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The use of intentional prayer to influence Christian married couples' perception of their relationship

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The use of intentional prayer to influence Christian married couples' perception of their relationship
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Smylie, Kenneth Lee
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Anxiety ( jstor )
Children ( jstor )
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Emotional intimacy ( jstor )
Emotional maturity ( jstor )
Prayer ( jstor )
Psychology of religion ( jstor )
Religion ( jstor )
Spirituals ( jstor )
Wellbeing ( jstor )

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THE USE OF INTENTIONAL PRAYER TO INFLUENCE CHRISTIAN MARRIED
COUPLES' PERCEPTION OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP.














By

KENNETH LEE SMYLIE


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2003






























Copyright 2003

by

Kenneth Lee Smylie















APPENDIX C
INFORMED CONSENT FORM

Dear Christian Friend,
I am a graduate student in the Department of Counselor Education at the
University of Florida, conducting research for my dissertation under the supervision of
Dr. Harry Daniels. The purpose of this study is to determine whether intentional prayer
influences Christian married couples' perception about the quality of their relationships.
The results of this study may help family therapists to understand how prayer may be
used as an aid in helping Christian marriages. Although these results may or may not
benefit you or your mate at the present, they may benefit future Christian couples while
in counseling.
Couples will be assigned to either an experimental or control group. Couples
assigned to the experimental group will be asked to pray out loud together on a daily
basis to ask God to enrich and/or enhance their relationship. Couples may satisfy the
experimental requirement through the use of free form prayer or by using a scripted
prayer that will be provided. Both the example prayer and the outline for the free form
prayer will ask God to bless, affirm, love and value the mate of the one who prays.
Couples in the control group will be asked to live their lives as they normally do for the
next 30 days. You will be requested to complete a packet of relationship measures at the
beginning and the end of a 30 day and 60 day period. The expected time to complete the
measurement packet is a little over an hour. All of the items on each of the measures are
designed to seek your perspective. There are no right or wrong answers to any item.
Nonetheless, you do not have to answer any question you do not wish to answer. Your
identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by the law. I will replace names
with code numbers, and identifying information will be kept locked until the study is
complete. At the end of the study, any identifying information will be destroyed.








You and you mate have the right to withdraw your consent at any time without
consequence. There are no known risks or immediate benefits to the participants. No
compensation is offered for participation. Group results will be available when the study
is complete upon request.
If you have any questions about this research project, please contact me at 374-
6585 or my supervisor, Dr. Harry Daniels at 392-0731. My campus address is
Department of Counselor Education, 1215 Norman Hall, Gainesville, FL, 32611-7046.
Questions or concerns about research participant's rights may be directed to the
UFIRB office, University of Florida, Box 112250, Gainesville, FL 32611, (352) 392-
0433.


Thank you.
Kenneth L. Smylie, Ed.S.



I have read the procedure described above. I agree to participate in the procedure. I have
received a copy of this description.
(Husband) (Date)
(Wife) (Date)
(Witness) (Date)














ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I wish to express my appreciation to Dr. M. Harry Daniels for chairing my

committee and guiding me in the writing process of this written work. I also wish to

thank Dr. David Miller, Dr. Silvia Doan, and Dr. Woodrow M. Parker for serving on my

committee.

I am grateful to my wonderful children, my son Scott and his wife Nichole and my

daughter Tiffany, who have encouraged me on this journey.

I thank my faithful wife Marki for her continued encouragement and emotional

support in completing this project.

Finally, I thank my good friend Jesus for his continued kindness to me and special

help in this endeavor.















TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS..........................................................................1i

LIST OF TABLES ................................................................................................................. vii

AB STRACT .......................................................................................................................... viii

CHAPTER

I INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................ 1

Overview ............................................................................................................................ 1
Statem ent of the Problem ................................................................................................ 7
Purpose of the Study ................................................................................................... 8
Theoretical Basis of the Study ......................................................................................... 9
Significance ..................................................................................................................... 14
Research Questions ..................................................................................................... 15
Lim itations of the Study ............................................................................................... 17
Definitions ....................................................................................................................... 17

2 REVIEW OF RELATED LITERA TURE .................................................................... 19

Investigations of Spirituality, Prayer and W ell-Being ................................................... 19
Physical W ell-Being .......................................................................................... 20
Psychological W ell-Being .................................................................................. 24
Couple Comm unication .............................................................................................. 30
Spiritual M aturity and Spiritual W ell-Being ................................................................ 39
Summ ary ......................................................................................................................... 44

3 M ETHODOLOGY .......................................................................................................... 46

Dependent Variables ................................................................................................... 46
Independent Variables ................................................................................................. 48
Participants ...................................................................................................................... 49
Experim ental Design .................................................................................................... 50
Procedures ....................................................................................................................... 51
Treatm ent Procedures ................................................................................................. 51
M easurem ent Procedures ............................................................................................ 54








Experiences in Close Relationship Inventory ............................................................. 60
Religious M aturity Scale ............................................................................................. 62
Spiritual M aturity Index ............................................................................................... 65
Spiritual W ell-Being Scale .......................................................................................... 67
Helpfulness of Prayer Scale ........................................................................................ 69
Research Questions ...................................................................................................... 70
Data Analyses .................................................................................................................. 71

4 DATA ANALYSES AND RESULTS .......................................................................... 73

Description of Sample .................................................................................................. 73
Description of Data ........................................................................................................... 75
Research Questions ........................................................................................................... 76
Summary ............................................................................................. 86

5 DISCUSSION .................................................................................................................. 87

Summary of the Study .................................................................................................. 87
Results .............................................................................................................................. 89
Conclusions ...................................................................................................................... 92
Implications for Future Research ................................................................................... 93
Limitations of this Study .............................................................................................. 94

APPENDIX

A INVITATION .................................................................................................................. 96

B DESCRIPTION OF THE STUDY ............................................................................... 98

C INFORM ED CONSENT FORM .................................................................................... 100

D INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD APPROVAL FORM .......................................... 103

E FREE FORM PRAYER OUTLINE ................................................................................ 104

F M ODEL PRAYER FORM ............................................................................................. 105

G TRACKING FORM ....................................................................................................... 107

H FAM ILY ASSESSM ENT M EASURE ........................................................................... 108

I FAM SUBSCALES ........................................................................................................ 110

J DEM OGRAPHIC INFORM ATION ............................................................................... 111

K SPIRITUAL M ATURITY INDEX ................................................................................ 112


v








L EXPERIENCES IN CLOSE RELATIONSHIP INVENTORY ...................................... 114

M SPIRITUAL WELL-BEING SCALE ............................................................................ 116

N RELIGIOUS MATURITY SCALE ................................................................................ 117

O HELPFULNESS OF PRAYER SCALE ......................................................................... 118

P SUMMARY TABLE FOR MEANS AND STARDARD DEVIATIONS ........................ 120

Q RELIABILITY ESTIMATES ......................................................................................... 121

LIST OF REFERENCES ...................................................................................................... 122

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................................................................................ 133














LIST OF TABLES


Table page

1 Comparison of years married ......................................................................... 74

2 Comparison of number of children per couple ............................................... 75

3 Comparison of number of children in home per couple .................................. 75

4 Summary table for the results of the Pearson Correlations .............................. 76

5 Summary table for the results of ANCOVA for interpersonal communication .... 78

6 Summary table for the results of ANCOVA for affective expression .............. 79

7 Summary table for the results of ANCOVA for affective involvement ....... 80

8 Summary table for the results of ANCOVA for avoidance ............................. 82

9 Summary table for the results of ANCOVA for anxiety ................................ 83

10 Summary table for the results of ANCOVA for religious well-being .............. 84

11 Summary table for the results of ANCOVA for existential well-being ........... 85

12 Summary table for the results of ANCOVA for helpfulness of prayer scale ........ 86














Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

THE USE OF INTENTIONAL PRAYER
TO INFLUENCE CHRISTIAN MARRIED COUPLES' PERCEPTION
OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP

By

Kenneth Lee Smylie

August, 2003

Chair: M. Harry Daniels
Major Department: Counselor Education

The purpose of this study was to investigate prayer as a therapeutic tool that

counselors may use in serving their clients. Specifically, this study examined whether

prayer improves Christian married couples' perception of the quality of their relationship.

The critical questions addressed in this investigation were the following: When couples

pray together, is their perception of the quality of their marital relationship modified and

how? Related to this question were two parallel questions. First, does couples' level of

spiritual maturity differentially mediate the benefits of praying together? Second, are

there specific characteristics among couples whose marital relationship improves as a

result of the intervention and those who do not.

Christian married couples from fifteen churches in north central Florida

participated in this study. In all, fifty-one couples participated in the study (102

individuals), and were randomly assigned to either the experimental or control condition.








There were twenty-five couples in the experimental group and twenty-six couples in the

control group. Change in the perceived quality of Christian married couples' relationship

was assessed by published measures of interpersonal communication, affective

expression, affective involvement, avoidance of emotional intimacy, anxiety in emotional

closeness, religious well-being and existential well-being. The experimental design for

this study was a pretest-posttest control group design with repeated measures and random

assignment.

The analysis of the data yielded mixed results. Specifically, no significant

differences for main or interaction effects were observed for interpersonal

communication, affective expression, affective involvement, anxiety about emotional

closeness and religious well-being. In contrast, significant findings were observed

between the covariate of spiritual maturity and the dependent variable of existential well-

being, and the covariate of the number of children at home and the dependent variable of

avoidance of emotional intimacy.














CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

Overview

Conflict in marriage is inevitable. Given the differences inherent in being male

and female, in coming from different family backgrounds, expressing cultural differences

and religious differences it is not surprising that married couples have conflicts. Within

the context of their marriage couples struggle to find ways to deal both with the

differences and the conflicts, including working with marriage and family counselors.

Marriage and family counselors use a variety of therapeutic strategies to help couples

address and resolve conflict. Traditionally, marriage and family counselors have

employed a rational perspective as the primary lens for viewing and understanding

relationships in conflict. As a result, most intervention strategies have been primarily

empirical in perspective.

Researchers in the helping profession have historically chosen not to explore the

realm of human spirituality (Bergin, 1992; Ellison & Smith, 1991; Finney & Malony,

1985; Griffith, 1986; Poloma & Pendleton, 1991; Sirch-Stasko, 1996). Spirituality, as

used in the present study, is the transcendental relationship between a person and a

Higher Being (Richards & Bergin, 1997). Different reasons for this practice have been

proposed. Moberg (1971) points to a practical concern over church-state separation in

institutions receiving federal funds. Targ (1999) and others (Finney & Malony, 1985;

McBride, Arthur, Brooks & Pilkington, 1998) assert the reason is the historic rift between








science and theology. Historically, spirituality has been seen as being opposed to the

scientific way of thinking. This perspective has limited the view of counseling toward

spirituality and more particularly the practice of prayer as an expression of human

spirituality (Bergin, 1992; Dossey, 1993; Ellison & Smith, 1991; Greeley, 1991; Griffith,

1986). Generally, spirituality and prayer have been under studied in therapeutic literature

(Barnhouse, 1979; Bergin, 1992; Griffith, 1986; Poloma & Pendleton, 1991; Torrey,

1986).

The marriage and family therapy profession, like other professions that are

dedicated toward understanding human behavior and promoting individual growth and

development, has seen itself as a science that is primarily empirical in its approach.

Within this tradition, therapeutic movements have been built upon a Newtonian

worldview that excludes spiritual perspectives (Bergin, 1992). The Newtonian

worldview is understood as mechanistic, deterministic and reductionistic. According to

Boring (1950) and others (Anderson & Worthen, 1997; Bergin, 1992; Ellison & Smith,

1991; Genia, 1992; Poloma & Pendleton, 1991; Ross, 1994; Stander, Piercy, Mackinnon

& Helmeke, 1994; Quackenbos, Privette & Klentz, 1985) the decision to exclude spiritual

perspectives from the domain of scientific inquiry was done for good historical reasons

emanating from the philosophical rift between science and religion. Nonetheless, the

decision to emphasize a mechanistic model provided a structure and stimulus for

advances in the study of human behavior that, given the historical context, probably

would not otherwise have occurred (Ellison & Smith, 1991; Wolpe, 1958).

Despite some advantages, such as a primary focus on that which is intrinsically

measurable, mechanistic theories of human behavior failed to provide a comprehensive








account of human functioning for a variety of reasons (Ellison & Smith, 1991). For

example, Polkinghorne (1983) asserts that the methodology of the natural sciences is

inadequate for studying human phenomena because it fails to address the fullness of

human experience, including values, meaning and perception. In addition, mechanistic

models do not account for the spiritual dimension of being human. Consequently,

alternative models for thinking about the complexities of human behavior have gradually

developed. These new models are expanding the parameters of inquiry to include new

concepts and explanations of human behavior, including the human spiritual dimension

(Anderson & Worthen, 1997; Bergin, 1992; Genia, 1992; Ross, 1994; Stander, Piercy,

Mackinnon & Helmeke, 1994).

Humanism is an illustration of an alternative position moving in the direction of

more openness to the human spiritual dimension. The humanistic movement as reflected

in the writings of Maslow (1971), Rogers (1951) and Yalom (1980) emphasizes a

different view of human nature and of the change process. In contrast to the determinism

of the Newtonian model the humanists adopted a more naturalistic position that

emphasized the importance of understanding the natural sequence of growth and

development of human potential (Richards & Bergin, 1997). For example, Rogers (1951)

taught that human self-actualization is the most prevalent and motivating drive of

existence and encompasses actions that influence the total person. The humanistic model

opened a new vision of human potentialities that liberated human behavior studies from

their mechanical strictures but it did not include the important spiritual dimension of the

human condition (Anderson & Worthen, 1997; Bergin, 1992).








Cognitive psychology provides an additional illustration of the move toward

achieving a more complete understanding of what it means to be fully human (Bandura,

1986). Cognitive psychology represents an important bridge in that it has brought the

rigor of science together with an expanded range of behaviors to be studied. The

cognitive movement created a space for serious discussion of topics like personal agency

and self-control, as opposed to control by biology or environment (Richards & Bergin,

1997). The cognitive movement has contributed to the shift away from mechanism by

combining social, cognitive, and affective variables with rigorous research (Bandura,

1986). For example, researchers of the cognitive psychology tradition challenged

deterministic and reductionistic views of human beings with their emphasis on the

interdependence of cognition, affect, and behavior and their belief that human beings can

change the way they feel and behave by changing their thinking (Ellis, 1973).

The developmental and wellness system approach, with its concern for growth

and for health as opposed to pathology, derived strength from the humanistic movement

and in turn strongly reinforced the basic trends in humanistic theories (Bergin, 1992). The

developmental/wellness perspective to counseling is based on stages that various

personality theorists have outlined that people go through as a normal part of human

growth. Counseling from this perspective is based on whether a problem a client is

having is based on a developmental task of life. Behaviors that are appropriate at one

stage of life may not be seen as healthy at another stage of life (Gladding, 1998).

Wellness goes even further than development in emphasizing the positive nature and

health of human beings (Myers, 1992). Both the humanistic movement and the

counseling and development field have been influential streams in therapeutic thought








and have provided support for the new spiritual perspectives that are developing. These

illustrations indicate that within counseling in general, and marriage and family

counseling in particular, there is a growing interest in explaining the complexities of

human behavior, including the consideration of factors that previously have not been the

focus of scientific inquiry, such as spirituality.

In contrast to behavioral scientists' historic reluctance to acknowledge the

importance of spirituality and prayer a recent poll (Sheler, 1994) found that 93% of

Americans say they believe in God or a universal spirit (Poloma & Smith, 1991). Of

those polled 62% said religion is increasing its influence in their personal lives. Seventy-

six percent of those polled believe God is a heavenly father who can be reached by

prayer. Similarly, a later poll (Woodward, 1997) on Americans and prayer reported 87%

believe God answers prayers. Of those polled 82% ask for health or success for a child or

family member when they pray. Seventy-five percent report they ask for strength to

overcome personal weaknesses. In a separate poll Greeley (1991) found that 32% of

American husbands and wives pray together often. Steinken (1992) reports on a study

that found the best predictor of whether or not a couple is happy together is joint prayer.

From these polls it becomes clear that there is a difference in what is reported as

important to the American public and the areas of historic interest in the scientific

community (Anderson & Worthen, 1997). The scientific therapeutic literature has under

studied a decidedly important aspect of the American human experience (Ellison, 1983;

McBride, Arthur, Brooks & Pilkington, 1998; Richards, 1991; Poloma & Pendleton,

1991).








