Meta-study finds God answers prayers

Does God or some other type of transcendent entity answer prayer?

The answer, according to a new Arizona State University study published in the March journal Research on Social Work Practice, is “yes.” David R. Hodge, an assistant professor of social work in the College of Human Services at Arizona State University, conducted a comprehensive analysis of 17 major studies on the effects of intercessory prayer – or prayer that is offered for the benefit of another person – among people with psychological or medical problems. He found a positive effect.

“There have been a number of studies on intercessory prayer, or prayer offered for the benefit of another person,” said Hodge, a leading expert on spirituality and religion. “Some have found positive results for prayer. Others have found no effect. Conducting a meta-analysis takes into account the entire body of empirical research on intercessory prayer. Using this procedure, we find that prayer offered on behalf of another yields positive results.”

Hodge’s work is featured in the March, 2007, issue of Research on Social Work Practice, a disciplinary journal devoted to the publication of empirical research on practice outcomes. It is widely recognized as one of the most prestigious journals in the field of social work.

Hodge noted that his study is important because it is a compilation of available studies and is not a single work with a single conclusion. His “Systematic Review” takes into account the findings of 17 studies that used intercessory prayer as a treatment in practice settings.

“Some people feel Benson and associates’ study from last year, which is the most recent and showed no positive effects for intercessory prayer, is the final word,” said Hodge, referring to a 2006 article by Dr. Herbert Benson of the Harvard Medical School that measured the therapeutic effect of intercessory prayer in cardiac bypass patients. “But, this research suggests otherwise. This study enables us to look at the big picture. When the effects of prayer are averaged across all 17 studies, controlling for differences in sample sizes, a net positive effect for the prayer group is produced.

“This is the most thorough and all-inclusive study of its kind on this controversial subject that I am aware of,” said Hodge. “It suggests that more research on the topic may be warranted, and that praying for people with psychological or medical problems may help them recover.”

The use of prayer as a therapeutic intervention is controversial. Yet, Hodge notes that survey research indicates that many people use intercessory prayer as an intervention to aid healing, which raises questions about its effectiveness as an intervention strategy.

“Overall, the meta-analysis indicates that prayer is effective. Is it effective enough to meet the standards of the American Psychological Association’s Division 12 for empirically validated interventions? No. Thus, we should not be treating clients suffering with depression, for example, only with prayer. To treat depression, standard treatments, such as cognitive therapy, should be used as the primary method of treatment.”

In addition to his inclusion in the upcoming issue of Research on Social Work Practice, Hodge is widely published and has appeared on the pages of Social Work, Social Work Research, Journal of Social Service Research, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, and Families in Society. He has also authored the book “Spiritual assessment: A handbook for helping professionals.”

Source Arizona State University


  1. Meta studies are notorious for being used to put a spin on data.
    Check the original studies. Look up Meta Studies and how they are used.
    Mr. Hodge is also a bit biased as he is published by “North American Association of Christians in Social Work”
    This is a “Science” blog, right?

  2. When the first study ,that was ran and funded by Christians no less, proved that prayer had ZERO effect on changing outcomes (wich should come as no suprise to those of us with common sense ) they had to rig another one to get the answer they wanted. Once again here we have a case of manipulating the science to get the desired answer (in wich case it is NOT science at all). This kind of crap infuriates me because the media wil run the story with the type of sensationalist headline like the one in the above article, and the moronic geberal public will eat it up as proof that their imaginary god exists and actually listens to them.
    The above “study” is just more ill-constructed psuedo-science.

  3. Did the patients know they were being prayed for? Were the patients being prayed for by close family and friends, or a random group of people to which they had no association? I think these are all important questions. If no one prayed for an individual in the non-prayer group because s/he was an atheist with atheist friends, perhaps they felt more stressed as their condition was out of their hands and up to chance and medicine alone. The stress thus causing a negative health impact.

  4. My automatic reaction to this is to try and pic holes in the methods those social scientists used to aquire this sort of ‘scientificaly hereditary’ result, quite right: pacebo effect; predisposition and so on.
    The correct way to aproach this would be to say we are observing an effect, an effect which stems from people concentrating hard on a particular issue that they really really want to happen, accessing some part of their mind where they bring themselves into the state when they are being completely honest with some sort of imaginary ‘fatherly’ figure with whom there is no secrects; repent the ‘bad things’, ask for the good thing(s) and, it seems, things go better than if you would not have done nothing at all.
    I don’t know about you but from where I come from I would bemaybe the second generation that does not believe in ‘supernatural being(s)’, following a good few tens of thousands that did. to think that we do not carry some sort biologicaly (or whatever) inherited legacy is foolish.
    There are countless examples why beleif in the ‘supernatural’ would have been useful for our susvival in the past and the evolution of inteligence in humans.
    It is as simple as that: we have religiuos practices and beleifs because they were useful for our survival, we’ve inherited it. My whole point is what is that It? How is it that we can tap into sort of grid with our minds just by thinking in a particular way and influece outcomes? Is it some sort of group system of survival that we are calling God because that is the only way we can tap into it?
    Any thoughts?

  5. The physicians, nurses and therapists in my area work with me in a partnership for healing. They do not fear my intercessory prayer for patients any more than I fear surgical and/or medicinal intervention. I continue to marvel at the potential of modern medicine, while marvelling at God’s handiwork as He answers fervent effective prayers.

  6. I don’t see no world peace. HIV is still with us, etc. etc. Given the medical context, I wonder how much the placebo effect comes into sway?


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