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Prayers, Spiritual Support, and Positive Attitudes in Coping With the September 11 National Crisis


  • During this study, Amy L. Ai was supported by the Templeton Foundation, the Hartford Foundation, the Newano Peace Foundation, and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Grant, P50 AT00011. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations. The authors are grateful for reviewers' comments and the contribution of supportive members at the participating universities.

Address correspondence and requests for reprints to Amy L. Ai, University of Washington, 4101 15th Ave. NE, Seattle, WA 98105-6299. E-mail:


Abstract This study was designed to help fill gaps in faith-related and positive psychology research. Psychologists have called for precise assessment of effective faith factors inherent within spiritual experiences that may explain their beneficial effects. Positive psychologists suggest the need to examine social and faith-related origins of optimism. Based on previous research, we redefined spiritual support and developed a new assessment. The study is a survey of 453 graduate and undergraduate students 3 months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The results showed that participants, who believed in diverse spiritual entities, used various types of prayer for coping. A structural equation model showed that a linkage of spiritual support and positive attitudes mediated the effect of faith-based and secular factors on post-September 11 distress. Higher levels of initial negative emotional response were associated with the use of prayer for coping, which was, in turn, related to less distress through the pathway of the above linkage.