The Relational and Affective Experience Within Transformation: Examining the Role of Prayer


Laura E. Rold

Publication Date



Spirituality and health is a burgeoning area of research, yet the nature of spirituality and its specific practices are often overlooked. In this study, prayer was placed within a model of relational spirituality (Sandage & Shults, 2007) to explore one practice through which transformation occurs. It was expected that prayer associated with transformation was a relational, interactive process including both positive and negative emotions. In a sample of culturally diverse congregants from Presbyterian and Pentecostal churches (N = 74), 71% of participants described prayer as playing a meaningful role in a transformative worship experience. Ethnic differences were found, with the highest amount of positive emotion words used by Caucasians and the fewest among African Americans. Moreover, Korean participants presented the lowest frequency of prayer descriptions but the highest proportion of communal references. An analyses of covariance revealed that both interpersonal language and negative emotions were significantly higher in those for whom confession and forgiveness played a role. Exploratory analysis revealed Reception as the most common form of prayer, and 59% of those who described prayer presented elements of both seeking and receiving, engaging in prayer as an interaction. Prayers involving emotional struggle occurred with more positive prayers roughly 80% of the time, supporting the notion that prayer is an emotionally complex experience. Participants referred to approaches of prayer not typically included in other prayer studies (e.g., Examination and Relinquishment). This study highlights the significant role prayer plays in transformation, supporting a more interactive and emotionally complex experience than seen in previous studies. Further research might benefit from focusing on how culture and a worship service context specifically contribute to the relational nature of prayer.

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (PsyD)

First Advisor

Abernethy, Alexis D.

Document Type





Prayer, Psychology, Presbyterian Church




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