Prayer is not recommended as the sole treatment approach for potentially serious medical conditions, and should not delay the time it takes to consult with a healthcare professional or receive established therapies. Based on one clinical study, patients certain that they were receiving intercessory prayer were associated with a higher incidence of complications following cardiac bypass surgery than those who did not know if they were the receiver of such prayer. Sometimes religious beliefs come into conflict with standard medical approaches, and require an open dialog between patients and caregivers.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Limited study of prayer in patients with AIDS reports fewer new AIDS-related illnesses and hospitalizations, although due to methodological problems these results cannot be considered conclusive.
Alcohol or drug dependency
Initial research reports no effects of intercessory prayer on alcohol or drug dependency. Better research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Blood pressure control
Initial study reports no effects of intercessory prayer on blood pressure. Better research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Limited research in burn patients reports improved outcomes when prayer is used, although due to methodological problems these results cannot be considered conclusive.
Initial studies in patients with cancer (such as leukemia) report variable effects on disease progression or death rates when intercessory prayer is used. Better quality research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Prayer appears to be a significant "softening" event for religious couples, facilitating reconciliation and problem-solving based on one study.
Critical illness (intensive care unit or coronary care unit patients)
There are several studies of intercessory prayer on behalf of patients in intensive care units with severe heart disease or infections. Although some research reports promising results, most trials have not been well designed or reported. As a result, a firm conclusion is not possible.
The potential effect of intercessory prayer on pregnancy rates in women being treated with
Heart disease/heart attack
Initial studies in patients with heart disease report variable effects on severity of illness, complications during hospitalization, procedure outcome, or death rates when intercessory prayer is used. Better quality research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Improving health outcomes (general)
There are numerous studies of the effects of intercessory prayer (praying on behalf of patients) on illness severity, death, and well-being of patients or loved ones. Results are variable, with some studies reporting benefits of prayer on severity or length of illness, and others suggesting no effects. Most research has not been well designed or reported, and as a result, a firm conclusion is not possible. Additional research is needed in this area with clear descriptions of prayer techniques and well-defined health outcomes.
Preliminary research shows positive trends associated with prayer and spirituality in patients with end stage renal disease, who are coping after kidney transplant. Further research is needed before conclusions can be drawn.
Initial studies report fewer birth complications in people who are religious or pray, although due to methodological problems these results cannot be considered conclusive.
Preliminary study suggests that older adults who participate in private religious activity before the onset of impairment in activities of daily living appear to have a survival advantage over those who do not. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Forty-eight percent of the homeless women in one study reported that the use of prayer significantly related to less use of alcohol and/or street drugs, fewer perceived worries, and fewer depressive symptoms. Further research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn in this area.
Quality of life in chronically ill patients
Limited study reports improved quality of life in patients who desire others to pray for them, and receive healing. Better quality research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Initial research suggests that in-person intercessory prayer (praying by others in the presence of patients) may reduce pain, fatigue, tenderness, swelling and weakness when it is used in addition to standard care. Better quality research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Sickle cell anemia
Prayer has been studied as a coping mechanism for patients with sickle cell disease with mixed results.
There is some research that suggests that religiously active persons may be less likely to smoke cigarettes or, if they do smoke, may be likely to smoke fewer cigarettes.
Cardiac bypass (complications)
In one well-designed clinical trial, intercessory prayer had no effect on complication-free recovery from coronary artery bypass surgery. Interestingly, patients that knew they were receiving intercessory prayer (as opposed to those who did not know) were associated with a higher incidence of complications. More study is needed to confirm these results.
Prayer has not been shown to help prevent or treat diabetes or related health issues. Diabetes should be treated by a qualified health care professional using proven therapies.