Book Review: “The Psychology of Prayer”

9781462506958

By Josephine Hauer

HauerThe Psychology of Prayer: A Scientific Approach, by Bernard Spilka and Kevin L. Ladd, New York: The Guilford Press, 2012. Excerpted from the Journal of Unification Studies, Vol. XIV, 2013. Dr. Hauer (UTS Class of 1990) is a family specialist with the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Psychology of Prayer: A Scientific Approach offers a dense yet remarkably useful tour de force through the last 30 years of social scientific research on prayer. It is a major contribution that highlights the expanding role of prayer in the psychology of religion. While authors Bernard Spilka and Kevin Ladd view prayer as a critically important personal religious activity, their discussion is uncompromisingly scientific and offers substantive insights and recommendations for an empirical study of this rich human experience. Locating prayer as a psychological phenomenon, the authors offer a straightforward conceptualization: “Prayer is the psychology of religion in action and literally reflects virtually every facet of behavioral scientific psychology, from its neural roots to complex social responsivity.”

This book is a useful introduction to the various ways researchers have approached prayer psychologically. My own experience of prayer seems to be more expansive than the categories covered, but this is understandable since empirical approaches necessarily slice up experience into quantifiable pieces. People have been praying for thousands of years, and it is heartening to see that social scientists are beginning to chart this vast territory replete with religious and psychological meanings.

Spilka and Ladd accomplish a remarkable undertaking, given the range of studies critically scrutinized. As respected leaders in this field, these authors stake out prayer’s central place in the psychology of religion….

⇒ Click to read the full book review from the 2013 Journal of Unification Studies.

Continue Reading→