Paralleling the documented popular interest in spirituality and prayer, a new

openness to it is presently occurring in scientific studies being conducted in the field of

medicine (King & Bushwick, 1994; McBride, Arthur, Brooks & Pilkington, 1998; Targ,

1999). Medical studies are showing that prayer is effective in promoting physical

recovery and healing of the body (Schlitz & Lewis, 2001; Targ, 1999). Prayer is

understood as an outward expression of a person's inward spirituality and the terms are

used interchangeably throughout this paper. Dossey (1993) reports positive results in his

research on the effects of prayer, or what is now being called "distant intention." He

reports the results of a double blind experiment with people admitted to a coronary care

unit. Patients who were the focus of distant intention (prayer) had fewer complications

and required less medication than the people in the control group who did not receive

prayer. In another study Sicher, Targ, Moore, and Smith (1998) found that being prayed

for at a distance had a significant positive impact on AIDS patients health and well-being.

Currently there are over one hundred and fifty studies in progress exploring how prayer is

effective as a therapeutic medicine for the physically sick (Schlitz & Lewis, 2001; Volz,

1999).

Additionally, in the field of psychology, marriage and family counseling

researchers are asserting spirituality, and specifically prayer, is a resource that is effective

with helping some couples experiencing conflict. For example, Butler, Gardener, and

Bird (1998) found that religious couples used prayer as a spiritual resource to help soften

the hurt and tension between spouses in conflict. In this qualitative study, Butler et al.

used structured interviews of religious couples to investigate effects of prayer on couple

interaction during conflict. Their findings suggest that prayer invokes a couple-God








system, which significantly influences couple interaction during conflict (Butler et al.

1998; Greely, 1991; Griffith, 1986). A couple-God system or triangle is developed by the

couple through their shared belief system concerning their deity, including their

understanding of their God's interest and involvement in the marriage, and in this manner

God becomes a functional member of the marital system. Butler and Harper (1994)

identify prayer as a method for the couple to establish, maintain, and interpret their triadic

relationship with their Deity. For these religious couples, the spiritual domain stands

alongside the biological, psychological, and systemic domains as an influence and

mechanism for change.

My own experience is comparable to the work cited. In thirty-two years of

ministry I have often recommended prayer as a way of dealing with the stresses of life.

Often congregation members would report that prayer was a help to them in handling the

challenges of life. I have been encouraged to hear their positive reports of the

effectiveness of prayer. I, personally, have found comfort, guidance and encouragement

through prayer. I have often employed it in the stresses and conflicts in my own

marriage. Congregants have shared with me that they too employ prayer as a resource in

managing the stresses of their marriage.

Statement of the Problem

There is a disparity between people's views about the centrality of spirituality in

their lives, as expressed in prayer, and the attention it has received from behavioral

researchers (Anderson & Worthen, 1997; Poloma & Pendleton, 1991; Richards & Bergin,

1997; Ross, 1994; Stander, Piercy, Mackinnon & Helmeke, 1994). People acknowledge

an appreciation of the spiritual dimension of prayer in their lives. In contrast, behavioral








researchers, because of their reliance on the traditional scientific paradigm, have limited

their opportunity to fully focus on such matters (Gorsuch, 1984). Notwithstanding the

historic tradition, there is now emerging a body of research that is investigating

spirituality and prayer and how it relates to psychological well-being (Poloma &

Pendleton, 1991; Stander, Piercy, Mackinnon & Helmeke, 1994; Warfield & Goldstein,

1996). This line of research is consistent with Gorsuch's (1984) suggestion that "It may

... be time to broaden the [research] paradigm to include other, less traditional

approaches" (p. 228). From this perspective, it would be appropriate to investigate how

the psychological well-being of couples is enhanced through their use of prayer.

Purpose of the Study

Helping couples adjust to the vicissitudes of their relational life is a major concern of

marriage and family counselors. Traditionally counselors have offered to couples

therapeutic conversations, enrichment retreats, workshops and conferences as

interventions to help them adjust to life's challenges together. The purpose of this study is

to investigate yet another tool that counselors may use in serving their clients.

Specifically, this study will examine whether prayer improves married Christian couples'

perception of the quality of their relationship. The critical questions to be addressed in

this investigation are the following: When couples pray together, is their perception of the

quality of their marital relationship modified and how? Related to this question, I am

interested in answering two parallel questions. First, does couples' level of spiritual

maturity differentially mediate the benefits of praying together? Second, are there

specific characteristics among couples whose marital relationship improves as a result of








the intervention and those who do not? The intent is to determine if the couples'

perception of their relationship changed or not through the use of prayer.

Theoretical Basis of the Study

This investigation is about the interpersonal relationship and personal well-being

of Christian couples and whether their interpersonal relationship and personal well-being

is influenced by prayer. The theoretical bases of this study rest upon the foundations

found in couples' communication, relationship intimacy, well-being and spiritual and

religious maturity. For purposes of this study it is assumed these four theoretical notions

mold and shape the couple's experience and perception of their relationship.

Within the context of family counseling, relational theories emphasize the

importance of married couples' communication (Brock & Barnard, 1992; Gladding,

1998; Gottman, Notarious, Gonso & Markman, 1976; Jacobson & Holtzworth-Munroe,

1986; Olson & McCubbin, 1983; Satir, 1972; Skinner, Steinhauser & Santa-Barbara,

1995; Steinhauer, Santa-Barbara, & Skinner, 1984). Effective communication is a central

feature to the success of every marital couple. For example, effective communication is

defined as the achievement of mutual understanding, so that the message received is the

same as the message intended. If the message is clear, direct, and sufficient, then mutual

understanding is likely to occur. The Process Model of Family Functioning as developed

by Steinhauer et al. (1984) serves as a practical example of relational theory.

Effective couple communication is an essential feature of the Process Model of

Family Functioning and includes affective expression and affective involvement

(Steinhauer et al., 1984). This model asserts that task accomplishment is the goal of every

family. Tasks are understood as the demands of life that the family must organize itself








to meet. Examples of family tasks include allowing for the continued development of all

family members, providing reasonable security, ensuring sufficient cohesion to maintain

the family as a unit, and functioning effectively as part of society. Successful

achievement of a variety of basic, developmental, and crisis tasks is accomplished

through clear communication. In the Process Model of Family Functioning two essential

features of family communication are affective expression and affective involvement.

These two features recognize the emotional element in communication and reflect the

degree of comfort with intimacy in the couple's relationship.

Effective couple communication is highly associated with couple intimacy and

attachment. The relationship between couple intimacy and attachment has been

investigated empirically by Brennan, Clark and Shaver (1998). Theoretically, intimacy in

a couple relationship is described by the amount of avoidance of closeness and the

amount of anxiety that arises from closeness in an adult attachment (Brennan et al.,

1998). The two dimensions of anxiety and avoidance underlie virtually all self-report

adult attachment measures and appear crucial for capturing important individual

differences in adult attachment. Individual differences in adult attachment behavior are

reflections of the expectations and beliefs people have formed about themselves and their

close relationships on the basis of their early in life attachment histories (Crowell, Fraley

& Shaver, 1999). According to Hazan and Shaver (1987) working models of attachment

continue to guide and shape close relationship behavior throughout life. As people build

new relationships, they rely partly on previous expectations about how others are likely to

behave and feel towards them, and they use these models to interpret the goals or

intentions of their partners. The theory suggests that early caregiving experiences








influence how people behave in their adult relationships and their experiences of

intimacy. Potentially one of the highest forms of couple intimacy between a married

couple is intentional prayer (Giblin, 1993).

Couple intimacy and attachment as an expression of human relationships

represent a subset of one's overall sense of psychological well-being (Ellison, 1983;

Paloutzian & Ellison, 1982). A person's sense of psychological well-being is a

foundational element in self-identity and expresses a subjective sense of quality of life.

Spiritual well-being represents a second subset of one's overall sense of psychological

well-being. A person's sense of spiritual well-being can serve as a global psychological

assessment of one's perception of self (Paloutzian & Ellison, 1982). Paloutzian and

Ellison (1982) conceptualize spiritual well-being differently than spiritual health or

spiritual maturity. Spiritual well-being is seen to arise from an underlying state of

spiritual health and is an expression of it, much like the color of one's complexion and

pulse rate are expressions of good health (Ellison, 1983). Spiritual well-being differs

from spiritual maturity though it is expected that a spiritually mature person would

experience a very positive sense of well-being. Yet a person newly awakened to the

spiritual dimension may experience a very positive sense of spiritual well-being but at a

lower level of spiritual maturity (Ellison, 1983). Spiritual well-being describes a state of

being while spiritual maturity describes a developmental process. Spiritual well-being

involves transcendence by focusing on well-being in relation to that which lies beyond

oneself. Moberg (1978) has conceptualized spiritual well-being as two-faceted, with both

vertical and horizontal components. The vertical dimension refers to our sense of well-

being in relation to God. The horizontal dimension refers to a sense of life purpose and








life satisfaction, with no reference to anything specifically religious. In a marriage each

spouse's spiritual sense of well-being is experienced by the other and is manifested in the

dyadic communication and intimacy comfort. A study by Ellison (1983) found that the

average amount of time spent per daily devotion (prayer) was significantly related to

overall spiritual well-being. Intentional prayer can be a reflection of each spouse's level

of spiritual sense of well-being.

As noted above, spiritual well-being differs from spiritual maturity. Spiritual well-

being describes a state of being while spiritual maturity describes a developmental

process (Paloutzian & Ellison, 1982). Married couples' spiritual and religious maturity

levels are reflections of the developmental growth of the human spiritual dimension

(Dudley and Cruise, 1990; Ellison, 1984). For example, Bufford (as cited in Basset et al.,

1991) found a direct relationship between spiritual maturity and intrinsic faith and an

inverse relationship between spiritual maturity and extrinsic faith. Extrinsic faith or

religion is an orientation that merely uses religion as a means to gain other personal

goals. Intrinsic faith or religion is an orientation that defines religion as a controlling

force in life consisting of a set of internalized principles that guide all interactions

(Allport, 1960, 1966; Allport & Ross, 1976; Dudley & Cruise, 1990). An alternative but

similar formulation is the difference between consensual and committed religion

described by Allen and Spilka (1967). Measurement of spiritual maturity and religious

maturity from the psychological perspective informs questions concerning prayer and its

potential in positively affecting interpersonal relationships. Spirituality and its

externalized expression in religion are seen as essential aspects of the human experience

in its continuous developmental process and shape a couple's perception of their









relationship. Spiritual and religious maturity levels indicate how people of differing

maturity levels benefit differently from the use of intentional prayer.

Finally, the essential element of this study is prayer. Yet, just what is this

phenomenon called prayer? William James (1902/1936) defines it as "every kind of

inward communication or conversation with the power recognized as divine" (p. 454).

Meadow and Kahoe (1984) assert that prayer can be offered in spoken or unspoken form.

Prayer is taught as a value and a spiritual tool by all Western world religions and by

several of the Eastern religions (Richards & Bergin, 1997). Prayer can take a variety of

different forms. Dossey (1993) conveys that the word

"Prayer" comes from the Latin precarius, "obtained by begging," and precari, "to
entreat"-to ask earnestly, beseech, implore. This suggests two of the commonest
forms of prayer-petition, asking something for one's self, and intercession, asking
something for others. There also are prayers of confession, the repentance of
wrongdoing and the asking of forgiveness; lamentation, crying in distress and
asking for vindication; adoration, giving honor and praise; invocation,
summoning the presence of the Almighty; and thanksgiving, offering gratitude.
(p. 7)

Butler and Harper (1994) report that religious couples often believe that God is

stabilizing interpersonal relationships and engaged in daily family transactions. These

religious couples often dialogue informally with God throughout the day and invoke

God's participation and guidance in the day's marital interactions. Consequently, for the

religious couple daily conversations with God through prayer for the relationship result in

God functioning as a crucial family and marital member. Richards and Bergin (1997)

affirm "there is no doubt that people who pray do believe that prayer helps them

physically and psychologically. Whether this is because of the placebo effect, the
'relaxation response,' the power of the mind-body connection, or a transcendent healing

influence remains scientifically uncertain" (p. 202).This study seeks to explore the









elusive activity of human prayer and its influence on Christian married couple's

perception of their relationship.

Significance

This study may prove valuable for practitioners, clients and research purposes.

Practitioners of marriage and family therapy may benefit from this study by being

provided the potentially therapeutic and heuristic tool of intentional prayer in their

service to their clients. As indicated by a growing awareness in the medical field the use

and significance of prayer as a therapeutic tool needs to be explored by marriage and

family counselors (Anderson & Worthen, 1997; Butler & Harper, 1994; Finney &

Malony, 1985; Griffith, 1986). To be unaware of the spiritual aspects of marriage and the

tools, such as prayer, that can be employed to affect the marital relationship would limit

the effectiveness of any therapeutic caregiver (Stander, Piercy, Mackinnon & Helmeke,

1994). The marital therapist who recognizes the importance of prayer to religious

couples may locate a necessary and unexpected resource for restructuring the marital

relationship (Anderson & Worthen, 1997). Marital therapists working with religious

couples may discover a more powerfully therapeutic view of the interactional process as

they consider how the couple communicates with God as a third partner in the marital

system (Butler & Harper, 1994; Ross, 1994). Where marital conflict is characterized by

defensiveness and protectiveness, spirituality as expressed in prayer calls partners to

openness, acceptance of one's brokenness, and vulnerability (Giblin, 1993).

Additionally, Simon (1990) suggests that a greater openness to spirituality and prayer

may benefit the mid-career uncertainties of marriage and family therapists of the current

Baby Boomer generation.









In terms of clients, this research study may indicate positive benefits of the use of

intentional prayer for Christian married couples who wish to improve their relationship,

and may potentially be generalized to other married couples (Anderson & Worthen,

1997). Christian married couples taught to use intentional prayer by marriage and family

therapists may benefit by communicating about their relationship in a new and different

way. Poloma and Pendleton (1991) state, "Although some 90% of all Americans claim to

pray, a review of social science literature will reveal that researchers have shown little

interest in the topic" (p. 71). This present study would be an investigation of an activity

that is important to most clients and has been understudied. Finney and Maloney (1985)

urge, "The subject is of such importance that prayer research should proceed." (p. 113)

In terms of research, this study is an application of Gorsuch's (1984) idea of using

new paradigms to address measurement of the human spiritual dimension. Clearly, in the

historic scientific community, the therapeutic literature and marriage and family

counselors have not paid attention to the reality of the spiritual awareness and experience

of the American population (Anderson & Worthen, 1997; Bergin, 1992; Genia, 1992;

Ross, 1994; Stander, Piercy, Mackinnon & Helmeke, 1994). This study could potentially

help close the gap between the mechanistic moorings of science and the reality of a

human spiritual dimension.

Research Questions

The following research questions will be examined in this study:

A) Does intentional prayer improve the quality of Christian married couples'
relationships?

1. Does participation in intentional prayer increase Christian married
couples' perception of the quality of their interpersonal communication?








2. Does participation in intentional prayer increase Christian married
couples' perception of the expression of affect in their relationship?

3. Does participation in intentional prayer increase Christian married
couples' perception of the quality of affective involvement in their
relationship?

4. Does participation in intentional prayer decrease Christian married
couples' perception of the avoidance of emotional intimacy in their
relationship?

5. Does participation in intentional prayer decrease Christian married
couples' perception of the anxiety about emotional closeness in their
relationship?

6. Does participation in intentional prayer increase Christian married
couples' perception of their religious well-being?

7. Does participation in intentional prayer increase Christian married
couples' perception of their existential well-being?

B) Are there specific characteristics that help to explain differences in the quality of
the marital relationship among couples who used intentional prayer?

1. Do the characteristics of spiritual maturity, years married, number of
children, and number of children in home explain the differences in the
perception of interpersonal communication for Christian married couples
who used intentional prayer?

2. Do the characteristics of spiritual maturity, years married, number of
children, and number of children in home explain the differences in the
perception of expression of affect in their relationship for Christian
married couples who used intentional prayer?

3. Do the characteristics of spiritual maturity, years married, number of
children, and number of children in home explain the differences in the
perception of the quality of affective involvement in their relationship for
Christian married couples who used intentional prayer?

4. Do the characteristics of spiritual maturity, years married, number of
children, and number of children in home explain the differences in the
perception of avoidance of emotional intimacy in their relationship for
Christian married couples who used intentional prayer?

5. Do the characteristics of spiritual maturity, years married, number of
children, and number of children in home explain the differences in the









perception of anxiety about emotional closeness in their relationship for
Christian married couples who used intentional prayer?

6. Do the characteristics of spiritual maturity, years married, number of
children, and number of children in home explain the differences in the
perception of religious well-being for Christian married couples who used
intentional prayer?

7. Do the characteristics of spiritual maturity, years married, number of
children, and number of children in home explain the differences in the
perception of existential well-being for Christian married couples who
used intentional prayer?

Limitations of the study

The participants in this study cannot be considered truly random for the following

reasons: (a) all participants were self-selected to participate; (b) participants are

primarily from a small urban population in the southeastern United States; (c) participants

are only heterosexual Christian married couples; (d) paper and pencil measurement

instruments are used rather than direct observance of behavior. The method of sampling

limits the generalizations of the study to the groups used. In addition, according to

Webb, Campbell, Schwartz, and Sechrest (1966) the method of self-reporting information

is retrospective in nature and subject to bias.

