The Psychology of Prayer : A Scientific Approach book cover
1st Edition

The Psychology of Prayer
A Scientific Approach

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ISBN 9781462506958
Published November 12, 2012 by Guilford Press
226 Pages

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Book Description

Reviewing the growing body of scientific research on prayer, this book describes what is known about the behavioral, cognitive, emotional, developmental, and health aspects of this important religious activity. The highly regarded authors provide a balanced perspective on what prayer means to the individual, how and when it is practiced, and the impact it has in people's lives. Clinically relevant topics include connections among prayer, coping, and adjustment, as well as controversial questions of whether prayer (for oneself or another) can be beneficial to health. The strengths and limitations of available empirical studies are critically evaluated, and promising future research directions are identified.

Table of Contents


1. Introduction to the Scientific Study of Prayer
2. Prayer in Psychological Perspective
3. The Many Faces of Prayer: Multidimensionality
4. The Individual's Development of Prayer
5. Prayer in Coping and Adjustment
6. Prayer and Health
7. Intercessory Prayer
8. Concluding Perspectives and Possibilities

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Bernard Spilka, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Denver. He has been president of the Colorado Psychological Association, the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association, and Division 36 (Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality) of the American Psychological Association, and vice president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. Dr. Spilka is a recipient of the Scholar/Teacher Award from the United Methodist Church; the William James Award, Mentoring Award, and Distinguished Service Award from Division 36; and Distinguished Service Awards from the Colorado and Rocky Mountain Psychological Associations. Continuing to write professionally, he is author, coauthor, editor, or coeditor of nine books, one monograph, and two major federal reports.

Kevin L. Ladd, PhD, is Professor of Psychology at Indiana University South Bend and former pastor of United Methodist and Presbyterian (PCUSA) congregations. A consulting editor for journals including the Journal of Social Psychology, Archive for the Psychology of Religion, and Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, he also serves on the Board of Directors of the International Association for the Psychology of Religion. Dr. Ladd's research on the psychology of prayer has involved collaborations, publications, and lectures in China, Europe, India, and South America.


"Kudos to Spilka and Ladd--two premier scientific explorers of the human religious impulse--for this landmark volume on the psychology of prayer. The authors serve as expert guides on a tour of prayer’s varied forms, motivations, transformations across life’s stages, and emotional and physical benefits."--David G. Myers, PhD, Department of Psychology, Hope College

"This book is of such high quality that I kept reading it in order to glean all of its knowledge, insights, and wisdom. Spilka and Ladd do a superbly honest, careful, and accurate job of squaring with the evidence on such issues as whether prayer heals, how its meaning evolves through development, what motivates it, and how it is mediated by cognitive, physiological, behavioral, and social psychological processes. This is the authoritative book on a timeless topic. Very happily, the authors avoid the too sweeping or simplistic; their suggestions and interpretations are realistic, sensible, and based on evidence."--Raymond F. Paloutzian, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Westmont College; Editor, The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion

"Until now, the psychology of religion lacked a systematic assessment of what is scientifically known about prayer. Two of the best scholars in the field combine theoretical rigor and methodological sophistication to provide this masterful review. The book is filled with wise recommendations for future research that will avoid the pitfalls that have characterized much of the empirical research to date. This is truly a much-needed, authoritative contribution on a topic central to all of the world's great faith traditions."--Ralph W. Hood, Jr., PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

"This is the psychology of religion at its best. Spilka is a founding father of the field, and he and Ladd have produced a gem of a book sparkling with the latest scientific information on the most critical questions about prayer. A remarkably sensitive work of scholarship, the book succeeds in constructing an empirically based psychology of prayer without diminishing or explaining away its value to those who are committed to a life of faith. This book could be used as a primary text for a graduate seminar or advanced undergraduate seminar in the psychology of religion and prayer."--Kenneth I. Pargament, PhD, Department of Psychology (Emeritus), Bowling Green State University

"Engaging, scholarly, and open minded, this is the first book to bring together theory and research on the many elements in the psychological study of prayer. Topics include the multidimensionality of prayer, intercessory prayer, developmental issues, and connections to coping and adjustment. This comprehensive book is essential reading for those interested in understanding the central role of prayer in the psychology of religion, and will serve as an important text in both graduate and undergraduate courses."--Crystal L. Park, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut

"Addressing essential themes, this book offers the best summary available of psychological research on prayer. Spilka and Ladd offer fair, thorough coverage--without shying away from controversial issues--and point out questions that need further study. This book is very well suited to an undergraduate- or graduate-level psychology of religion course; students will appreciate its approachable style."--Michael Nielsen, PhD, Department of Psychology, Georgia Southern University

"This book offers a hard-nosed yet respectful and sympathetic treatment of scientific research on prayer. As psychologists, Spilka and Ladd take scientific methods seriously as they show how multidimensional and psychologically useful prayer is. Readers will come away with a greater appreciation of the many ways prayer affects and is affected by psychology, and a more mature understanding of the role of prayer in their own and others' lives."--Everett L. Worthington, Jr., PhD, Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University
-_x000D_“These authors have done a tremendous job of pulling together in one small book the various areas of inquiry concerning the psychology of prayer.”--PsycCritiques, 10/2/2013ƒƒ_x000D_“The Psychology of Prayer is well written and delves deeply into the literature, broadly covering what all subdisciplines of psychology have discovered on this important topic that influences most of the world's population….As someone who has devoted much of his career to the scientific approach to studying prayer, I found this book to be very thought provoking and quite comprehensive. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to research this topic or who wants to become more familiar with the psychology of prayer.”--Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 9/1/2013