Intercessory prayer in the treatment of alcohol abuse and dependence: a pilot investigation

Altern Ther Health Med. 1997 Nov;3(6):79-86.


Objective: To conduct a pilot study of the effect of intercessory prayer on patients entering treatment for alcohol abuse or dependence.

Design: In addition to standard treatment, 40 patients admitted to a public substance abuse treatment facility for treatment of alcohol problems who consented to participate were randomized to receive or not receive intercessory prayer (double-blind) by outside volunteers. Assessments were conducted at baseline, 3 months, and 6 months.

Results: No differences were found between prayer intervention and nonintervention groups on alcohol consumption. Compared with a normative group of patients treated at the same facility participants in the prayer study experienced a delay in drinking reduction. Those who reported at baseline that a family member or friend was already praying for them were found to be drinking significantly more at 6 months than were those who reported being unaware of anyone praying for them. Greater frequency of prayer by the participants themselves was associated with less drinking, but only at months 2 and 3.

Conclusion: Intercessory prayer did not demonstrate clinical benefit in the treatment of alcohol abuse and dependence under these study conditions. Prayer may be a complex phenomenon with many interacting variables.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / therapy*
  • Complementary Therapies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Religion and Medicine
  • Religion*