Definitions

In this study the following terms are defined as follows:

Anxiety: fear of abandonment, as with a person who worries about the equity of a

relationship and worries about the commitment level of the relationship partner.

Avoidance of emotional intimacy: discomfort with closeness and dependence as with a

person who is uncomfortable in situations that are characterized by close interpersonal

relationships and mutual dependence.









Communication: the achievement of mutual understanding, so that the message received

is the same as the message intended.

Existential well-being: how well a person is adjusted to self, community, and

surroundings.

Prayer: communication with a Higher Being.

Religious maturity: the manner in which one manages the creative tension between

sincere commitment and a tentative open-mindedness.

Religious well-being: a dimension of a person's life as it is expressed in relationship to

God.

Spiritual maturity: a complex set of behaviors that orient one to act in specific ways in

relationships based upon a personal set of beliefs, a keen perception of reality, creativity,

being self-principled and willing to make sacrifices for the welfare of others.














CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE

Until recently researchers in the helping professions have chosen not to explore

the realm of human spirituality (Bergin, 1992; Ellison & Smith, 1991; Finney & Malony,

1985; Griffith, 1986; Poloma & Pendleton, 1991; Sirch-Stasko, 1996; Walsh, 1999).

Historically, spirituality has been seen as being opposed to the scientific way of thinking.

This perspective has limited the view of counseling toward spirituality and more

particularly toward the practice of prayer as an expression of human spirituality (Bergin,

1992; Dossey, 1993; Ellison & Smith, 1991; Greeley, 1991; Griffith, 1986). Generally,

spirituality and prayer have been under studied in therapeutic literature (Barnhouse, 1979;

Bergin, 1992; Griffith, 1986; Matthews, 1998; Poloma & Pendleton, 1991; Torrey, 1986;

Walsh, 1999). The historical disinclination of mental health professionals to investigate

human spirituality notwithstanding, there is a growing body of literature that addresses

this topic. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a review of that literature. The

literature reviewed for the purposes of this study is organized as follows: investigations

of spirituality, prayer and well-being; couple communication; spiritual maturity and

spiritual well-being; and summary.

Investigations of Spirituality, Prayer and Well-Being

There is a disparity between people's views about the centrality of spirituality in

their lives, as expressed in prayer, and the attention it has received from behavioral

researchers (Anderson & Worthen, 1997; Poloma & Pendleton, 1991; Richards & Bergin,








1997; Ross, 1994; Stander, Piercy, Mackinnon & Helmeke, 1994). A number of

researchers (e.g., Greeley, 1991; Sheler, 1994; Poloma & Pendleton, 1991; Walsh, 1999;

Woodward, 1997) have reported that people acknowledge an appreciation of the spiritual

dimension of prayer in their lives. In contrast, behavioral researchers have not elected to

focus on such matters (Gorsuch, 1984). Notwithstanding the historic tradition, there is

now emerging a body of research that is investigating spirituality and prayer and how it

relates to physical ( Dossey, 1993; Matthews, 1998; Schlitz & Lewis, 2001; Sicher, Targ,

Moore & Smith, 1998; Targ, 1999; Volz, 1999) and psychological well-being

(Chamberlain & Hall, 2000; Poloma & Pendleton, 1991; Stander, Piercy, Mackinnon &

Helmeke, 1994;Walsh, 1999; Warfield & Goldstein, 1996).

Physical Well-Being

There is a new openness to spirituality and prayer occurring in scientific studies

being conducted in the field of medicine (Matthews, 1998; Targ, 1999). According to

Volz (1999) there are presently about 150 studies on prayer and health taking place in the

United States. Medical studies are showing that prayer is effective in promoting physical

recovery and healing of the body (Byrd, 1988; Harris, Gowda, Kolb, Strychacz, Vacek,

Jones, Forker, O'Keefe & McCallister, 1999; Matthews, 1998; Schlitz & Lewis, 2001;

Targ, 1999). For example Byrd (1988) conducted a double-blind longitudinal study that

investigated the effectiveness of prayer on physical recovery for cardiac patients. Over 10

months, 393 patients admitted to the coronary care unit of San Francisco General

Hospital were assigned randomly to one of two groups: prayer group and non-prayer

group. Patients in the prayer group, received daily prayer (as long as the patient was in

the hospital) from three to seven Christians who were remotely situated to the hospital.








Patients did not know they were being prayed for. Those who prayed knew the patient's

first name, diagnosis, and general condition, and they received periodic updates on the

patient's condition. Patients in the non-prayer group, were not recipients of daily prayer.

Physicians did not know which patients were in which group, nor did the investigator of

the study, who collected and analyzed the patient outcome data. Dependent variables

included the following: days in the critical care unit, days in the hospital, number of

medications at discharge, development of new symptoms, and rated course of treatment

as outcomes. Patients who were prayed for did substantially better than did patients who

were not prayed for. The severity score showed that the prayer group had an overall

better outcome (p < .01) and the multivariant analysis produced a p value of< .0001 on

the basis of the prayer group's lesser requirements for antibiotics, diuretics, and

intubation-ventilation (Byrd, 1988).

Harris et al. (1999) attempted to replicate Byrd's (1988) findings by testing the

hypothesis that cardiac patients who were unknowingly and remotely prayed for by

intercessors who did not know them would experience fewer complications and have a

shorter hospital stay than patients not receiving such prayer. The design was a

randomized, controlled, double-blind, prospective, parallel-group trial. The setting was a

private, university-associated hospital and included nine hundred and ninety (N= 990)

consecutive patients who were newly admitted to the coronary care unit. At the time of

admission, cardiac patients were randomized to receive remote, intercessory prayer

(prayer group) or not (usual care group). The first names of patients in the prayer group

were given to a team of outside intercessors who prayed for them daily for four weeks.

Patients were unaware that they were being prayed for, and the intercessors did not know








and never met the patients. The medical course from coronary care unit (CCU) admission

to hospital discharge was summarized in a CCU course score derived from blind,

retrospective chart review.

The CCU course score was based on the incidence of observed medical conditions

that are associated with coronary illness and-or the types of medical interventions

performed on the patients. Compared with the usual care group (N = 524) the prayer

group (N = 466) had lower mean weighted (6.35 vs 7.13; p = .04) and unweighted (2.7 vs

3.0; p = .04) CCU course scores. Lengths of CCU and hospital stays were not different.

Harris et al. concluded that remote, intercessory prayer was associated with lower CCU

course scores and this result suggests that prayer may be an effective adjunct to standard

medical care.

In another investigation of prayer and physical well-being Sicher, Targ, Moore,

and Smith (1998) report on a double-blind randomized study of distant healing (prayer)

with 40 patients with advanced AIDS. Subjects were matched for age, T-cell count, and

number of AIDS-defining illnesses and randomly assigned to either 10 weeks of distant

healing treatment or a control group. Distant healing prayer treatment was performed by

self-identified healers representing many different healing and spiritual traditions.

Healers were located throughout the United States during the study, and subjects and

healers never met. Subjects were assessed by psychometric testing and blood draw at

enrollment and followed for 6 months. At 6 months, a blind medical chart review found

that treatment subjects acquired significantly fewer new AIDS-defining illnesses (0.1

versus 0.6 per patient, p = 0.04), had lower illness severity (severity score 0.8 versus

2.65, p = 0.04), and fewer days of hospitalization (0.5 versus 3.4, p = 0.04). Treated








subjects also showed significantly improved mood compared with controls (Profile of

Mood States score -26 versus 14, p = 0.02). There was no significant differences in T-

cell counts. Sicher et al. (1998) concluded these data support the possibility of a distant

healing effect in AIDS patients and suggested the value of further research.

Ashby and Lenhart (1994) investigated prayer as a coping mechanism in a group

of 105 persons (average age 45) experiencing chronic pain. Assessment instruments for

pain included the Medical Coping Modes Questionnaire and two subscales of the West-

Haven-Yale Multidimensional Pain Inventory. Prayer was measured by the Diverting

Attention Praying-Hoping Subscale of the Coping Strategies Questionnaire. An

evaluation of the results indicated individuals who endorsed a greater use of prayer to

cope with their pain also reported a greater degree of disability. Follow-up analyses

suggested that prayer was associated with diverting attention from pain, suggestive of a

passive coping response.

Benor (1992) conducted a review of the research literature dealing with distant

healing, including at least 131 laboratory-published studies of which 56 found significant

effects (p = < .01). The studies ranged from hypertension (Miller, 1982), tension

headache (Keller & Bzkek, 1986), anxiety (Heidt, 1997) to skin wound healing (Wirth,

1989). Many of the studies, however, lacked rigorous control, measured only responses in

vitro, involved only brief periods of influence, or did not include extended follow-up

(Sicher et al., 1998).

The relationship between prayer and physical well-being also has been examined

in other ways by other investigators. For example, Begley (2001) reports on the

increasing interest of scientists in the new field of neurotheology which is the study of the








neurobiology of religion and spirituality as investigated by Austin (1998). Scientists are

using brain-imaging data to identify what seems to be the brain's spirituality circuit and

to explain how it is that religious rituals have the power to move believers and

nonbelievers alike. In neurotheology, psychologists and neurologists try to pinpoint

which regions of the brain turn on, and which turn off, during experiences that seem to

exist outside of time and space. With neuro-imaging researchers try to identify the brain

circuits that surge with activity when we think we have encountered the divine, and when

we feel transported by intense prayer, an uplifting ritual or sacred music. Researchers use

a single proton emission computed tomography (SPECT) machine to capture a brain

image of a radioactive tracer injected into an IV line of a participant experiencing a peak

spiritual experience. The SPECT images are as close as scientists have come to snapping

a photo of a transcendent experience. Initial findings indicate that for a spiritual

experience to occur, brain regions that orient one in space and mark the distinction

between self and world must go quiet. It is thought that religious experiences are evoked

by mini electrical storms in the temporal lobes. The scientific researcher's newfound

interest in neurotheology reflects a change of attitude by psychology and neuroscience

toward religion and spirituality.

Psychological Well-Being

The newfound interest of scientific researchers in religion and spirituality is seen

in the increasing body of research that is examining the relationship between prayer and

psychological well-being. For example, Greeley (1991) reports on the results of a

national telephone survey of 2,949 married adults concerning intimacy in their marriage

and found that 32% of the couples often prayed together. Greeley analyzed survey data








from four independent samples of randomly selected American married couples who

were categorized on the basis of frequency of prayer. Couples were also asked to rate the

quality of their marriage by indicating the degree of happiness in it. According to the

respondents, 75% of those who often prayed together said that the marriage was very

happy, as opposed to 57% of those who prayed less often. Eighty-eight percent of the

prayers said that the spouse was also their best friend, as opposed to 71% of those who

pray less often. Nine out often of the prayers said they would marry the same person

again, as do four out of five of those who do not pray together so often. Greeley

concluded that for the investigated samples joint prayer was strongly related to marital

happiness. Prayer, it is worth noting, was a much more powerful predictor of marital

satisfaction than frequency of sexual intercourse-though the combination of sex and

prayer correlated with very, very high levels of marital fulfillment. Whether they often

prayed together was a very powerful correlate of marital happiness.

Greeley found that other advantages accrued to couples who often prayed together

verses those who did not. The advantages were observed for almost every variable being

analyzed in the Greeley study: respect (83% versus 62%), distrust (5% versus 9%),

helping with household tasks (73% versus 61%), discussion of state of the marriage (76%

versus 60%), belief that the spouse was good with children (89% versus 78%), agreement

on raising children (73% versus 59%), playfulness (56% versus 45%), conviction that the

spouse was a skilled lover (62% versus 49%), frequent partying (36% versus 28%). It

may be that the prayer interlude provided husbands and wives with time away from the

other responsibilities of their common and individual lives in which they could share

affection and common values and thus reinforce their relationship. Greeley did not test








for significant differences in the reported data, and given the magnitude of some of the

differences it is important to exercise caution in interpreting the data. Nevertheless,

Greeley's data suggested that prayer may be a powerful correlate of marital satisfaction.

Another example of prayer and psychological well-being was a study done by

Poloma and Pendleton (1991). The study consisted of 560 adults randomly sampled in the

Akron, Ohio area who were selected for telephone interviews using a random digit

dialing method activated by a Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI)

system. This sample included 532 (95%) who claimed a religious affiliation. Of these,

287 were Protestant (54%), 133 were Catholic (25%), 69 were other Christian (13%), 5

were Jewish (1%), 5 were Orthodox (1%), 33 were unreported (6%). The design was a

correlational questionnaire measuring subjective well-being and religious practices.

After controlling for education, gender, race, income, and age, prayer frequency was

positively related to existential well-being and religious satisfaction and negatively

related to happiness. Religious experience (i.e., the feeling of spiritual connection with

the divine) during prayer was positively related to general life satisfaction, existential

well-being, happiness, and religious satisfaction. After controlling for religious

commitment, most relationships between prayer variables and subjective well-being

variables became nonsignificant.

The results of this study indicated that different types of prayer may have

different effects. For example, meditative prayer is devotional and usually engaged in as

a form of worship. Petitional prayer (or intercessory prayer) is aimed at alleviating a

particular suffering, one's own suffering, or the suffering of another. Ritual prayer is

repetitive and may have either calming effects or negative psychological and physical








effects (depending on the person and situation). Colloquial prayer is like a conversation

with God, in which the person may seek guidance or forgiveness or simply talk with God

about positive or negative experiences. Ritual prayer was positively related to negative

affect, and colloquial prayer was positively related to happiness. Poloma and Pendleton

(1991) concluded that religiosity and prayer contributed without question to one's quality

of life and perceptions of well-being.

In an another study of prayer and psychological well-being Gruner (1985)

investigated the relationship between religious married couples' private religious

devotional practices and marital adjustment. The investigation was developed to test the

oft-heard cliche "the family that prays together stays together." The sample consisted of

208 married couples from Catholic and Protestant churches in the greater Los Angeles

area. Using Mead's (1971) Handbook of Denominations in the United States Gruner

assigned participants to one of four groups: sects (e.g. Pentecostal), conservative (e.g.

Southern Baptist), liberal (e.g. United Church of Christ), and authoritarian (e.g. Roman

Catholic) religions. The couples consisted of volunteers who were identified as being

actively involved in their church, as verified by their pastor.

A pretest-posttest design was used to evaluate scores on psychological measures

from the Wallace Marital Adjustment Test (Straus, 1969). The independent variables of

the study were religious affiliation, prayer use, Bible reading, and marital adjustment.

The relationship of marital adjustment and frequency of prayer use in solving couple

problems was significant (p < .001). The investigators examined the relationship between

marital adjustment and frequency of prayer and discovered that the majority (53%) of

those with high marital adjustment used prayer almost all the time. In contrast, fifteen








percent of those with high marital adjustment did not use prayer as a means of addressing

problems. Gruner posits the data suggest a positive relationship between private religious

practice and marital adjustment scores thereby supporting the hypothesis. Gruner points

out that a major weakness of this study is the lack of a control sample of non-religious

people. Also the "sample" is not representative of any population and may be highly

biased, since only church-going couples were chosen.

Yet another study of prayer and psychological well-being was performed by

Butler, Gardner, and Bird (1998). Participants were 13 couples who had been married at

least 7 years and who were characterized as "religious" by a close acquaintance.

Participants lived in Utah (20), Washington (4), and Arizona (2). The sampling stategy

was based primarily on accessibility to the researchers and secondarily on achieving

representativeness. The qualitative methodology which consisted of structured interviews

with open-ended questions of each spouse was used to investigate effects of prayer on

couple interaction during conflict. A reliable description of the dynamics of prayer across

spouse interviews was extracted by four analysts using a group interpretive procedure.

Findings suggested that prayer invoked a couple-God system, which significantly

influenced couple interaction during conflict. Overall, prayer appeared to be a significant
"softening" event for religious couples, facilitating reconciliation and problem solving.

Prayer 1) invoked an experience of relationship with Deity; 2) deescalated hostile

emotions and reduced emotional reactivity; 3) enhanced relationship and partner

orientation and behavior; 4) facilitated empathy and unbiased perspective; 5) increased

self-change focus; and 6) encouraged couple responsibility for reconciliation and problem

solving. In summary, couples' indications regarding the sequencing of prayer in their








repertoire of conflict interventions supports a recommendation of prayer for religious

couples as an intervention when navigating serious, clinical conflict. Butler et al. concede

that the limitations associated with the qualitative methodology of this study make the

conclusions suggestive rather than definitive. The generalizability of the findings is thus

uncertain.

