Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

2013 Edition
| Editors: Marc D. Gellman, J. Rick Turner


Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_1590



Prayer in all of its variations can be defined by two fundamental principles: (1) prayer is a form of communication and (2) the exchange of communication takes place between the self and the transcendent, immanent, and numinous forces that represent human notions of the sacred. Defining prayer in this way broadens William James’ classic conceptualization of prayer as “every kind of inward communion or conversation with the power recognized as divine” to include not only that which comes from God but everything that is imbued with the power of sacredness.


Throughout history, humankind has manifested a yearning to communicate with the sacred through prayer. Expressed in vastly different cultures and religious traditions, prayer constitutes a universal phenomenon that plays a crucial role in humanity’s religious experience. In fact, for many individuals, prayer is their primary religious practice.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References and Readings

  1. Bänzinger, S., Janssen, J., & Scheepers, P. (2008). Praying in a secularized society: An empirical study of praying practices and varieties. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 18, 256–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bradshaw, M., Ellison, C. G., & Flannelly, K. J. (2008). Prayer, god imagery, and symptoms of psychopathology. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 47(4), 644–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Fincham, F. D., Beach, S. R. H., Lambert, N., Stillman, T., & Braithwaite, S. R. (2008). Spiritual behaviors and relationship satisfaction: A critical analysis of the role of prayer. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 27(4), 362–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Gill, S. D. (1994). Prayer. In M. Eliade (Ed.), The encyclopedia of religion (2nd ed., Vol. 11). New York: Macmillan Reference.Google Scholar
  5. Heiler, F. (1932). Prayer: A study in the history and psychology of religion. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Krause, N. (2009). Lifetime trauma, prayer and psychological distress in later life. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 19(1), 55–72.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ladd, K. L., & Spilka, B. (2002). Inward, outward, upward: Cognitive aspects of prayer. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41(3), 475–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Levin, J. (1996). How prayer heals: A theoretical model. Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine, 2(1), 66–73.Google Scholar
  9. McCullough, M. E. (1995). Prayer and health: Conceptual issues, research review, and research agenda. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 23(1), 15–29.Google Scholar
  10. Pargament, K. I. (1997). The psychology of religion and coping: Theory, research, practice. New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  11. Pargament, K. I., Smith, B. W., Koenig, H. G., & Perez, L. (1998). Patterns of positive and negative religious coping with major life stressors. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 37(4), 710–724.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Poloma, M. M., & Gallup, G. H., Jr. (1991). Varieties of prayer: A survey report. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International.Google Scholar
  13. Poloma, M. M., & Pendleton, B. F. (1991). The effects of prayer and prayer experiences on general wellbeing. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 19, 71–83.Google Scholar
  14. Tracy, M. F., Lindquist, R., Savik, K., Watanuki, S., Sendelbach, S., Kreitzer, M. J., et al. (2005). Use of complementary and alternative therapies: A national survey of critical care nurses. American Journal of Critical Care, 14, 404–414.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA