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Abstract

Prayer is one of the most common religious activities practiced by Americans. In this review, I make the argument that prayer is a social psychological phenomenon that scholars should treat as such. After a discussion of the use of prayer as a proxy for overall religiosity and a brief excursus on current typologies of prayer, I provide three main arguments for the claim that prayer is a social psychological phenomenon. First, I review evidence that prayer is a legitimate social interaction with “imagined others” that shares many characteristics with and involves the same cognitive and interactional processes as human-human interactions. Second, I review evidence that shows that individuals’ social positions influence the frequency of prayer. Third, I review evidence that prayer influences social action through psychological and interactional processes.