Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer - STEP


The goal of the trial was to evalute the effect of intercessory prayer on recover after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.

Study Design

Study Design:

Patients Screened: 3295
Patients Enrolled: 1802
Mean Follow Up: 30 days
Mean Patient Age: Mean age 64 years
Female: 29

Patient Populations:

Scheduled for nonemergent CABG


Scheduled for emergent CABG, CABG >14 days after enrollment, other planned surgery within 30 days of CABG, minimally invasive CABG, ongoing chest pain, unstable angina, or CABG with planned valve replacement, stent, angioplasty, or carotid endarterectomy.

Primary Endpoints:

Any postoperative complication within 30 days of CABG

Secondary Endpoints:

Any major event as defined by the New York State Cardiac Surgery Reporting System and 30-day mortality.

Drug/Procedures Used:

Patients were randomized intercessory prayer, being told they may or may not receive prayer (IP-uncertain; n=604), no intercessory prayer, being told they may or may not receive prayer (no IP-uncertain; n=597), or intercessory prayer, being told they will receive prayer (IP-certain; n=601). Prayer was performed by 3 Christian groups in the United States, starting the night before surgery and continuing for 14 days.

Principal Findings:

Baseline characteristics were well balanced between the three groups. Approximately 80% of patients stated they had a religious affiliation. Off pump CABG was performed in 13% of patients. Mean cross clamp time was approximately 65 minutes. Prayer was performed by the intercessors from 1-4 times per day for 30 seconds to several hours.

There was no difference in the primary endpoint of any complication within 30 days among those uncertain of prayer status (52% for IP-uncertain vs 51% for no IP-uncertain, p=0.67). Patients randomized to IP who knew they were receiving IP actually had a higher primary event rate (58.6%, p=0.025 vs the IP-uncertain group). For the endpoint of major event by 30 days, higher rates occurred in the IP-uncertain group than the no-IP uncertain group (18% vs 13%, p=0.027). Major event occurred in 14% of the IP-certain group (p=0.065 vs IP-uncertain). There was no difference in mortality at 30 days in any group (2.6% for IP-uncertain, 2.4% for no IP-uncertain, 2.2% for IP-certain).


Among patients undergoing CABG surgery, intercessory prayer, whether known or unknown, was not associated with reduced complications through 30 days compared with no intercessory prayer.

Few studies have evaluated the impact of intercessory prayer in a randomized, blinded manner. Two prior studies did show improved outcomes in cardiac patients with intercessory prayer, but these studies included a broader population of coronary care unit patients, not CABG patients specifically. The present study makes no conclusion on the effect of prayer by family or friends, only on intercessory prayer by strangers.


Benson H, et al. Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: A multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer. Am Heart J 2006;151:934-42.

Clinical Topics: Cardiac Surgery, Invasive Cardiovascular Angiography and Intervention

Keywords: Coronary Care Units, Saphenous Vein, Religion, Coronary Artery Bypass, Christianity

< Back to Listings