Maltby, Lewis and Day (1999) investigated the role of religious orientation and

psychological well-being, and examined the theoretical view that religion can act as a

coping mechanism. Participants were administered questionnaire measures of three

aspects of religious orientation (intrinsic, extrinsic, spiritual quest), frequency of personal

prayer and church attendance, alongside measures of depressive symptoms, trait anxiety

and self-esteem. The authors suggested the two following conclusions: (1) that the

correlation between a number of measures of religiosity and psychological well-being

may be mediated by the relationship between frequency of personal prayer and

psychological well-being; (2) that personal prayer may be an important variable to

consider within the theory of religious coping.

Stavros (1998) investigated how the practice of a particular contemplative prayer

may affect a person's well-being and relationships, including that person's perceived

relationship with God. Specifically, Stavros asked, does practicing the Jesus Prayer affect

a person's perceived relationship with God, relationships with others, self-cohesion,

anxiety, depression, hostility, and interpersonal sensitivity? The treatment group (n =44)

was instructed to practice the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me) ten

minutes daily for thirty days. The control group received no treatment. Measures were

given at the beginning and end of the thirty days to both the experimental and control








group. The treatment group's adjusted post-test means on measures of depression,

anxiety, hostility, and interpersonal sensitivity were significantly lower than those of the

control group. There were no statistically significant differences between treatment and

control groups on measures of overall faith maturity, relationships with others, and self-

cohesion. Stavros suggested that the practice of prayer enhanced a person's perceived

relationship with God and also contributed to a person's health.

Chan (1995) investigated the use of prayer as a coping strategy in dealing with

state-trait anxiety. The results of this study with college students indicated that subjects

(N = 101) who prayed about their current most anxiety provoking life events for 10

minutes in a controlled condition reported significantly more immediate state-anxiety

reduction, as compared with a control group that wrote about the event to a best friend,

and with another control group that read and wrote about inspirational stories. Further,

the degree of anxiety reduction was sustained after a one-week praying activity. No

significant findings were found between the degree of anxiety and the likelihood of using

prayer as a coping strategy.

Couple Communication

Anderson and Worthen (1997) suggest that spirituality can serve as a resource in

couple therapy. They posit that different therapies pay attention to different dimensions

of human experience. Three dimensions of experience addressed by most therapies are

time (events occurring in sequences), space (experience organized through the structure

of relationships), and story (the use of language to shape what has occurred in time and

space into structure of meaning). The latter includes stories told inside our heads, stories

told to others with whom we interact in time and space, stories that families construct and








pass on over generations, and stories constructed by societies and cultures. Strategic

therapies emphasize the time dimension, and structural therapies the space dimension.

Story is a central interest of intergenerational family therapies and those therapies in the

postmodernist and social constructivist tradition. Therapies preferring attention to time

and space take an interventionist form; those preferring story, a conversationalist form.

Proponents of these different therapeutic approaches attend to different dimensions of

experience because they operate from different basic assumptions about human nature

and interaction, and about how change happens.

Anderson and Worthen (1997) suggest therapists whose work reflects a spiritual

orientation may be influenced by three additional basic assumptions. The first holds to a

belief in a fourth dimension of human experience that includes awareness of the existence

of a God or Divine Being. The second sees human beings as having a yearning for

connection with this Divine Being. The third views this Being as taking an active interest

in human beings and acting upon their relationships to promote beneficial change. The

fourth dimension is interwoven throughout the other three dimensions in such a way that

every human relational event can be viewed as spiritual. For example, the deepening love

between two persons in marriage may be seen as a reflection of the presence of divine

love; indeed, marriage can be the most intense of all spiritual communities (Boyer, 1984).

Anderson and Worthen (1997) posit that spirituality has to do with how persons orient

their lives in light of their inner awareness. They define spirituality as subjective

engagement with the fourth dimension of human experience transcendent of the

limitations of time, space, and language. Engagement with the fourth dimension enhances

human life and leads to corresponding behavior. Such behavior extends into every facet








of life and may or may not include the practice of a particular religion. Human life and

behavior is enhanced by engaging the fourth dimension and viewing the infinite God as

penetrating actively into finite time, space, and story, loving human beings and

challenging them to learn to love themselves and others. This activity of the Divine can

be seen as taking place or abiding within relationships, as in spiritual traditions in which

the Divine is viewed as immanent as well as transcendent.

Hart (1994) suggests that the problems people bring to therapy always have a

spiritual dimension, of which people are often dimly aware. He posits that therapy is

much richer when it calls attention to the spiritual dimension, and addresses human

struggles both psychologically and spiritually. Hart suggests that sound psychology and

sound spirituality seek a common goal: human healing, growth, well-being, and

fulfillment. In that endeavor, spirituality offers the larger, more ultimate framework of

value, meaning, and power. Hart contends that each of these important fields needs the

other's enrichment and the other's insights to help people find what they most deeply

want. Hart proposes that psychology and spirituality are not separate realms, and

certainly not opposed realms; they exhibit extensive overlap.

Within the context of family counseling, relational theories emphasize the

importance of married couples communication (Brock & Barnard, 1992; Gladding, 1998;

Gottman, Notarious, Gonso & Markman, 1976; Jacobson & Holtzworth-Munroe, 1986;

Olson & McCubbin, 1983; Satir, 1972; Skinner, Steinhauser & Santa-Barbara, 1995;

Steinhauer, Santa-Barbara, & Skinner, 1984). Effective communication is a central

feature to the success of every marital couple. For example, effective communication is

defined as the achievement of mutual understanding, so that the message received is the








same as the message intended (Skinner et al., 1995). If the message is clear, direct, and

sufficient, then mutual understanding is likely to occur. The Process Model of Family

Functioning as developed by Steinhauer et al. (1984) serves as a practical example of

relational theory that includes constructs focusing on couple communication.

In terms of the process model Nichols and Schartz (1995) assert that all schools of

family therapy have a theoretical commitment to working with the process of family

interaction. Different systems of family therapy are more alike in practice than their

theories would suggest. For example, family therapists of all persuasions are concerned

with processes involved in clarifying communications among family members,

overcoming resistance, and rectifying dysfunctional behaviors (Gladding, 1998). Two

primary components of therapy are content and process. Content involves details and

facts. Process focuses on how information is dealt with.

Examples of therapeutic models organized primarily around process are the

McMaster Model of Family Functioning (Epstein, Baldwin & Bishop, 1983), the Family

Categories Schema (Epstein, Rakoff & Sigal, 1968), and The Process Model of Family

Functioning (Steinhauer et al., 1984). The Process Model of Family Functioning differs

from the McMaster Model of Family Functioning (Epstein et al., 1983) and their

common source, the Family Categories Schema (Epstein et al., 1968), by its increased

emphasis on the dynamic interaction between the major dimensions of family

functioning, and by its stress on the interface between intrapsychic subsystems and the

interpersonal dimensions of the family system (Steinhaur et al., 1984). The Process

Model of Family Functioning was the basis for the creation of The Family Assessment

Measure (FAM). The basic concepts assessed by the FAM include the following: Task








Accomplishment, Role Performance, Communication, Affective Expression,

Involvement, Control, and Values and Norms. The FAM was selected for this study

because its constructs relate to the investigative questions concerning couple

communication and affective expression and affective involvement.

Effective couple communication is an essential feature of the Process Model of

Family Functioning and includes affective expression and affective involvement

(Steinhauer et a., 1984). This model asserts that task accomplishment is the goal of every

family. Tasks are understood as the demands of life that the family must organize itself

to meet. Examples of family tasks include allowing for the continued development of all

family members, providing reasonable security, ensuring sufficient cohesion to maintain

the family as a unit, and functioning effectively as part of society. Successful

achievement of a variety of basic, developmental, and crisis tasks is accomplished

through clear communication. In the Process Model of Family Functioning two essential

features of family communication are affective expression and affective involvement.

These two features recognize the emotional element in communication and reflect the

degree of comfort with intimacy in the couple's relationship.

In applying the Process Model of Family Functioning, Forman (1988) used the

Family Assessment Measure (FAM) to assess perceived patterns of behavior exchange in

distressed spousal relationships. Forman divided participants into those involved in a

distressed relationship (N = 38) and those involved in a non-distressed relationship (N

28). Participants were obtained from an outpatient clinic or a private practice and were

all undergoing treatment for some type of relationship difficulty. Determination as to

which relationships were distressed and which non-distressed was made on the basis of








scores obtained on the FAM dyadic adjustment scale (Spanier, 1976). The distressed

group had significantly higher FAM self-rating scores (indicative of more problems) on

several subscales: task accomplishment, role performance, communication, affective

expression, involvement, control, and values and norms. The FAM subscales

significantly discriminated between distressed and non-distressed relationships.

Woodside, Shekter-Wolfson, Garfinkel, Olmsted, Kaplan and Maddocks (1995)

demonstrated the usefulness of the FAM in monitoring treatment effectiveness.

Responses from a sample of ninety-one bulimic patients and their families were

examined before and after treatment. Ratings of family functioning improved

significantly over the course of treatment although ratings of patients and parents were

different and complex. Woodside, Lackstrom, Shekter-Wolfson, and Heinmaa (1996)

later also utilized the FAM in a longitudinal study. This study provides preliminary

evidence of FAM sensitivity to more subtle and less substantive long-term therapeutic

effects (Skinner, Steinhauer, & Sitarenios, 2000).

Recent studies support the effectiveness of the FAM in capturing therapeutic

change. For example, Johannson and Tutty (1998) assessed families before and after

intervention to improve functioning in families where physical and psychological abuse

existed. They found significant improvement on the FAM as well as a variety of other

measures.

The literature on the relationship between couple communication and marital

satisfaction seem to parallel the observed relationship between prayer and marital

satisfaction. Effective couple communication is an essential component of marital

satisfaction (Forman, 1988; Steinhauer et al., 1984). Prayer (a form of communication)








has been also linked to marital satisfaction (Butler et al., 1998; Greeley, 1991; Gruner,

1985; Poloma & Pendleton, 1991). What is unknown is how other psychological

variables that may inform counseling practitioners can influence the nature of the

relationship. Important variables to consider include intimacy, spiritual maturity and

spiritual well-being.

Effective couple communication is highly associated with couple intimacy and

attachment. The relationship between couple intimacy and attachment has been

investigated empirically by Brennan, Clark and Shaver (1998). Theoretically, intimacy in

a couple relationship is described by the amount of avoidance of closeness and the

amount of anxiety that arises from closeness in an adult attachment (Brennan et al.,

1998). The two dimensions of anxiety and avoidance underlie virtually all self-report

adult attachment measures and appear crucial for capturing important individual

differences in adult attachment. Individual differences in adult attachment behavior are

reflections of the expectations and beliefs people have formed about themselves and their

close relationships on the basis of their early in life attachment histories (Crowell, Fraley

& Shaver, 1999). According to Hazan and Shaver (1987) working models of attachment

continue to guide and shape close relationship behavior throughout life. As people build

new relationships, they rely partly on previous expectations about how others are likely to

behave and feel towards them, and they use these models to interpret the goals or

intentions of their partners. The theory suggests that early care giving experiences

influence how people behave in their adult relationships and their experiences of

intimacy. Potentially one of the highest forms of couple intimacy between a married

couple is intentional prayer (Giblin, 1993).








Small (2000) conducted a study of the relationship between marital satisfaction

and the type of romantic attachment experienced in a marital relationship. Eighty-seven

married graduate business students completed the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (Spanier,

1976), the Attachment Level Inventory (Hazan & Shaver, 1990), and the Experiences in

Close Relationship Inventory (Brennan, Clark, & Shaver, 1998), which measured their

marital satisfaction and romantic attachment to their spouse. The findings of this study

suggested that feelings of anxiety and ambivalence in regard to the marital relationship

are positively related to marital dissatisfaction. In addition, the findings of this study

suggest that the issues of regret, happiness, and frustration may be especially relevant in

the development of marital dissatisfaction for persons who perceive themselves within

the anxious or ambivalent and avoidant romantic attachment categories.

Morse (2000) examined the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse on adult

attachment relationships in a quantitative study on subjects (N = 136) from Ashland

University and Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio. Adult survivors of

childhood sexual abuse (Li = 68) were compared to adults without a history of childhood

sexual abuse (n = 68) utilizing the Experiences in Close Relationships Inventory

(Brennan et al., 1998). Results indicated that abuse survivors are significantly (t-tests at p

<.01) more avoidant in relationships, have greater discomfort with closeness, and a

greater fear of abandonment.

Muderrisoglu (1999) reported that studies have found significant differences in the

emotional reactivity and psychological functioning of adults with different attachment

patterns. However, there is a dearth of empirical data linking attachment patterns to

patterns of defensive functioning. Muderrisoglu's study examined the relationships








among attachment patterns to patterns of affective functioning (including levels of

subjective distress, self-restraint, and reported emotions to stressful romantic situations)

and defenses (including global defensiveness and use of specific defense mechanisms).

One hundred and eighteen undergraduate students (61 males, 57 females) completed the

following self-report measures: Bartholomew's (1998) Relationship Questionnaire;

Brennan, Clark and Shaver's (1998) Experiences in Close Relationship Inventory;

Muderrisoglu's (1999) Romantic Relationship Vignettes; Weinberger's (1997)

Weinberger Adjustment Inventory; and Bond's (1995) Defense Style Questionnaire.

Pearson correlations and mutlitvariate analyses of variance revealed significant

relationships among attachment patterns, defense styles and affective experiences in

romantic relationships. As expected, securely attached individuals reported significantly

lower subjective distress than insecurely attached individuals. The securely attached

individuals tended to use more mature defenses and to be less impulsive in relationships,

reporting less intense emotional reactions. Muderrisoglu concludes that knowing the

emotional and defensive responses of individuals with different attachment patterns can

inform the psychotherapy process.

To summarize, attachment and couple intimacy are highly associated with

effective couple communication (Brennan et al., 1998), and as has been shown effective

couple communication is an essential component of marital satisfaction (Forman, 1988;

Steinhauer et al., 1984). Further, marital satisfaction has been positively associated to

prayer (a form of communication) (Butler et al., 1998; Chamberlain & Hall, 2000;

Greeley, 1991; Gruner, 1985; Poloma & Pendleton, 1991). Missing is any consideration








of differences among couple's marital satisfaction, intimacy and the effectiveness of

prayer as a positive influence on the couple's perception of their relationship.

Spiritual Maturity and Spiritual Well-Being

Couple intimacy and attachment as an expression of human relationships

represents a subset of one's overall sense of psychological well-being (Ellison, 1983;

Paloutzian & Ellison, 1982). A person's sense of psychological well-being is a

foundational element in self-identity and expresses a subjective sense of quality of life.

Spiritual well-being represents a second subset of one's overall sense of psychological

well-being. A person's sense of spiritual well-being can serve as a global psychological

assessment of one's perception of self (Paloutzian & Ellison, 1982). Paloutzian and

Ellison (1982) conceptualize spiritual well-being differently than spiritual health or

spiritual maturity. Spiritual well-being is seen to arise from an underlying state of

spiritual health and is an expression of it, much like the color of one's complexion and

pulse rate are expressions of good health (Ellison, 1983). Spiritual well-being differs

from spiritual maturity though it is expected that a spiritually mature person would

experience a very positive sense of well-being. Yet a person newly awakened to their

spiritual dimension may experience a very positive sense of spiritual well-being but at a

lower level of spiritual maturity (Ellison, 1983). Spiritual well-being describes a state of

being while spiritual maturity describes a developmental process. Spiritual well-being

involves transcendence by focusing on well-being in relation to that which lies beyond

oneself. Moberg (1978) has conceptualized spiritual well-being as two faceted, with both

vertical and horizontal components. The vertical dimension refers to our sense of well-

being in relation to God. The horizontal dimension refers to a sense of life purpose and








life satisfaction, with no reference to anything specifically religious. In a marriage each

spouse's spiritual sense of well-being is experienced by their mate and is manifested in

their communication and intimacy comfort. A study by Ellison (1983) found that the

average amount of time spent per daily devotion (prayer) was significantly related to

overall spiritual well-being. Intentional prayer can be a reflection of each spouses level

of spiritual sense of well-being.

Roth (1988) investigated the relationship of spiritual well-being (defined as a

well-integrated internal religious orientation) to marital adjustment. The subscale

dimensions of satisfaction, cohesion, consensus, and affectual expression were used as

indicators of adjustment as measured by Spanier's (1976) Dyadic Adjustment Scale.

These scale scores were correlated with the religious, existential, and spiritual well-being

scores from Paloutzian and Ellison's (1982) Spiritual Well-Being Scale. Subjects were

147 married individuals from churches in Southern California. Responses indicated that

spiritual well-being correlated significantly to marital adjustment, with significant

differences for years married. Those married 10-40 years showed a higher correlation

than those married over 40 years. Existential well-being scores correlated highly with

marital adjustment scores at most marital stages. Roth concludes that this study provided

some empirical support for the hypothesis that spiritual well-being is an important factor

in perception of marital happiness. In addition, Roth found that men and women differ

significantly in their needs and experiences in integrating spiritual well-being at the

various life cycle stages. A limitation of the study is that the findings cannot be

generalized to the unchurched.








