Indian Journal of PsychiatryIndian Journal of Psychiatry
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 Table of Contents    
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 53  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 79
How prayer works

Department of Psychiatry, KPC Medical College and Hospital, 1F, Raja S. C. Mullick Road, Jadavpur, Kolkata, West Bengal - 700 032, India

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Date of Web Publication13-Jan-2011

How to cite this article:
Jana AK. How prayer works. Indian J Psychiatry 2011;53:79

How to cite this URL:
Jana AK. How prayer works. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2011 [cited 2021 Oct 27];53:79. Available from:


The article by Andrade and Radhakrishnan, [1] in the latest issue of this journal, involves a topic (i.e., prayer) that arouses as much curiosity as it arouses confusion in today's world; the era of evidence-based research. In my opinion, despite being quite a comprehensive review, the article could have touched upon few other views and evidences regarding the healing effects of prayer.

Some of the widely accepted mechanisms by which prayer is supposed to provide beneficial effect are, (1) health-related behavior (2) enhanced social support (3) stress-buffering (4) cognitive effects and, (5) the psychodynamics of faith. [2] It has been stated that the very knowledge that one is the object of prayer stimulates the immunoendocrinological system; both psychophysiology and psychoneuroimmunology have demonstrated the impact of feelings and emotions. [3] Another hypothesis is that religious involvement activates unutilized energies, which can influence the course of the illness. The famous studies including the double-blind or even the triple-blind ones, which show the healing effects of prayer, can be explained by these unutilized energies.

The other explanation, clearly violating the basic laws of physics, states that an empathic connection between the healer and the sufferer brings about the desired changes. [4] According to Sheldrake's [5] theory of modified materialism, morphic fields exist as vibration or information within nature. They constitute a type of protosubstance, which manifests more subtly than the normal three-dimensional matter. This supernatural healing can operate in a manner, which, with regard to reference of time and space, does appear nonlocal.

However, among all the evidences we have, the most parsimonious explanation for the healing effect of prayer is that there is indeed a transcendent God who supernaturally heals. Ultimately, as Levin [4] argues, the existence of a transcendent God or His supernatural blessings of healing cannot be proven by science; it is a matter of faith.

   References Top

1.Andrade C, Radhakrishnan R. Prayer and healing: A medical and scientific perspective on randomized controlled trials. Indian J Psychiatry 2009;51:247-53.  Back to cited text no. 1
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
2.Levin JS, Vanderpool HY. Is religion therapeutically significant for hypertension? Soc Sci Med 1989;29:69-78.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Ader R, Felter DL, Cohen N. Psychoneuroimmunology. 2nd ed. California: Academic Press; 1991.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Levin JS. How prayer heals: A theoretical model. Altern Ther Health Med 1996;2:66-73.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Sheldrake R. A New Science of Life: The Hypothesis of Formative Causation. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarchar; 1981.  Back to cited text no. 5

Correspondence Address:
Amlan Kusum Jana
Department of Psychiatry, KPC Medical College and Hospital, 1F, Raja S. C. Mullick Road, Jadavpur, Kolkata, West Bengal - 700 032
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5545.75549

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1 Prayer, randomized controlled trials and distance healing: A response to Dr. Jana
Andrade, C., Radhakrishnan, R.
Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 2011; 53(3): 274