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The effects of intercessory prayer and transpersonal positive visualization on a hemodialysis population

James M Conti, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The efficacy of intercessory prayer as an adjunct to well-being coupled with psychological and/or medical treatment has long been of question. Anecdotal evidence for the efficacy of prayer abounds yet hard empirical evidence remains slim. This pilot study explored the efficacy of intercessory prayer in 95 hemodialysis patients. The research design consisted of a randomized double-blind 2 x 3 factorial design investigating intercessory prayer, transpersonal positive visualization (PV), and expectancy. An intervention was completed over 4 weeks where patients received one of the following conditions: Receive prayer/expect prayer; receive PV/expect prayer; receive no treatment/expect prayer; receive prayer/expect PV; receive PV/expect PV; receive no treatment/expect PV. Intercessors and visualizers consisted of individuals with extensive experience in these respective functions. Pre and post-test measures included the: SF-36 Quality of Life measure, Beck Depression Inventory, Brief Symptom inventory, and a prayer questionnaire designed for this study. Medical measures included: KT/V; hematocrit; albumin; serum inorganic phosphorous, blood pressure; and interdialytic weight gain. ANOVAs found a significant main effect of treatment on social functioning (F[2,87] = 4.699, p < .012) where subjects receiving Prayer showed significantly greater improvement in social functioning compared to the no treatment group (F[2,90] = 4.2319, p < .0175). There was a significant main effect of expectancy on systolic blood pressure (F[1,89] = 5.048, p < .027); subjects Expecting Prayer showed significantly greater improvement in systolic blood pressure compared to subjects Expecting Positive Visualization (F[1,93] = 5.1290, p < .0259). Similarly, there was a significant main effect of expectancy on phosphorous (F[1,87] = 7.074, p < .009); subjects Expecting Prayer had significantly greater improvement in their phosphorous level compared to subjects Expecting Positive Visualization, who significantly worsened (F[1,91] = 6.8724, p < .0103). There were no significant PV treatment effects. These findings beg the question, “Why were these results significant and not others?” Psychological issues related to coping, social support provided by organized religions, and the mind-body connection may all contribute to these results along with an effect of God. Yet the selectivity of results suggests that the efficacy of prayer remains a mystery. Future findings will be necessary to define intercessory prayer as an efficacious adjunct to medical and psychological therapies.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Health|Religion|Public health|Surgery|Physiological psychology|Personality

Recommended Citation

Conti, James M, "The effects of intercessory prayer and transpersonal positive visualization on a hemodialysis population" (1999). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9920592.