Empirical Studies of Christian Prayer : A Review of the Literature

Volume 13
Summer 1985
Empirical Studies of Christian Prayer : A Review of the Literature

Christian prayer is a central religious practice which has received scant attention in psychological research. The two major types of prayer are verbal and contemplative prayer. A review of the empirical studies of prayer suggests that the work done in this area can be divided into four categories: (a) developmental studies of conceptions of prayer; (b) research on motivations for praying; (c) studies of the effects of verbal prayer; and (d) studies of the effects of contemplative prayer. The studies on the development of the concept of prayer generally have found patterns consistent with Piaget'€™s stages of moral and cognitive development. Regarding motives for prayer, Welford (1947) supported the hypothesis that prayer is not just a neurotic flight from anxiety. Elkins et al. (1979) found verbal prayer to be generally ineffective in anxiety reduction. Parker and St. Johns (1957) demonstrated that a program of spiritual development that includes verbal prayer can be effective as therapeutic intervention. The findings of Sacks (1979) suggest that contemplative prayer may facilitate ego development. Opportunities for further research on prayer are discussed.

J.R. Finney and Dr. H.N. Malony
104 - 115
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