Thomson (2000) investigated spiritual well-being as one of six components of

hospice patients' overall quality of life. Patients (mean age 72.1 years) admitted over a

four month period were surveyed, using the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy

Scale (Cella, 1993), at admission, one month later, three months later, and six months

later. Data showed spiritual well-being to be an important contributor to overall quality of

life. Thomson advocated that providing spiritual care to hospice patients makes good

business sense.

As noted above, spiritual well-being differs from spiritual maturity. Spiritual well-

being describes a state of being while spiritual maturity describes a developmental

process (Paloutzian & Ellison, 1982). Married couples' spiritual and religious maturity

levels are reflections of the developmental growth of the human spiritual dimension

(Dudley & Cruise, 1990; Ellison, 1984). For example, Bufford (as cited in Basset et al.,

1991) found a direct relationship between spiritual maturity and intrinsic faith and an

inverse relationship between spiritual maturity and extrinsic faith. Extrinsic faith or

religion is an orientation that merely uses religion as a means to gain other personal

goals. Intrinsic faith or religion is an orientation that defines religion as a controlling

force in life consisting of a set of internalized principles that guide all interactions

(Allport, 1960, 1966; Allport & Ross, 1976; Dudley & Cruise, 1990). An alternative but

similar formulation is the difference between consensual and committed religion

described by Allen and Spilka (1967). Measurement of spiritual maturity and religious

maturity from the psychological perspective informs questions concerning prayer and its

potential in positively affecting interpersonal relationships. Spirituality and its

externalized expression in religion are seen as essential aspects of the human experience








in its continuous developmental process and shape a couples perception of their

relationship. Spiritual and religious maturity levels indicate how people of differing

maturity levels benefit differently from the use of intentional prayer.

TenElshof and Furrow (2000) noted that previous research on attachment

relationships suggested that early parental interactions generate internalized models of

self and others. These internalized models are carried forward in later relationships. To

investigate the relationship between secure attachment styles and their collective

influence on spiritual maturity, a survey of 216 seminary students was conducted using

the Parental Bonding Instrument (Parker, Tupling, & Brown, 1979), Adult Attachment

Scale (Feeney, Noller, & Hanrhan, 1994), and the Faith Maturity Index (Benson,

Donahue, & Erickson, 1993). Secure adult attachment styles were predicted to relate

positively with spiritual maturity. Findings suggested that adult measures of secure

attachment styles were correlated with faith maturity. Correlation analysis was used to

show the relationship between secure adult attachment and the three aspects of faith

maturity measured by the Faith Maturity Index. The relationships between secure adult

attachment and total faith maturity (r = .46, p < .01), vertical (directed toward the Divine)

faith maturity ( = .50, p < .01), and horizontal (directed toward serving others) faith

maturity (r = .19, p < .01) were all significant and in a positive direction. Measures of

parental bonding evidenced minimal associations with adult attachment styles (f =. 13, p <

.05) and were weaker correlates of faith maturity. Secure adult attachment was a stronger

predictor of faith maturity (F = 7.46, p < .01) when compared to measures of parental

bonding. TenElshof and Furrow conclude that faith maturity was shaped and explained in

part by current adult attachments over and above childhood attachments.








Cooke (1998) investigated the relationship between spiritual maturity and life

satisfaction, and the extent to which age, marital status, income and education contributed

to life satisfaction among middle-aged and older women. The relationship between

spiritual maturity and religious affiliation was also explored. Ninety-four subjects aged

35 to 88 completed a demographic questionnaire, Genia's (1991) Spiritual Experience

Index and Neugarten's (1961) Life Satisfaction Index-A. The results support a

significant positive relationship between spiritual maturity and life satisfaction. Age did

not predict spiritual maturity but education emerged as a statistically significant predictor

of life satisfaction. Unaffiliated women and women affiliated with denominations less

dominant in Western culture scored significantly higher on this measure of spiritual

maturity than did Catholics and Protestants.

Cannon (1995) investigated the potential relationship between women's

psychological and spiritual development. A sample of women (N = 168) from a diverse

array of occupations and life styles, including less traditional (acupuncturists),

moderately traditional (pastoral counselors), and more traditional (members of Christian

churches in the Annapolis, Maryland, area) participated in the study. Loevinger's (1979)

Sentence Completion Test was used as a measure of psychological maturity and Genia's

(1991) Spiritual Experience Index was used as a measure of spiritual maturity. Multiple

regression modeled relationships of spiritual maturity using age, education, marital status,

participation in therapy, group affiliation, and psychological maturity. Secondary

variables of religious affiliation and perceived nurturance from religious affiliation were

also considered as factors. The only variables that significantly explained spiritual

maturity were participation in therapy, group affiliation, and psychological maturity.








Participation in therapy was found to be the most important variable in explaining

spiritual maturity. Group affiliation was strongly associated with religious affiliation.

According to Cannon the data point to an emerging trend in which less traditional women

seek to nourish their spirituality in less traditional ways (contemplation, yoga,

meditation) instead of through organized religions.

As illustrated above, spiritual well-being and maturity can be represented as a

subset of one's overall sense of psychological well-being (Ellison, 1983; Paloutzian &

Ellison, 1982). In a marriage each spouse's spiritual sense of well-being is experienced

by their mate and is manifested in their communication and intimacy comfort (Moberg,

1978). Further, psychological well-being, as well as physical well-being, and marital

satisfaction have been positively associated with prayer (Byrd, 1988; Harris et al., 1999;

Greeley, 1991; Gruner, 1995; Paloma & Pendleton, 1991). What is yet to be considered is

the potential influence of prayer on a couple's perception of their relationship.
Summary

The foregoing review of related literature reflects the growing body of literature

that addresses the wholistic human perspective that includes the dimension of spirituality.

Helping professionals are increasingly viewing the inclusion of spirituality, and in some

cases specifically prayer, as an essential element in serving the whole human being

(Poloma & Pendleton, 1991). Spirituality and prayer are currently being explored in

numerous studies that focus on the benefits to both physical and psychological well-being

(Chamberlain & Hall, 2000; Volz, 1999). Prayer has been shown to be a significant factor

in marital adjustment and happiness (Greeley, 1991; Gruner, 1985).








Helping couples adjust to the vicissitudes of their relational life is a major concern

of marriage and family counselors. The purpose of this study is to investigate another tool

that counselors may use in serving their clients. Specifically, this study will examine

whether prayer improves married Christian couples' perception of the quality of their

relationship. The critical questions to be addressed in this investigation are the following:

When couples pray together, is their perception of the quality of their marital relationship

modified and how? Related to this question, I am interested in answering two parallel

questions. First, does couples' level of spiritual maturity differentially mediate the

benefits of praying together? Second, are there specific characteristics among couples

whose marital relationship improves as a result of the intervention and those who do not?

The intent is to determine if the couples' perception of their relationship changed or not

through the use of prayer.














CHAPTER 3
METHODOLOGY

Helping couples adjust to the vicissitudes of their relational life is a major concern of

marriage and family counselors. Traditionally counselors have offered to couples

therapeutic conversations, enrichment retreats, workshops and conferences as

interventions to help them adjust to life's challenges together. The purpose of this study is

to investigate yet another tool that counselors may use in serving their clients.

Specifically, this study will examine whether prayer improves married Christian couples'

perception of the quality of their relationship. The critical questions to be addressed in

this investigation are the following: When couples pray together, is their perception of the

quality of their marital relationship modified and how? Related to this question, I am

interested in answering two parallel questions. First, does couples' level of spiritual

maturity differentially mediate the benefits of praying together? Second, are there

specific characteristics among couples whose marital relationship improves as a result of

the intervention and those who do not? The intent is to determine if the couples'

perception of their relationship changed or not through the use of prayer. The remainder

of this chapter includes a discussion of the variables, participants, experimental design,

procedures, data analyses and methodological limitations.

Dependent Variables

For the purpose of this study change in the quality of married Christian couples'

relationship is the variable of interest. Given the complex nature of interpersonal








relationships, assessing changes in them presents researchers with a difficult task. In this

study multiple dependent variables will be used to assess changes in specific aspects of a

relationship. These variables include interpersonal communication, affective expression

and affective involvement, avoidance in relationship, anxiety, and religious and

existential well-being. The first five variables are seen as fundamental aspects of healthy

marital relationships and determinants of functional individual and family development

(Carter & McGoldrick, 1989; Gerson, 1991). The last two variables are recognized by

personality theorists as related to emotional well-being (Ellison, 1983; Ellison & Smith,

1991; Paloutzian & Ellison, 1982; Paloutzian & Ellison, 1991).

Each of the dependent variables will be operationalized and assessed using sub

scales of published measurement instruments. The Family Assessment Measure III

(FAM III)(Skinner, Steihhhauser & Santa-Barbara, 1995) will be used to assess

communication, affective expression and affective involvement. Skinner et al. define

communication as the exchange of information that is essential for couples to perform

various essential tasks. The goal of effective communication is the achievement of

mutual understanding so that the message received is the same as the message intended.

An essential element of the communication process is the expression of affect, which can

impede or facilitate task accomplishment. Through the use of affect communication is

molded and shaped by feeling and emotion. Similarly, the kind of affective involvement

family members have with one another can help or hinder task accomplishment.

Affective involvement refers to both the degree and quality of family members' interest

in one another.








The Experiences in Close Relationship Inventory (Brennam, Clark & Shaver,

1998) will be used to assess avoidance of emotional intimacy and anxiety about

emotional closeness. For Brennam et al. avoidance of emotional intimacy is defined as

discomfort with closeness and dependence. That is, a person who is uncomfortable in

situations that are characterized by close interpersonal relationships and mutual

dependence would have difficulty in participating freely and openly in a couple

relationship. Anxiety is the reciprocal of avoidance and is presented as fear of

abandonment. That is, a person worries about the equity of the relationship and worries

about the commitment level of their relationship partner.

The Spiritual Well-Being Scale (Ellison, 1983) will be used to assess participants'

religious well-being and existential well-being. Ellison defines religious well-being as a

dimension of a person's spiritual life as it is expressed in relationship to God. Existential

well-being, on the other hand, concerns how well the person is adjusted to self,

community, and surroundings. This component involves the existential notions of life

purpose, life satisfaction, and positive or negative life experiences.

Independent Variables

The independent variables used in this study will be spiritual maturity and

religious maturity. Ellison's Spiritual Maturity Index (Ellison, 1983) will be used to

assess participants' spiritual maturity. For Ellison, spiritual maturity involves a complex

set of behaviors that, when considered together, orient one to act in specific ways in

relationships. Specifically, a spiritually mature person is one who possesses a personal set

of beliefs (as opposed to basing faith beliefs on the consensus of others), a keen








perception of reality, displays creativity in everyday life, is self-principled and willing to

make sacrifices for the welfare of others.

The Religious Maturity Scale (Dudley & Cruise, 1990) will be used to assess

religious maturity. According to Dudley and Cruise, religious maturity represents the

manner in which one manages the creative tension between sincere commitment and a

tentative open-mindedness, as opposed to doubt. The religiously mature individual

believes, "I want to be ready to progress in my understanding when a new piece of the

'truth' becomes clear to me. In the meantime I will live by the light I have." (p. 101)

The intent in measuring spiritual and religious maturity is to determine how the

couples may differentially benefit from participating in prayer. Prayer is understood to

mean communication with a Higher Being. An important variable in making this

determination will be the participants' belief about the helpfulness of prayer. It is

expected that some participants will believe strongly that prayer is a ready source of help

while others will be less positive. In order to account for these differences participants'

views about the helpfulness of prayer will be considered as a covariate and assessed using

the Helpfulness of Prayer Scale (Saudia, Kinney, Brown, & Young-Ward, 1995).

Participants

The participants of this study will consist of married heterosexual couples drawn

from churches of varying Christian denominations in central Florida. The sample will

include a minimum of 100 volunteer couples (200 individuals) who participate in

Christian worship services and who volunteer to participate. No attempt will be made to

stratify the sample on the basis of the demographic variables (e.g., couple's ages, the








length of their marriage, or socio-economic status) because there is no evidence in the

literature that demonstrates a relationship between these variables and practice of prayer.

The sample will be drawn from the inhabitants of Alachua County in central

Florida. Alachua County is a major educational and health care center with a number of

associated firms and industries. The County has a population of 211,403 and Gainesville,

the major city in the County was rated among the top twenty "most liveable" cities in the

United States for the past seven years.

Experimental Design

The experimental design for this study will be a pretest-posttest control group

design with repeated measures and random assignment. This design allows for the

comparison of a treatment group with a control group after the completion of the

prescribed intervention. A visual representation follows in figure 1.


E T Xl (phase I) X2 (phase II) X3

C T Xl X2 X3

(E = experimental group, C = control group, T = training session, X = data gathering)

Figure 1. Experimental Design.

Consistent with the design, data will be collected from all participants prior to the

intervention, at the end of the 30-day treatment period, and again at the end of a second

30-day treatment period. In the second treatment period, the treatment and control

conditions will be reversed with the participants of the control group becoming the

treatment group and the participants of the treatment group becoming the control group.

Only the assessments obtained in phase one will be used to answer the research

questions.








Procedures

Volunteer participant couples will be found in different denominational churches

through an invitation (appendix A) and description of the study (appendix B) that will be

inserted into their respective church bulletins. A meeting of all volunteer couples will be

held in each church where informed consent forms (appendix C) will be explained and

signed. The description of the study form will be read to all participants at the meeting.

Permission to conduct the study will be sought from the University of Florida

Institutional Review Board. The Institutional Review Board approval form can be found

in appendix D.

Couples who sign and return the informed consent form will be assigned a five-

digit identification number that will allow for the tracking of responses across

assessments. The first two digits will be used to designate congregation, the next two

digits will be used to designate the couple's number from each congregation, and the last

digit will be used to identify each member of the couple, where the male of the couple

will be assigned a number 1; the female of the couple will be assigned a number 2. So the

number 01-01-1 tells us this participant is among those drawn from the first congregation,

is a member of couple one of congregation one, and is male.

Treatment Procedures

The treatment for this investigation will be delivered in two phases, each 30 days

in duration. In phase one invitations to participate in this research study will be placed in

a congregation's Sunday bulletin. Interested couples will meet with me after the worship

service to complete an orientation and brief training session, at which time they will be

informed as to the intent of the study and their part in it. The volunteers will be told they








will be given identification numbers and randomly assigned to one of two groups.

Participants in both groups will complete an assessment packet at the beginning and the

end of the 30-day phase one.

The purpose of this investigation is to determine whether intentional prayer

influences couples' perceptions about the quality of their relationships. Thus, couples

assigned to the experimental group will be asked to pray together on a daily basis to ask

God to enrich and/or enhance their relationship. Couples may satisfy the experimental

requirement through the use of free form prayer (appendix E) or by using a scripted

prayer (appendix F) that will be provided. Both the example prayer and the outline for

free form prayer will ask God to bless, affirm, love and value the mate of the one who

prays.

During the orientation meeting the group will be randomly divided (as proposed

by Borg & Gall, 1989) by having one member of the couple draw a red (experimental) or

blue (control) chip out of a container. An associate will lead the control group to a

separate room. The remaining experimental group will then receive a training session

from a second associate. During the training session, participants will be provided with

the opportunity to practice each form of prayer as follows. The trainer will read the

example prayer and also model a free form prayer from the outline for the benefit of

clarity for the experimental group. With couples in the experimental group, each partner

in turn will be asked to then read the example prayer to their partner and provided the

opportunity to discuss the procedure and ask questions. The experimental group couples

will then be asked to practice a free form prayer from the outline.








Each couple in the experimental group will be given a tracking form (appendix G) with

30 places to enter the time of day (e.g., morning, afternoon, evening) they prayed,

whether they used the example prayer or the outline prayer, and any short comments.

The participants will be asked to attach the tracking forms to their bathroom mirror for

ease of remembrance. Following the training session the trainer will administer the

measurement instrument packet to the experimental group. Upon completion of the

measurement instrument packet the experimental group will be free to leave.

Couples in the control group in another room will have the importance of their

part of the experiment explained and emphasized. Couples in the control group will be

asked to live their lives as they normally do for the next 30 days. My associate will then

administer the measurement instrument packet to the control group. Upon completion of

the measurement instrument packet the control group will be free to leave. At the end of

phase one both the control group and the experimental group will meet again to complete

the assessment packet and to collect the tracking form from the experimental group.

Phase two will begin immediately after the end of phase one, and will involve a

reversing of the treatment condition. Specifically, the control group will now become the

experimental group and those in the experimental group will now become the control

group and be requested to simply resume their normal living pattern. Couples in the

experimental condition will then receive the same training that was provided to

experimental couples in phase one of the investigation. Upon completion of the 30-day

phase two period both groups will meet for a third and final time to complete the

assessment packet. I will then answer questions from the groups and thank them for their

participation.








