Internal medicine 159.19 (1999): 2273-2278.

Aviles, Jennifer M., et al. “Intercessory prayer and cardiovascular disease progression in a coronary care unit population: a randomized controlled trial.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Vol. 76. No. 12. Elsevier, 2001.

Masters, Kevin S. “Research on the healing power of distant intercessory prayer: Disconnect between science and faith.” Journal of Psychology and Theology 33.4 (2005): 268-277. (no link)

Benson, Herbert, et al. “Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: a multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer.” American heart journal 151.4 (2006): 934-942.

Cadge, Wendy. “Saying your prayers, constructing your religions: Medical studies of intercessory prayer.” The Journal of religion 89.3 (2009): 299-327.