Religion/ SpiritualityTrauma

The effect of prayer on posttraumatic growth

Most discussions about the aftermath of trauma focus on the negative. However, some psychologists believe that although damaging, the experience of trauma can also inspire some people to change in positive ways — experience posttraumatic growth.

Dr. Sean Lauderdale from Pittsburgh State University in Pennsylvania reports during the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy (ABCT) meeting in Philadelphia that what you pray for might influence your ability to experience growth following a traumatic event.

First, the details.

  • 131 elderly adults who attended church or religious services frequently were studied.
  • The assessment of the relationship between prayers, specific aspects of post-traumatic growth, and specific symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder were collected using a questionnaire.

The categories of prayer requests were?

  • Acceptance of their fate
  • Calm
  • Assistance with getting through the event and its aftermath
  • Deferring (eg, putting it all in God’s hands)

And, the results following prayer requests

  • Acceptance: significantly associated with less likelihood to experience positive posttraumatic growth.
  • Calm: associated with significant growth as measured by the ability to relate to others, new possibilities, personal strength, and an appreciation of life.
  • Assistance: significantly associated with growth as measured by their ability to relate to others, new possibilities, and spiritual change.
  • Deferring: significantly more likely to have a re-experience of posttraumatic stress symptoms.

The bottom line?

The interesting part of this study is the attempt to correlate what you pray for with what you get. The findings suggest that in prayer, as in life, your have to know what you want and ask for it.

Yes, you might be too weak to face the aftermath of catastrophic event alone. But, next time you do an “Our Father?” it appears that assistance and calm are the best requests.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a link to this study because I came across it while walking through the ABCT poster session. More on the topic of post traumatic growth can be found here, here, and here.

11/16/07 21:22 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.