Measurement Procedures

Participants in the control and experimental groups will be given an instrument

packet containing the five assessment instruments at the beginning of phase one and

again at the end of phase one and two. The instrument packet will contain the following:

Family Assessment Measure III (FAM Ill), Experiences in Close Relationships Inventory

(ECRI), Helpfulness of Prayer Scale (HPS), Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWBS),

Religious Maturity Scale (RMS), Spiritual Maturity Index (SMI). Included in the packet

will be a machine scoreable answer sheet and demographic information sheet (see

appendix J).

A couple's level of communication, affective expression and affective

involvement will be measured and operationalized by the corresponding subscales of the

Family Assessment Measure III (FAM III)(appendix H). FAM III is based on the

Process Model of Family Functioning (Steinhauer, Santa-Barbara & Skinner, 1984),

which provides a conceptual framework for family assessments. This model asserts that

the goal of a family is the successful achievement of a variety of basic, developmental,

and crisis tasks (Task Accomplishment). Each task places demands on the family that the

family must meet. These tasks include allowing for continued development of all family

members, providing reasonable security, ensuring sufficient cohesion to maintain the

family as a unit and functioning effectively as a part of society.

Successful task accomplishments include differentiation and performance of

family roles. Role performance has three elements: 1. the assignment of specific activities

to each family member, 2. the willingness of each member to assume the assigned roles,

and 3. the carrying out of the assigned behaviors. The process of communication is used








to describe and assign the role tasks to be accomplished. Communication is successful

when the message intended is the same as the message received.

An essential element of the communication process is the expression of affect.

Affective communication can slow or accelerate aspects of task accomplishment and role

integration. Along the same lines, the type of affective involvement can impede or

facilitate task accomplishment. Affective involvement is the degree and quality of family

members' interest in each other. Vital to the family is its ability to meet the emotional

and security needs of its members (Skinner et al., 1995).

Family members influence each other through the process of control. The family

needs to be able to maintain its ongoing functions and adapt to changing task demands.

The Control subscale measures the family's quality of mutual influence. In this model

values and norms are the background for all the basic processes. The values and norms

would include whether family rules are explicit or implicit, the latitude allowed to decide

attitudes and behaviors, and whether the family norms are consistent with the

surrounding culture.

FAM III is a self-report instrument that provides quantitative indices of family

strengths and weaknesses (Skinner, Steinhauser & Santa-Barbara, 1995). The general

concepts measured by the FAM III are task accomplishment, role performance,

communication, affective expression, affective involvement, control, and values and

norms. These variables have been observed to be important determinants in healthy

individual and family development (Carter & McGoldrick, 1989). The FAM III is made

up of the three following components: 1. A General Scale (GS), which focuses on the

family as a system; 2. a Dyadic Relationship Scale (DRS), which examines relationships








between specific pairs; and 3. a Self Rating Scale (SRS), which measures the individual's

perceptions of his/her functioning in the family.

The assessment results provide raw scores for each subscale that can be

transferred to a profile form indicating percentile and T-scores (appendix I provides a

table with the GS, DRS and SRS subscales, item numbers and range of raw scores). Low

T-scores (40 and below) are considered strengths. High T-scores (60 and above) are

considered areas of weakness. Generally, the higher the individual's scale scores exceeds

60, the greater the likelihood of some relational disturbance.

For this study only the DRS will be used. The DRS is a 42 item self-report scale

intended to measure selected aspects of the couple's relationship quality including task

accomplishment, role performance, communication, affective expression, involvement,

control, and values and norms, each represented as a sub-scale. For the purposes of this

study the subscales of interest are communication, affective expression and affective

involvement. As noted above, the process of communication is used to describe and

assign the role tasks to be accomplished. Communication is successful when the message

intended is the message received. Within this framework, low scores on the

communication subscale reveal that communication is clear and direct and has an

appropriate amount of information. High scores show that communications are

insufficient in information and indirect. There is also a lack of mutual understanding

among family members and an inability to get clarification when confused. An example

of a communication subscale statement would be the following: I know what this person

means when he or she says something.








Affective expression defines the tone and timbre of interpersonal communication.

Low scores on the affective expression subscale show that family affective expression

encompasses a full range of affect, and is appropriate and contains correct intensity. A

high score reveals inadequate affective communication with insufficient expression and

emotional inhibitions. An example of an affective expression subscale statement would

be the following: I can tell when this person is upset.

Affective involvement pertains to the degree and quality of family member's

interest in each other. Low scores on the affective involvement subscale indicate a high

presence of emphatic involvement characterized by nurturance and support, fulfillment of

emotional needs, and a general sense of security. A high score indicates the absence of

affective involvement among family members. An example of an affective involvement

statement would be the following: This person and I aren't close to each other.

The normative data for FAM III came from an analysis of 247 adults and 65

adolescents (Skinner et al., 1995). The mean age of adults was 38.6 years (S.D.= 8.5);

43% were men and 57% were women. Over half (53%) of adults had completed at least

some post secondary education. The mean age of the adolescents was 15 years (S.D.=

3.6); 51% were male and 49% were female. Estimates of internal consistency of the FAM

III were established by calculating a coefficient alpha which provided a summary index

of the consistency based on the degree on inter-item correlation. Skinner, Steinhauer and

Santa-Barbara (1983) reported the following estimates: Adults .93 General Scale, .95

Dyadic Relationship, .89 Self-Rating; Adolescents: .94 General Scale, .94 Dyadic

Relationships, .86 Self-Rating. Evidence regarding the test-retest reliability of the FAM

III is provided by Jacob (1995). Drawing from a sample of 138 families, after a 12-day








test-retest study, it was found that the median test-retest reliability for the FAM III

subscales were .57, mothers, .56 fathers; and .66, adolescents.

The construct validity of the FAM III has been supported by numerous studies.

Jacob (1995) administered the FAM III along with three other measures of family

functioning to a sample of 138 mothers. These measures included the Family

Adaptability and Cohesion Evaluation Scale (FACES) (Olson, Sprenkle & Russel, 1979),

The Family Environment Scale (FES) (Moos, 1974; Moos & Moos, 1991), and the

Family Assessment Device (FAD) (Epstein, Baldwin & Bishop, 1983). Since these

instruments share a strong overlap of focus, correlations between FAM III and these other

instruments were expected to be reasonably high. Jacob compared the seven subscales of

FAM III (GS) with the two subscales of FACES and found correlations with Cohesion

were high (ranging from -.39 to -.55 with a mean of-.48), but with Adaptability they

were low (ranging from -.03 to .10 with a mean of .03). With the FES, correlations were

high with Cohesion (ranging from -.33 to -.63 with a mean of-.45) and Conflict (ranging

from .40 to .58 with a mean of .45) but were moderate with Expressiveness (ranging

from -.25 to -.36 with a mean of-.3 1), Intellectual-Cultural Orientation (ranging from -

.21 to -.32 with a mean of-.27), Moral-Religious Emphasis (ranging from -.06 to -.20

with a mean of-. 14), and Control (ranging from -.07 to .04 with a mean of-.02). With the

FAD, all correlations were high and significant (ranging from .67 to .73 with a mean of

.69) (Epstein et al., 1983).

Bloomquist and Harris (1984) administered the FAM III General Scale and

MMPI special family scales to 110 college undergraduates and found a strong

relationship among MMPI special family scales and FAM III subseale scores (range of








.16 to .60 with a mean of.37). The MMPI "Family Problems" special subscale had

particularly high correlations with FAM III subscales for Task Accomplishment (range of

.46 to .54 with a mean of.50), Role Performance (range of.19 to .29 with a mean of

.23), Communication (range of.25 to .33 with a mean of.28), Affective Expression

(range of.40 to .47 with a mean of .44), Involvement (range of.24 to .31 with a mean of

.27), and Values and Norms (range of .48 to .60 with a mean of .55).

A study by Reddon (1989) examined 16 families having preschool children with

mental and, in some cases, physical handicaps. The FAM General, Dyadic and Self-

Report Scales were administered along with the Parenting Stress Index (PSI: Abindin,

1986) and the Family Inventory of Resources for Management (FIRM: McCubbin,

Comeau, & Harkins, 1987). Correlations between PSI spousal relationship subscales and

the FAM scales were high (range of .63 to .69 with a mean of .66). FIRM scales and the

FAM scales were also high (range of-.66 to -.50 with a mean of-.58).

FAM III is an appropriate assessment instrument for this study because it has

been used with many different types of samples. A number of researchers have identified

mean differences for a variety of special population groups including developmentally

disabled (Trute & Hauch, 1988), foster children (Kufeldt, Armstrong, & Dorosh, 1994),

families including an alcoholic father (Jacob, 1991), mentally handicapped children

(Reddon, 1989), and schizophrenic patients (Levene, 1991). The FAM III forms provide

norms for a community based sample, and the means and standard deviations for these

special populations provide another basis of comparison to aid in the interpretation of

responses to the FAM III.








The FAM III has been frequently used to examine differences between different

types of families. In general, the FAM III has shown sensitivity to group differences in

research (Skinner et al., 1995). For example, Skinner, Steinhauer, and Santa-Barbara

(1983) examined the diagnostic power of the FAM III using a sample that included

"problem" and "non-problem" families. A multiple discriminant function analysis was

conducted to determine whether the FAM III subscales would significantly differentiate

between the two groups. The results indicated that FAM III was effective in

differentiating the "problem" families from those that were not classified as "problem"

families. A study by Forman (1988) divided participants into those involved in a

distressed relationship and those involved in a non-distressed relationship as determined

by scores obtained on the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (Spanier, 1976). Forman concluded

the FAM III subscales significantly discriminated between distressed and non-distressed

relationships.

Experiences in Close Relationship Inventory (ECRI)

The selected relationship qualities of avoidance and anxiety will be measured and

operationalized by the subscales of the ECRI (Brennan, Clark & Shaver, 1998). The

ECRI is a 36 item self-report romantic attachment measure that was derived from a factor

analysis of most of the existing self-report measures of adult romantic attachment.

Brennan, et al., conducted a thorough search of the self-report attachment literature from

which they created a pool of 482 items designed to assess 60 named attachment-related

constructs. Eliminating redundancy in the 482 items reduced the number to 323, from

which all 60 subscales could be computed. Brennan, et al., administered the pool of

attachment items to a large group of undergraduates (N=1086) at the University of Texas








at Austin. A factor analysis of the resulting data set produced two essentially independent

factors of avoidance (discomfort with closeness and depending on others) and anxiety

(fear of abandonment). Two 18-item scales were constructed from the 36 items (out of

the total pool of 323) with the highest absolute-value correlations with one of the two

higher-order factors of Avoidance and Anxiety.

Brennan et al. found the Avoidance and Anxiety scales were almost uncorrelated,

r = .11. Both the Avoidance and Anxiety scales correlate very highly with their respective

parent factors (the 60 attachment subscales); r = .95 in both cases. The ECRI Avoidance

scale correlates highly with several other scales measuring avoidance and discomfort

with closeness. For example, Carver's Personality and Adult Attachment scale (1994) r =

.90, Rothbard, Roberts, Leonard and Eiden's Attachment Styles scale (1993) r = .89,

Feeney, Noller, and Hanrahan's Attachment in Adults scale (1994) r = .88. The ECRI

Anxiety scale correlates highly with scales measuring anxiety and preoccupation with

attachment, jealousy, and fear of rejection. This is seen in Rothbard et al.'s Attachment

Styles scale (1993) r = .88, Feeney et al.'s Attachment in Adults scale (1994) r = .88, and

Carnelley and Pietromonaco's Depression and Relationship Functioning scale (1994) r

= .80. In a separate comparison of the Anxiety and Avoidance scales with Bartholomew

and Hororwitz's (1991) self-report Attachment-Style Category measure Brennan et al.

computed a multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) of the data and found the two

higher-order factor scales (Anxiety and Avoidance) were to be highly significant with

Bartholomew's touch and sexual preferences subscales.

In summary, for the purpose of this study the ECRI is a valuable measurement

tool having the advantage of being derived from virtually every other extant self-report








adult romantic attachment measure. The two dimensions of anxiety and avoidance

underlie virtually all self-report adult romantic attachment measures and appear crucial

for capturing important individual differences in adult romantic attachment. The ECRI

two 18-item scales have high internal consistency and being based on a large,

comprehensive item pool, may be more precise than previous scales (Brennan et al.).

Religious Maturity Scale (RMS)

Dudley and Cruise (1990) developed the RMS in response to controversies in the

psychology of religion field. With the RMS, Dudley and Cruise present what they hope to

be a more defensible index of the personal religious search for meaning. According to

Dudley and Cruise, measures of intrinsic and committed religiousness originate in efforts

to operationalize Allport's (1950) classic description of religious maturity. However,

according to Batson and Ventis (1982), such measures have failed to achieve their

purpose because they reputedly record the orthodox fanaticism of a "true believer."

Batson and his colleagues (1982) argued for a redress of the problem of defending

committed religiousness noting that it includes a measure of a tolerant existential struggle

for meaning. Batson operationalized his ideal by developing the Quest Scale, a 12 item

self-report measure. High scores on the Quest Scale are designed to reveal a more

cognitively flexible religious orientation in which faith is wedded to doubt.

Dudley and Cruise (1990) criticize Batson's conceptualization of committed

religiousness. They suggest that doubt is incompatible with the sincere commitment that

Allport identified as another aspect of mature religion. To their way of thinking, a person

who scores high on Batson's Quest Scale

would be required to strongly agree with one set of items stressing commitment
and the importance of faith while at the same time strongly agreeing with another








set of items stressing religious doubts and uncertainties. To us this seems rather
illogical, not to mention uncomfortable. (Dudley & Cruise, p. 100)

Dudley and Cruise's solution was to define religious maturity within a

psychological rather than a theological framework. The focus, in other words, is on the

process of being religious rather than on the content of particular theological beliefs.

High scores theoretically reflect a creative tension between sincere commitment and a

tentative open-mindedness, rather than doubt. As described by this scale, the religiously

mature individual believes, "I want to be ready to progress in my understanding when a

new piece of the 'truth' becomes clear to me. In the meantime I will live by the light I

have." (Dudley & Cruise, p. 101)

As a process rather than a content measure of religious commitment, this scale is

appropriate for use with all types of religious subjects. Items were written after a careful

analysis of Allport's (1950) claim that a mature religion should be "(1) well

differentiated; (2) dynamic in character in spite of its derivative nature; (3) productive of

a consistent morality; (4) comprehensive; (5) integral; and (6) fundamentally heuristic"

(Allport as quoted by Dudley & Cruise, p. 98). Twenty-six statements of religious

maturity were combined with 28 other Intrinsic, Extrinsic and Quest items to form a

Personal Religious Inventory (PRI).

Dudley and Cruise administered the PRI to a sample of 491 mostly university

students (1990). Each statement was followed by a 5-point Likert-style agreement scale.

A factor analysis of the resulting data set uncovered three orthogonal dimensions: 1.

Intrinsic Religion, 2. Extrinsic Religion, and 3. Religious Maturity. The 11 statements

loading on the third factor were combined into the Religious Maturity Scale. Three

negatively scored items articulated religious immaturity, with eight others expressing








maturity. Total scores were computed by summing across all 11 items, resulting in a

possible range of II to 55.

The Religious Maturity Scale is a straightforward self-report measure. All items

display an obvious face validity. Dudley and Cruise did not determine the reading level

of their instrument, but comprehension of at least some items might demand a fairly high

level of education (Watson, 1999). Most of the 491 subjects used by Dudley and Cruise

were Catholic or Seventh-day Adventist university students. Seventy older adolescents

and a smaller group of adults attending various religious functions were included as well.

The Religious Maturity mean and standard deviation were not reported for this sample.

In terms of reliability Dudley and Cruise obtained a coefficient alpha of.55. They

argued that this internal reliability was not higher because the construct is a difficult one

to operationalize (Watson, 1999). It is not easy, they claimed, to combine "the intelligent

and informed commitment to a belief system, with the open-minded tentativeness of the

searcher of truth" (Dudley & Cruise, p. 103). The authors did note, however, that a more

acceptable coefficient alpha of.68 was uncovered in another investigation examining a

national sample of over 400 participants. In terms of validity Dudley and Cruise found

that their instrument correlated positively with Batson's Quest Scale (.37), but not with

Allport's Intrinsic (.10) or Extrinsic (.02) religious orientations.

For the purposes of this study the RMS is a valuable tool in assessing religious

maturity because it offers a view of religious maturity from a psychological rather than

theological framework. A measurement of religious maturity from the psychological

perspective will help inform my questions concerning prayer and its potential in

positively affecting interpersonal relationships.








