Background: Many individuals pray during times of illness, but the clinical effects of prayer are not well-understood.
Methods: We prospectively studied a cohort of 40 patients (mean age, 62 years; 100% white; 82% women) at a private rheumatology practice. All had class II or III rheumatoid arthritis and took stable doses of antirheumatic medications. All received a 3-day intervention, including 6 hours of education and 6 hours of direct-contact intercessory prayer. Nineteen randomly selected sample patients had 6 months of daily, supplemental intercessory prayer by individuals located elsewhere. Ten arthritis-specific outcome variables were measured at baseline and at 3-month intervals for 1 year.
Results: Patients receiving in-person intercessory prayer showed significant overall improvement during 1-year follow-up. No additional effects from supplemental, distant intercessory prayer were found.
Conclusions: In-person intercessory prayer may be a useful adjunct to standard medical care for certain patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Supplemental, distant intercessory prayer offers no additional benefits.