SSE Talks


The Effect Of Intercessory Prayer On Wound Healing In Nonhuman Primates
May 12, 2010 at 3:00 PM EST | K. LESNIAK


Karen Lesniak


Intercessory Prayer (IP) has been examined as a healing modality in various medical conditions. Though the findings across conditions are equivocal, several studies have shown positive health effects of IP on a variety of outcome measures. The study of IP remains controversial. Little is known about the physiologic mechanisms underlying these potentially IP-induced health improvements. Multiple methodologic concerns have also been noted regarding these studies related to social, cognitive and other psychological factors of the human participants, attributing positive health effects to these confounders rather than a direct result of the IP intervention. To avoid the confounding effects inherent in IP studies with human subjects, this study examined hematologic, immunologic, neuroendocrine, and behavioral mechanisms that may be related to improved wound healing in nonhuman primates (Garnett‘s greater bushbabies) that were receiving oral L-Tryptophan for treatment of chronic self-injurious behaviors. IP initiation, conducted in a double-blind, randomized manner and on a daily basis for four weeks by experienced prayer intercessors, was coincident with onset of L-Tryptophan administration. Following IP/L-Tryptophan treatment, prayer group animals had greater reduction in wound size than non-prayer animals. Changes were found in several physiological and behavioral variables. Prayer group animals had greater increase of red blood cells, hemoglobin, and hematocrit, greater reduction of both mean corpuscular hemoglobin and corpuscular volume, as well as reduction in wound grooming and total grooming behaviors than non-prayer group animals. These results are consistent with prior findings of IP effectiveness and may provide direction for further study of IP-induced health improvements in both human and animal models.


Karen Lesniak is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology department at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, CA. Dr. Lesniak has life-long interest in the relationship of the body, mind, and spirit to health, first pursuing graduate studies during the 1980s in exercise science, health promotion, and psychology. Following many years of working with medical patients, and in the areas of health promotion and health behavior change, she then received her Ph.D. in Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine from the University of North Texas in 2000. Though Dr. Lesniak‘s research is in several areas, she has particular interest in the role of spirituality and religious practices on health outcomes. In addition to her academic career, Dr. Lesniak has worked in major medical centers in Mississippi, Texas, Wisconsin, and southern California where she has engaged in biopsychosocial-spiritually based patient care, clinical training, and clinical program development.




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