“Lord, Teach Us to Pray”: Prayer Practice Affects Cognitive Processing

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
View More View Less
  • 1 aDepartment of Anthropology Main Quad, Building 50, 450 Serra Mall, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-2034, USA bDepartment of Psychology, The University of Chicago, 5848 S. University Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637, USA cDepartment of Health Studies, The University of Chicago,5841 South Maryland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637, USA * Corresponding author, e-mail:
Download Citation Get Permissions

Access options

Get access to the full article by using one of the access options below.

Institutional Login

Log in with Open Athens, Shibboleth, or your institutional credentials

Login via Institution


Buy instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):



A secular observer might assume that prayer practice affects those who pray by making the cognitive concepts about God more salient to their lives. Those who pray, however, often talk as if prayer practice – and in particular, kataphatic (imagination-based) prayer – changes something about their experience of their own minds. This study examined the effect of kataphatic prayer on mental imagery vividness, mental imagery use, visual attention and unusual sensory experience. Christians were randomly assigned to two groups: kataphatic prayer or Bible study. Both groups completed computerized mental imagery tasks and an interview before and after a one month period of practice. The results indicate that the prayer group experienced increased mental imagery vividness, increased use of mental imagery, increased attention to objects that were the focus of attention, and more unusual sensory experience, including unusual religious experience, although there were substantial individual differences. These findings suggest that prayer practice may be associated with changes in cognitive processing.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 835 252 8
Full Text Views 346 24 0
PDF Views & Downloads 168 53 0