The Psychology of Prayer: A Scientific Approach (Hardback) book cover

The Psychology of Prayer

A Scientific Approach

By Bernard Spilka, Kevin L. Ladd

© 2013 – Guilford Press

226 pages

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About the Book

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.


"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." - Kenneth I. Pargament, PhD, Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University

"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 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." - Raymond F. Paloutzian, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Westmont College; Editor, The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Scientific Study of Prayer. Prayer in Psychological Perspective. The Many Faces of Prayer: Multidimensionality. The Individual's Development of Prayer. Prayer in Coping and Adjustment. Prayer and Health. Intercessory Prayer. Concluding Perspectives and Possibilities.

About the Authors

Bernard Spilka, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Denver. He is a past president of the Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, Division 36 of the American Psychological Association, and a recipient of its William James Award, Mentoring Award, and Distinguished Service Award. Dr. Spilka has also been vice-president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and president of the Colorado Psychological Association and the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association. Now retired, he continues to write on the psychology of prayer and on religion, evolution, and genetics.

Kevin L. Ladd, PhD, is Associate Professor of Psychology at Indiana University South Bend and a former pastor of United Methodist and Presbyterian (PCUSA) congregations. A consulting editor for the Journal of Social Psychology, Archive for the Psychology of Religion, and Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, Dr. Ladd serves on the Board of Directors of the International Association for the Psychology of Religion. His research on the psychology of prayer has involved collaborations, publications, and lectures in many countries and regions

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