The Influence of Prayer on Patient Recovery: A Scientific Review

A brief history of prayer and its importance

Prayer is a common practice in many cultures and has been used as a form of healing for centuries. It is commonly believed that prayer may have a positive impact on a person’s health and well-being, including the recovery process of patients. In this article, we will examine the scientific evidence behind the influence of prayer on patient recovery, if any.

Studies on Prayer and Recovery

Numerous studies have been conducted to investigate the relationship between prayer and recovery from illness or injury in past years. A randomized, controlled trial of the effects of remote, intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients admitted to the coronary care unit found that prayer may be an effective adjunct to standard medical care, given that the prayer group had lower CCU course scores.

An article published in the Journal of Religion and Health in 20202 found some positive effects in spiritual and religious coping in breast cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy. But the biological scores of this randomized controlled trial were inconclusive.

Another article found very mixed results3, being that spirituality/religiosity had a positive relationship with physical, emotional and social functioning. On the other hand, it was negatively associated with disease symptoms, such as pain or emotional and physical fatigue.

Furthermore, a Cochrane systematic review published in 20094 found that the findings are equivocal and, although some of the results of individual studies suggest a positive effect of intercessory prayer, the majority do not and the evidence does not support a recommendation either in favour or against the use of intercessory prayer.

The inconsistency in results may be due to differences in study design, patient populations, and the type of prayer being studied.The outcomes of these studies are often very varied, but it is true that often there is no influence on biological factors.

Mechanisms of Prayer

The mechanisms through which prayer may influence patient recovery are not well understood. One possibility is that prayer may have a positive effect on a person’s psychological well-being, leading to a more positive attitude and increased motivation for recovery. This could, in turn, lead to improved physical health outcomes.

Another possibility is that prayer may have a direct biological effect, such as altering the activity of certain genes or hormones. This aspect has remained more on the speculative side and there has been little evidence to prove such biological effects.

In conclusion, while there is evidence to suggest that prayer may have a positive impact on patient recovery, the scientific evidence is mixed and more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between prayer and recovery. It is important for healthcare providers to consider the role of prayer in the recovery process and to offer patients the opportunity to engage in this practice if they so choose. Additionally, future studies should be designed to better understand the mechanisms through which prayer may influence patient recovery.

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Tell us your thoughts and real experiences about praying and recovery in your patients! We would like to hear more about your point of view.


  1. Harris WS, Gowda M, Kolb JW, Strychacz CP, Vacek JL, Jones PG, Forker A, O’Keefe JH, McCallister BD. A randomized, controlled trial of the effects of remote, intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients admitted to the coronary care unit. Arch Intern Med. 1999 Oct 25;159(19):2273-8.
  2. Miranda, T.P.S., Caldeira, S., de Oliveira, H.F. et al. Intercessory Prayer on Spiritual Distress, Spiritual Coping, Anxiety, Depression and Salivary Amylase in Breast Cancer Patients During Radiotherapy: Randomized Clinical Trial. J Relig Health 59, 365–380 (2020).
  3. Majda A, Szul N, Kołodziej K, Wojcieszek A, Pucko Z, Bakun K. Influence of Spirituality and Religiosity of Cancer Patients on Their Quality of Life. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Apr 19;19(9):4952
  4. Roberts L, Ahmed I, Davison A. Intercessory prayer for the alleviation of ill health. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD000368. Available at
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