Luhrmann, Tanya. 2013. Making God real and making God good: Some mechanisms through which prayer may contribute to healing. Transcultural Psychiatry published online 21 June (Early View). DOI: 10.1177/1363461513487670.
Abstract: Many social scientists attribute the health-giving properties of religious practice to social support. This paper argues that another mechanism may be a positive relationship with the supernatural, a proposal that builds upon anthropological accounts of symbolic healing. Such a mechanism depends upon the learned cultivation of the imagination and the capacity to make what is imagined more real and more good. This paper offers a theory of the way that prayer enables this process and provides some evidence, drawn from experimental and ethnographic work, for the claim that a relationship with a loving God, cultivated through the imagination in prayer, may contribute to good health and may contribute to healing in trauma and psychosis.