Acknowledgments: The author would like to thank the JSSR editor and anonymous reviewers for their insightful critiques and suggestions. Data for this study come from the Portraits of American Life Study, a publicly available data set available at http://www.palsresearch.org/pals/researchers/.
Close Ties, Intercessory Prayer, and Optimism Among American Adults: Locating God in the Social Support Network
Article first published online: 1 MAR 2013
© 2013 The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Volume 52, Issue 1, pages 35–56, March 2013
How to Cite
Schafer, M. H. (2013), Close Ties, Intercessory Prayer, and Optimism Among American Adults: Locating God in the Social Support Network. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 52: 35–56. doi: 10.1111/jssr.12010
- Issue published online: 1 MAR 2013
- Article first published online: 1 MAR 2013
- social support;
- social networks;
Prayer is often an interpersonal phenomenon. It represents not only a form of social support shared between or among people, but also a means of embedding an unobservable actor (God) within a conventionally observable social network. This study considers whether the receipt of intercessory prayer from close network ties is associated with future-oriented well-being. Analyses use social network module data from the Portraits of American Life Study (PALS), a nationally representative study of American adults containing a breadth of information not available in prior studies of networks, prayer, and well-being. Despite experiencing more instances of recent adversity (mental or physical health problem, financial trouble, and unemployment), prayed-for PALS respondents report the highest levels of optimism. Furthermore, the association between network prayer and optimism is robust to inclusion of individual-level indicators of religiosity. Finally, other forms of social support that an individual receives from his or her close ties do not explain the benefits of intercessory prayer.