Spiritual Maturity Index (SMI)

The SMI is a general measure of religious maturity that conceptualizes the

construct as a continuous development process. Derived from evangelical Christian

theology, the SMI is "marked by qualities that are similar to psychological maturity"

(Ellison, 1984). Ellison conceives of the maturing person as showing autonomy (not

basing faith beliefs on the consensus of others), keen perception of reality, and creativity

in everyday life. He suggests that the spiritually mature person does not rely on support

from others to maintain beliefs but develops those beliefs through critical self-reflections

(Stevenson, 1999).

Ellison sees religious practices and beliefs as an integral part of life's daily

activities. Ellison believes spiritual maturity, unlike the closely related concept of

spiritual well-being, implies meeting attitudinal and behavioral criteria not suggested in

the concept of well-being. The spiritually mature person is self-principled and is able to

enter into many full relationships with others. Hence, maturity reflects interdependence

as well as a strong sense of self.

Spiritually mature persons are willing to make sacrifices for the welfare of others

as well as cope with suffering and pain. Such individuals define their personal identity in

relationship to closeness and communion with God. They tend to be conscientious

regarding regular devotional time with God, seeing it as essential for spiritual growth.

Self-principled and autonomous, these persons actively use their gifts and talents and are

committed to cultivating and expressing the classic Christian virtues and disciplines

(Stevenson, 1999).








The SMI consists of 30 self-report items scaled on a 6-point Likert-style format

with reverse scoring on 12 items due to negative wording (see appendix K). Eighteen of

the 30 items, if marked in the strongly agree direction, are said to be indicators of mature

spirituality (see appendix K). No items are included as a check for social desirability or

other response biases. The instructions indicate that there is no "right" response in an

attempt to diffuse a social desirability tendency. Face validity of the scale is quite high

because items are directly related to Ellison's conceptualized quality of spiritual maturity

(Stevenson, 1999).

Several studies report group means and standard deviations for the SMI. A sample

of 319 adult Sunday School attendees from the same church report a mean of 138.1 (SD

= 16.8), (Mack, Stone, Renfroe & Lloyd, 1987). A study of 117 students from three

seminaries reported a mean of 140.73 (SD = 17.78), (Buhrow, Calkins, Haws & Rost,

1987). A study of 84 Catholic and 131 Protestant college students reported a mean score

of 128.45 and 140.26 respectively with no SD reported (Bassett, Camplin, Humphrey,

Dorr, Biggs, Distaffen, Doxtator, Flaherty, Hunsberger, Poage, & Thompson, 1991).

Buhrow et al.'s (1987) study of 117 students reported an internal consistency coefficient

of .87 (Cronbach's alpha). Basset et al.'s (1991) 215 college students reported the same

statistic with a value of.92.

In terms of the validity the SMI has yielded moderately significant correlations

with Ellison's Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWBS). Ellison found this relationship (r =

.57, p = .001) based on the belief that both were measuring different aspects of spiritual

health. Bufford (1984) also found this relationship (r = .62).








For the purposes of this study the SMI is an appropriate measurement tool for

spiritual maturity because it will help inform the question: Do people of differing

spiritual maturity levels benefit differently from prayer.

Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWBS)

The SWBS (Paloutzian & Ellison, 1982) was developed as a general measure of

the subjective quality of life. It serves as a global psychological measure of one's

perception of spiritual well-being. SWBS is presented as wholistic. The scale is intended

to measure people's overall spiritual well-being as it is perceived by them in both a

religious well-being sense and an existential well-being sense. Spiritual well-being is

conceptualized differently from spiritual health or spiritual maturity. Spiritual well-being

involves transcendence by focusing on well-being in relation to that which lies beyond

oneself. The SWBS is intended to measure psychological dimensions, not theological

ones (Boivin, Kirby, Underwood & Silva, 1999).

SWBS includes a religious and a social psychological dimension in its

construction. The religious or "vertical" dimension focuses on how one perceives the

well-being of his or her spiritual life as expressed in relation to God. The social

psychological or "horizontal" dimension concerns how well the person is adjusted to self,

community, and surroundings. This component involves the existential notions of life

purpose, life satisfaction, and positive or negative life experiences. For these reasons the

SWBS is an appropriate measurement instrument for the purposes of this study. The

SWBS is a valid means of assessing spiritual maturity and well-being and has the added

advantage of being brief








SWBS is a 20-item self-assessment instrument constructed on two subscales, one

that represents the vertical religious well-being dimension and one that represents the

horizontal existential well-being dimension. Each subscale has 10 items. All of the

religious well-being items contain the word "God." The existential well-being items

contain no specifically religious language, instead asking about such things as life

purpose, satisfaction, and relations with people and situations around us. In order to

control for response set bias, approximately half of the items are worded in a reverse

direction so that disagreement with the item represents higher well-being. Each item is

rated on a 6-point Likert Scale. The items are scored from 1 to 6, with a higher number

representing greater well-being. These scores are summed in order to yield three scale

scores: one score for total spiritual well-being, one score for existential well-being, and

one score for religious well-being. The scale is nonsectarian and can be used in a variety

of religious, health, and research contexts (Boivin et al., 1999).

The original sample consisted of 206 college students from the western half of the

United States. Test-retest reliability coefficients for four different samples with 1, 4, 6,

and 10 weeks between testings ranged from .88 to .99 for religious well-being, .73 to .98

for existential well-being, and .82 to.99 for spiritual well-being. The internal consistency

reliability coefficients, based on data from over 900 subjects across seven studies, ranged

from .82 to .94 for religious well-being, .78 to .86 for existential well-being, and .89 to

.94 for spiritual well-being. These data indicate high internal consistency and reliability

(Boivin et al., 1999).

SWBS face validity is evident by examination of the content of the items (Boivin

et al., 1999). Validity is indicated by correlations between the SWBS scale and other








measures with which it ought to be associated on theoretical grounds (Boivin et al.,

1999). Research by Ellison and Smith (1991) shows that religious well-being, existential

well-being and spiritual well-being are associated with a variety of psychological,

religious, health, and relational variables. Boivin et al. (1999) indicates this is one of the

most widely used scales for research and clinical purposes. In their 1991 manual, the

authors report they have received over 300 requests to use the scale.

Helpfulness of Prayer Scale (HPS)

The HPS was developed by Saudia, Kinney, Brown and Young-Ward (1995).

Saudia et al. developed the HPS for use with subjects to rate the helpfulness of prayer in

coping with the stress of cardiac surgery. Participants in the study were told that several

methods have helped people relax while getting ready for cardiac surgery. Prayer as

communication with a Higher Being is one method found to help people cope with the

stress of surgery. Participants were asked whether they used prayer to help them prepare

for cardiac surgery. If they answered yes they were asked to indicate how helpful it was.

Individuals were asked to indicate if they used prayer to deal with the stress of

their upcoming surgery. Those who responded positively were asked to rate the

helpfulness of prayer on a numbered rating scale, ranging from 0 to 15, with 0 indicating
"not helpful" and 15 indicating "extremely helpful." A panel of three experts with

graduate degrees in theology established content validity of the instrument. Test-retest

reliability was established through administration of the instrument with a one-week

interval to five subjects who had undergone heart surgery within the previous 6 months.

One hundred percent agreement was found. Saudia et al.'s sample included 100 subjects.

The majority of the subjects were male (72%), married (84%), and Protestant (87%). Two








subjects indicated that they did not use prayer themselves but that others prayed for them,

and two did not use prayer at all. Of the 96 subjects who used prayer, 70 rated prayer as

extremely helpful. One subject who used prayer did not believe prayer could be rated,

and the rating given by the remaining 25 subjects was from 6 to 14 (mean prayer rating

13.29).

In this study a modified version of the HPS will be used. Specifically, the same

15-point Likert Scale will be used and participants will be asked to indicate the

helpfulness of prayer based on the following statement:

Prayer as communication with a Higher Being is thought to be one method for

changing the perception of Christian married couples' relationship. Please indicate

whether prayer was helpful to you. Rate how helpful on the scale provided.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Not at all helpful Extremely helpful

Research Questions

The following research questions will be examined in this study:

A) Does intentional prayer improve the quality of Christian married couples'
relationships?

1. Does participation in intentional prayer increase Christian married couples'
perception of the quality of their interpersonal communication?

2. Does participation in intentional prayer increase Christian married couples'
perception of the expression of affect in their relationship?

3. Does participation in intentional prayer increase Christian married couples'
perception of the quality of affective involvement in their relationship?

4. Does participation in intentional prayer decrease Christian married couples'
perception of the avoidance of emotional intimacy in their relationship?

5. Does participation in intentional prayer decrease Christian married couples'
perception of the anxiety about emotional closeness in their relationship?








6. Does participation in intentional prayer increase Christian married couples'
perception of their religious well-being?

7. Does participation in intentional prayer increase Christian married couples'
perception of their existential well-being?

B) Are there specific characteristics that help to explain differences in the quality of
the marital relationship among couples who used intentional prayer?

1. Do the characteristics of spiritual maturity, years married, number of children,
and number of children in home explain the differences in the perception of
interpersonal communication for Christian married couples?

2. Do the characteristics of spiritual maturity, years married, number of children,
and number of children in home explain the differences in the perception of
expression of affect in their relationship for Christian married couples?

3. Do the characteristics of spiritual maturity, years married, number of children,
and number of children in home explain the differences in the perception of
the quality of affective involvement in their relationship for Christian married
couples?

4. Do the characteristics of spiritual maturity, years married, number of children,
and number of children in home explain the differences in the perception of
avoidance of emotional intimacy in their relationship for Christian married
couples?

5. Do the characteristics of spiritual maturity, years married, number of children,
and number of children in home explain the differences in the perception of
anxiety about emotional closeness in their relationship for Christian married
couples?

6. Do the characteristics of spiritual maturity, years married, number of children,
and number of children in home explain the differences in the perception of
religious well-being for Christian married couples?

7. Do the characteristics of spiritual maturity, years married, number of children,
and number of children in home explain the differences in the perception of
existential well-being for Christian married couples?

Data Analyses

For all research questions a two-factor analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) with

multiple covariants will be used for the data analysis. Appropriate follow up analysis





72


will be done to specify observed differences. Given the exploratory nature of this study

an alpha level of .05 will be used to test the significance of the observed comparisons.














CHAPTER 4
DATA ANALYSES AND RESULTS

The purpose of this research was to investigate whether intentional prayer

improves married Christian couples' perception of the quality of their relationship.

Intentional prayer being volitional communication with a Higher Being. The intent of this

study was to determine if the married Christian couples' perception of their relationship

changed or not through the use of intentional prayer. Results of the analyses of the

research hypotheses are presented in this chapter. This chapter begins with a

demographic description of the sample of married Christian couples.

Description of Sample

Christian married couples from fifteen churches in north central Florida

participated in this study. In all, fifty-one couple's participated in the study (102

individuals), and were randomly assigned to either the experimental or control condition.

There were twenty-five couples in the experimental group and twenty-six couples in the

control group. Participants were from the following varying Christian denominational

churches: Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church (N = 16), Hodge's Presbyterian Church (N

= 2), Abundant Grace Community Church (N = 2), The Family Church (N = 26), Campus

Church of Christ (N = 2), The Worldwide Church of God (N = 26), First Assembly of

God (N = 2), Holy Faith Catholic Church (N= 2), Grace United Methodist Church (N =

4), The Vineyard Church (N = 4), Trinity United Methodist Church (N = 6), Hardeetown








Baptist Church (N = 2), First Church of the Nazarene Church (N = 4), Westminster

Presbyterian Church (N = 2), The Gospel Lighthouse Church (N 2).

For purposes of determining group equivalence, groups were compared on the

three folowing relevant demographic variables: 1) number of years married; 2) number of

children; 3) number of children at home, as indicated in Table 1.

The twenty-six couples in the control group had a mean of 16.27 years married

with a standard deviation of 17.57 and a range of one to fifty-eight years married. The

twenty-five couples in the experimental group had a mean of 24.66 years married with a

standard deviation of 19.34 and a range of one to fifty-seven years married. A t test for

independent means was performed on the means of the years married and indicated a

significant difference between groups (t = 3.56, df= 100, p <.05). The observed

difference between experimental and control group means is considered as an artifact of

random assignment of participants to groups.

Table 1. Comparison of Years Married
Years Married N Mean Std. Deviation Minimum Maximum Range
Control 52 16.27 17.57 1 58 58
Experiment 50 24.66 19.34 1 57 57
Total 102 20.38 18.84 1 58 58

The twenty-six couples in the control group had a mean of 2.38 children with a

standard deviation of 2.05 and a range of zero to six. The twenty-five couples in the

experimental group had a mean of 1.88 children with a standard deviation of 1.36 and a

range of zero to four. A t test for independent means was performed on the means of the

number of children and indicated no significant difference between groups (I = 0.12, df=

100, p > .05).








Table 2. Comparisons of Numbers of Children per Couple
Children N Mean Std. Deviation Minimum Maximum Range
Control 52 2.38 2.05 0 6 6
Experiment 50 1.88 1.36 0 4 4
Total 102 2.14 1.75 0 6 6

The twenty-six couples in the control group had a mean of .94 children living at

home with a standard deviation of 1.34 and a range of zero to five. The twenty-five

couples in the experimental group had a mean of .52 children at home with a standard

deviation of 1.15 and a range of zero to five. A t test for independent means was

performed on the means of the number of children living at home and indicated no

significant difference between groups (t =0.15, df= 100, p > .05).

Table 3. Comparison of Number of Children in Home per Couple
Children N Mean Std. Deviation Minimum Maximum Range
Control 52 .94 1.34 0 5 5
Experiment 50 .52 0.86 0 3 3
Total 102 .74 1.15 0 5 5

Description of Data

All fifty-one couples completed a packet of five assessment instruments that

measured relevant indices of couple satisfaction at the beginning of a thirty-day period

and again at the end. The indices include interpersonal communication, affective

expression and affective involvement sub-scales of the Dyadic Relationship Scale

(Skinner, Steihhauser & Santa-Barbara, 1995); avoidance and anxiety sub-scales of the

Experiences in Close Relationship Inventory (Brennam, Clark & Shaver, 1998); religious

well-being and existential well-being sub-scales of the Spiritual Well-Being Scale

(Ellison, 1983). Group means and standard deviation for all dependent variables can be

found in appendix P.








In order to understand the relationships among the dependent and independent

variables a series of Pearson product moment correlation coefficients were computed.

Table 4 provides a matrix of these correlations. Fourteen of the 45 correlations were

significant (12 at .01, 2 at .05 level). Of the significant correlations, the magnitude of the

correlations were mid range (i.e. .22 to .45). With four exceptions, the direction for all

correlations were in the expected direction. Among the exceptions were the relationships

of helpfulness of prayer and affective expression, helpfulness of prayer and religious

well-being, helpfulness of prayer and spiritual maturity, affective expression and

religious maturity.

Table 4. Summary Table for the Results of the Pearson Correlation
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1
2 -.07
3 -.05 .27**
4 -.05 .05 -.02
5 -.02 .01 .02 .75**
6 .07 .19 -.01 .30** .19
7 .02 -.12 .13 .31** .31** .17
8 -.05 -.03 -.01 .80** .68** .33** .38**
9 .10 -.25* -.12 .01 .02 .10 .13 .15
10 .19 -.22* .06 -.43** -.25 -.33** -.10 -45** -.11
Note: = Correlation is significant at the .05 level (2-tailed). ** = Correlation is
significant at the .01 level (2-tailed). I = interpersonal communication; 2 = affective
expression; 3 = affective involvement; 4 = religious well-being; 5 = existential well-
being; 6 = avoidance; 7 = anxiety; 8 =spiritual maturity index scale; 9 = religious
maturity scale; 10 = helpfulness of prayer scale.

Research Questions

This study was designed to address the two following global research questions:

A) Does intentional prayer improve the quality of Christian married couples'

relationship? B) Are there specific characteristics that help to explain differences in the








quality of the marital relationship among couples? The two global research questions

were further focused on each of the seven dependent variables.

A Two Factor Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) with multiple covariates was

performed comparing the pretest and posttest scores of the males and females in the

control group with the scores of their counterparts in the experimental group. Given the

exploratory nature of the study an alpha level of .05 was selected to test the significance

of the observed comparisons.

Question 1. Does participation in intentional prayer improve Christian married couples'

perception of the quality of their interpersonal communication? Do the characteristics of

spiritual maturity, years married, number of children, and number of children in home

explain the differences in the perception of interpersonal communication for Christian

married couples?

The Null Hypothesis stated that there would be no difference in the change in the

quality of interpersonal communication between the couples in the experimental and the

control groups. The Null Hypothesis was tested using a two factor ANCOVA with

multiple covariates. The observed results, presented in Table 5, indicated that there were

no differences for either main effect, treatment or gender; neither was there a significant

interaction effect. Further, no significant relationships were observed between the

covariates and the dependent variable. Thus, the Null Hypothesis was retained.








