Objective: To determine the effect of intercessory prayer, a widely practiced complementary therapy, on cardiovascular disease progression after hospital discharge.
Patients and methods: In this randomized controlled trial conducted between 1997 and 1999, a total of 799 coronary care unit patients were randomized at hospital discharge to the intercessory prayer group or to the control group. Intercessory prayer, ie, prayer by 1 or more persons on behalf of another, was administered at least once a week for 26 weeks by 5 intercessors per patient. The primary end point after 26 weeks was any of the following: death, cardiac arrest, rehospitalization for cardiovascular disease, coronary revascularization, or an emergency department visit for cardiovascular disease. Patients were divided into a high-risk group based on the presence of any of 5 risk factors (age = or >70 years, diabetes mellitus, prior myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular disease, or peripheral vascular disease) or a low-risk group (absence of risk factors) for subsequent primary events.
Results: At 26 weeks, a primary end point had occurred in 25.6% of the intercessory prayer group and 29.3% of the control group (odds ratio [OR], 0.83 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.60-1.14]; P=.25). Among high-risk patients, 31.0% in the prayer group vs 33.3% in the control group (OR, 0.90 [95% CI, 0.60-1.34]; P=.60) experienced a primary end point. Among low-risk patients, a primary end point occurred in 17.0% in the prayer group vs 24.1% in the control group (OR, 0.65 [95% CI, 0.20-1.36]; P=.12).
Conclusions: As delivered in this study, intercessory prayer had no significant effect on medical outcomes after hospitalization in a coronary care unit.