Primum non nocere (First, Do No Harm): Prayer, Culture, and Evidence-Based Practice

D.E. Allyn, BS, RN, PHN


Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2007;7(2) 

In This Article

The Relevance of Prayer

Culturally knowledgeable and compassionate care supports and preserves valued traditions that give meaning to people's lives. Acknowledgment and maintenance of the client's cultural traditions show respect for the person. Even though recent evidence-based trials have concluded that there is no empirical benefit to intercessory prayer, an intrinsic benefit remains in supporting the client's desire to engage in this practice.

Given the multiplicity of ethnic populations that now present in our practices, the use of prayer as an intervention has particular relevance. Respect for practitioners of diverse religions is essential to promote the clients' health and well-being, support them through illness, and affirm their autonomy.[1,2] Although systematic reviews on intercessory prayer (IP) have found that it is ineffective,[3,4,5,6] praying with the client has merit if he of she expects or requests it.

Introspective internal prayer is but one form of prayer. IP is praying on behalf of another person's welfare.[7] Since prayer is an empirical entity that is espoused to exert actual effects in the real world and not just the supernatural one, it represents a testable phenomenon. Thus, prayer can be subject to scientific investigation.[8]


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