Table 5. Summary Table for the Results of ANCOVA for Interpersonal Communication
Source df Mean Square F Significance
PRERMS 1 .90 .71 .40
PRESMS 1 1.21 .96 .33
YRSMAR 1 2.56 2.03 .16
CHILDREN 1 1.84 1.45 .23
CHIHOME 1 2.19 1.73 .19
PRECOM 1 22.94 18.15 .00
GENDER 1 1.22 .96 .33
TREAT 1 .46 .36 .55
TREAT*GENDER 1 .04 .03 .87
Note: PRERMS = Religious Maturity Scale; PRESMS Spiritual Maturity Index scale;
YRSMAR = years married; CHILDREN = number of children; CHIHOME = children
still at home; PRECOM = interpersonal communication score; TREAT = experimental
treatment; GENDER = male or female score.


Question 2. Does participation in intentional prayer improve Christian married couples'

perception of the expression of affect in their relationship? Do the characteristics of

spiritual maturity, years married, number of children, and number of children in home

explain the differences in the perception of expression of affect in their relationship for

Christian married couples?

The Null Hypothesis stated there would be no difference in the change in the

quality of affective expression between the couples in the experimental and the control

groups. The Null Hypothesis was tested using a two factor ANCOVA with multiple

covariates. The observed results, presented in Table 6, indicated that there were no

differences for either main effect, treatment and gender; neither was there a significant

interaction effect. Further, no significant relationships were observed between the

covariates and the dependent variable. Thus, the Null Hypothesis was retained.








Table 6. Summary Table for the Results of ANCOVA for Affective Expression
Source df Mean Square F Significance
PRERMS 1 .31 .16 .69
PRESMS 1 .17 .09 .77
YRSMAR 1 1.02 .53 .47
CHILDREN 1 .26 .14 .71
CHIHOME 1 6.03 3.14 .08
PREAFFEC 1 60.26 31.35 .00
TREAT 1 2.60 1.36 .25
GENDER 1 .00 .00 .99
TREAT*GENDER 1 .02 .01 92
Note: PRERMS = Religious Maturity Scale; PRESMS = Spiritual Maturity Index scale;
YRSMAR = years married; CHILDREN = number of children; CHIHOME = children
still at home; PREAFFEC = affective expression score; TREAT = experimental
treatment; GENDER = male or female score.


Question 3. Does participation in intentional prayer improve Christian married couples'

perception of the quality of affective involvement in their relationship? Do the

characteristics of spiritual maturity, years married, number of children, and number of

children in home explain the differences in the perception of the quality of affective

involvement in their relationship for Christian married couples?

The Null Hypothesis stated that there would be no difference in the change in the

quality of affective involvement between the couples in the experimental and the control

groups. The Null Hypothesis was tested using a two factor ANCOVA with multiple

covariates. The observed results, presented in Table 7, indicated that there were no

differences for either main effect, treatment or gender; neither was there a significant

interaction effect. Further, no significant relationships were observed between the

covariates and the dependent variable. Thus, the Null Hypothesis was retained.








Table 7. Summary Table for the Results of the ANCOVA for Affective Involvement
Source df Mean Square F Significance
PRERMS 1 .04 .04 .86
PRESMS 1 2.84 2.65 .11
YRSMAR 1 2.76 2.57 .11
CHILDREN 1 .01 .01 .94
CHIHOME 1 2.65 2.47 .12
PREINVOL 1 24.11 22.46 .00
TREAT 1 .59 .55 .46
GENDER 1 .08 .07 .79
TREAT*GENDER 1 .60 .56 .46
Note: PRERMS = Religious Maturity Scale; PRESMS = Spiritual Maturity Index scale;
YRSMAR = years married; CHILDREN = number of children; CHIHOME = children
still at home; PREINVOL = affective involvement score; TREAT = experimental
treatment; GENDER = male or female score.


Question 4. Does participation in intentional prayer improve Christian married couples'

perception of the avoidance of emotional intimacy in their relationship? Do the

characteristics of spiritual maturity, years married, number of children, and number of

children in home explain the differences in the perception of avoidance of emotional

intimacy in their relationship for Christian married couples?

The Null Hypothesis stated that there would be no difference in the change in the

quality of avoidance between the couples in the experimental and the control groups. The

Null Hypothesis was tested using a two factor ANCOVA with multiple covariates. The

observed results, presented in Table 8, were that there were no differences for either main

effect, treatment or gender; neither was there a significant interaction effect.

Despite the absence of main or interaction effects a significant relationship was

observed between avoidance of emotional intimacy and two of the covariates. The first

exception was a significant difference observed between spiritual maturity and the

avoidance of emotional intimacy. The significance indicated there was a positive linear

relationship between spiritual maturity and the avoidance of emotional intimacy, that is,








as participants spiritual maturity increased so did their avoidance of emotional intimacy.

This relationship can be understood in light of one of the constructs used to define

spiritual maturity. A spiritually mature person is understood to be high in showing

autonomy (i.e., not basing faith beliefs on the consensus of others). Thus, a spiritually

mature person does not rely on support from others to maintain beliefs but develops those

beliefs through critical self-reflection (Stevenson, 1999). Further, the spiritually mature

person is self-principled as well as having a strong sense of self (Ellison, 1984). The

journey to spiritual maturity is experienced internally as an individual and not in

connection with another. This emphasis on spiritual autonomy appears to mitigate against

emotional intimacy.

There was also a significant difference observed between the number of children

at home and avoidance of emotional intimacy. The significance indicated there was a

positive linear relationship between the number of children at home and avoidance of

emotional intimacy, that is, as the number of children in the home increases so does the

avoidance of emotional intimacy. This may be due to the increased work load of each

spouse as they seek to provide emotionally and materially for their expanding family unit.

Thus, the Null Hypothesis was rejected.








Table 8. Summary Table for the Results of ANCOVA for Avoidance
Source df Mean Square F Significance
PRERMS 1 91.60 3.12 .08
PRESMS 1 222.75 7.59 .01
YRSMAR 1 17.63 .60 .44
CHILDREN 1 14.61 .50 .48
CHIHOME 1 111.78 3.81 .05
PREAVOID 1 750.35 25.55 .00
TREAT 1 6.96 .24 .63
GENDER 1 12.30 .42 .52
TREAT*GENDER 1 44.04 1.50 .22
Note: PRERMS = Religious Maturity Scale; PRESMS = Spiritual Maturity Index scale;
YRSMAR = years married; CHILDREN = number of children; CHIHOME = children
still at home; PREAVOID = avoidance score; TREAT = experimental treatment;
GENDER = male or female score.


Question 5. Does participation in intentional prayer improve Christian married couples'

perception of the anxiety about emotional closeness in their relationship? Do the

characteristics of spiritual maturity, years married, number of children, and number of

children in home explain the differences in the perception of anxiety about emotional

closeness in their relationship for Christian married couples?

The Null Hypothesis stated that there would be no difference in the change in the

quality of anxiety between the couples in the experimental and the control groups. The

Null Hypothesis was tested using a two factor ANCOVA with multiple covariates. The

observed results, presented in Table 9, indicated that there were no differences for either

main effect, treatment or gender; neither was there a significant interaction effect.

Further, no significant relationships were observed between the covariates and the

dependent variable. Thus, the Null Hypothesis was retained.








Table 9. Summary Table for the Results of ANCOVA for Anxiety
Source df Mean Square F Significance
PRERMS 1 5.64 .07 .79
PRESMS 1 18.58 .24 .62
YRSMAR 1 27.65 .36 .55
CHILDREN 1 41.41 .54 .46
CHIHOME 1 1.26 .02 .90
PREANX 1 11071.47 144.46 .00
TREAT 1 7.49 .10 .76
GENDER 1 43.89 57 .45
TREAT*GENDER 1 .70 .01 .93
Note: PRERMS = Religious Maturity Scale; PRESMS = Spiritual Maturity Index scale;
YRSMAR = years married; CHILDREN = number of children; CHIHOME = children
still at home; PREANX = anxiety score; TREAT = experimental treatment; GENDER =
male or female score.


Question 6. Does participation in intentional prayer improve Christian married couples'

perception of their religious well-being? Do the characteristics of spiritual maturity,

years married, number of children, and number of children in home explain the

differences in the perception of religious well-being for Christian married couples?

The Null Hypothesis stated that there would be no difference in the change in the

quality of religious well-being between the couples in the experimental and the control

groups. The Null Hypothesis was tested using a two factor ANCOVA with multiple

covariates. The observed results, presented in Table 10, indicated that there were no

differences for either main effect, treatment or gender; neither was there a significant

interaction effect. Further, no significant relationships were observed between the

covariates and the dependent variable. Thus, the Null Hypothesis was retained.








Table 10. Summary Table for the Results of ANCOVA for Religious Well-Being
Source df Mean Square F Significance
PRERMS 1 .56 .03 .87
PRESMS 1 36.58 2.18 .14
YRSMAR 1 2.69 .16 .69
CHILDREN 1 22.92 1.36 .25
CHIHOME 1 6.61 .39 .53
PRERWB 1 822.60 48.92 .00
TREAT 1 50.58 3.01 .09
GENDER 1 7.57 .45 .50
TREAT*GENDER 1 28.17 1.68 .20
Note: PRERMS = Religious Maturity Scale; PRESMS = Spiritual Maturity Index scale;
YRSMAR = years married; CHILDREN = number of children; CHIHOME = children
still at home; PRERWB = religious well-being score; TREAT = experimental treatment;
GENDER = male or female score.


Question 7. Does participation in intentional prayer improve Christian married couples'

perception of their existential well-being? Do the characteristics of spiritual maturity,

years married, number of children, and number of children in home explain the

differences in the perception of existential well-being for Christian married couples?

The Null Hypothesis stated that there would be no difference in the change in the

quality of existential well-being between the couples in the experimental and the control

groups. The Null Hypothesis was tested using a two factor ANCOVA with multiple

covariates. The observed results, presented in Table 11, indicated that there were no

differences for either main effect, treatment or gender; neither was there a significant

interaction effect.

Despite the absence of main or interaction effects a significant relationship was

observed between existential well-being and one of the covariates. The exception was an

observed difference between the scores of spiritual maturity and existential well-being.

The significance indicated there was a positive linear relationship between spiritual

maturity and existential well-being, that is, as participants spiritual maturity increases so








does their existential well-being. This finding follows Ellison's (1984) supposition that as

people mature spiritually they are willing to make sacrifices for the welfare of others as

well as cope with suffering and pain (Stevenson, 1999). In turn, this openness positively

impacts their existential sense of well-being in relation to their adjustments to self,

community, surroundings and their life experiences (Paloutzian & Ellison, 1982). Thus,

the Null Hypothesis was rejected.

Table 11. Summary Table for the Results of ANCOVA for Existential Well-Being
Source df Mean Square F Significance
PRERMS 1 4.56 .17 .68
PRESMS 1 179.79 6.77 .01
YRSMAR 1 62.76 2.36 .13
CHILDREN 1 26.55 1.00 .32
CHIHOM E 1 32.76 1.23 .27
PREEWB 1 767.04 28.90 .00
TREAT 1 .41 .02 .90
GENDER 1 2.34 .09 .77
TREAT*GENDER 1 50.48 1.90 .17
Note: PRERMS = Religious Maturity Scale; PRESMS = Spiritual Maturity Index scale;
YRSMAR = years married; CHILDREN = number of children; CHIHOME = children
still at home; PREEWB = existential well-being score; TREAT = experimental treatment;
GENDER = male or female score.


Participants responses to the Helpfulness of Prayer scale were tested using a two

factor ANCOVA with multiple covariates. The observed results, presented in Table 12,

indicated that there were no differences for either main effect, treatment or gender;

neither was there a significant interaction effect. Further, no significant relationships

were observed between the covariates and the dependent variable.








Table 12. Summary Table for the Results of ANCOVA for Helpfulness of Prayer Scale
Source df Mean Square F Significance
PREPS 1 369.48 116.17 .00
PRERMS 1 2.22 .70 .41
PRESMS 1 6.50 2.04 .16
YRSMAR 1 .20 .06 .80
CHILDREN 1 .01 .00 .96
CHIHOM E 1 .82 .26 .61
TREAT 1 .87 .27 .60
GENDER 1 .89 .28 .60
TREAT*GENDER 1 .12 .04 .85
Note: PREPS = Helpfulness of Prayer Scale; PRERMS = Religious Maturity Scale;
PRESMS = Spiritual Maturity Index scale; YRSMAR = years married; CHILDREN =
number of children; CHIHOME = children still at home; TREAT = experimental
treatment; GENDER = male or female score.

Summary

The question of whether intentional prayer affected Christian married couple's

perception of their relationship was examined by analyzing their responses to seven

indices of couple satisfaction. Results of the analysis supported the Null Hypothesis in

all cases but two. In those two cases, avoidance of emotional intimacy and spiritual

maturity, avoidance of emotional intimacy and the number of children at home, and

existential well-being and spiritual maturity were significantly related to couple's

satisfaction.














CHAPTER 5
DISCUSSION

The purpose of this research was to investigate whether intentional prayer

improves Christian married couples' perception of the quality of their relationship. The

intent of this study was to determine if the Christian married couples' perception of their

relationship changed or not through the use of intentional prayer. A summary of the

study, conclusions and implications for future research are presented in this chapter.

Summary of the Study

For the purpose of this study change in the perceived quality of Christian married

couples' relationship was the variable of interest. In assessing the change of perception

of the participants the dependent variables included interpersonal communication,

affective expression, affective involvement, avoidance of emotional intimacy, anxiety in

emotional closeness, religious well-being and existential well-being. The designated

independent variables were spiritual maturity and religious maturity. Each of the

variables were assessed by using sub scales of published measurement instruments.

Christian married couples from fifteen churches in north central Florida

participated in this study. In all, fifty-one couple's participated in the study (102

individuals), and were randomly assigned to either the experimental or control condition.

There were twenty-five couples in the experimental group and twenty-six couples in the

control group. Participants were from the following varying Christian denominational

churches: Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church, Hodge's Presbyterian Church, Abundant








Grace Community Church, The Family Church, Campus Church of Christ, The

Worldwide Church of God, First Assembly of God, Holy Faith Catholic Church, Grace

United Methodist Church, The Vineyard Church, Trinity United Methodist Church,

Hardeetown Baptist Church, First Church of the Nazarene Church, Westminster

Presbyterian Church, The Gospel Lighthouse Church.

For purposes of determining group equivalence, groups were compared on the

three following relevant demographic variables: 1) number of years married; 2) number

of children; 3) number of children at home. There were no differences between the

groups for number of children and the number of children at home. In contrast, the

observed difference between the experimental and control group means for number of

years married was significant. This finding was considered as an artifact of random

assignment of participants to groups.

The experimental design for this study was a pretest-posttest control group design

with repeated measures and random assignment. This design allowed for the comparison

of the treatment group with the control group after the completion of the prescribed

intervention. Couples in the experimental group were asked to pray together out loud on a

daily basis asking God to enrich and enhance their relationship and their spouse.

Experimental couples satisfied the experiment requirement through the use of a free form

prayer (appendix E) or by using a scripted prayer (appendix F). All participants

completed a packet of five assessment instruments that measured relevant indices of

couple satisfaction at the beginning of a thirty-day period and again at the end. The

indices included interpersonal communication, affective expression and affective

involvement sub-scales of the Dyadic Relationship Scale (Skinner, Steihhauser & Santa-








Barbara, 1995); avoidance and anxiety sub-scales of the Experiences in Close

Relationship Inventory (Brennam, Clark & Shaver, 1998); religious well-being and

existential well-being sub-scales of the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (Ellison, 1983). Upon

completion of the posttest the data was processed in a two factor analysis of covariance

(ANCOVA) with multiple covariates.

Results

The analysis of the data yielded mixed results. Specifically for the dependent

variables of interpersonal communication (i.e., question one), affective expression (i.e.,

question two), affective involvement (i.e., question three), anxiety about emotional

closeness (i.e., question five) and religious well-being (i.e., question six) there were no

significant difference for main effect, neither were there significant interaction effects.

In contrast, significant findings were observed between the covariates and the

dependent variables of avoidance of emotional intimacy (i.e., question four) and

existential well-being (i.e., question seven). The relationship observed between avoidance

of emotional intimacy and spiritual maturity is particularly noteworthy. The data

indicated there was a positive linear relationship between avoidance of emotional

intimacy and spiritual maturity, that is, as participants spiritual maturity increased so did

their avoidance of emotional intimacy. This relationship can be understood in light of one

of the constructs used to define spiritual maturity. The journey to spiritual maturity is

experienced internally as an individual and not in connection with another. This emphasis

on spiritual autonomy appears to mitigate against emotional intimacy. A spiritually

mature person is understood to be high in showing autonomy (i.e., not basing faith beliefs

on the consensus of others). Thus, a spiritually mature person does not rely on support




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