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Takhyun Cho, Ralph L. Piedmont, Ph.D., Teresa A. Wilkins, Ph.D.

The Relationship Between Prayer and Psychological Health in Ethnic Minority Groups Focusing on Korean Americans and African Americans

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This study explored the influence of prayer on psychological health among Korean- and African-Americans. While many studies have indicated that prayer enhanced the level of wellbeing, all outcomes of prayer on mental health were not always positive (Possel, Winklejohn Black, Bjerg, Jeppsen, & Wooldridge, 2014; Spilka & Ladd, 2012). Poloma and Pendleton (1989) stressed that the discrepancies in results were due to researchers viewing prayer one-dimensionally. Jeppsen, Possel, Black, Bjerg, and Wooldridge (2015) insisted that there are several types of prayer, and each type of prayer has a distinctive influence on human well-being. Therefore, multiple dimensions of prayer should be examined to understand their unique effects on human life. This study examined four different types of prayer: concerted prayer (pray aloud), vocal prayer, silent prayer, and ritual prayer. The study examined the impact of each type of prayer on psychological health outcomes of Korean immigrant church members (n=64) compared to African American church members (n=37). All participants completed: the Assessment of Spiritual and Religious Sentiments (a measure of spiritual and religious motivations); the Purpose in Life Test (a measure of overall meaning in life); the Brief Resilience Scale (a measure of coping ability); and selected demographics and preference of four types of prayer. This study examined the moderating effects of spirituality and ethnicity on the four prayer types to determine: (a) if prayer types are related to resilience and life purpose; (b) test for the interaction of prayer type with spirituality on resilience and life purpose in life; and (c) test for the interaction of prayer types, spirituality, and ethnic group on resilience and life purpose. This study found several results: those who do concerted prayer, vocal prayer, and silent prayer, which emphasizes developing and maintaining a relationship with God, had higher levels of resiliency and purpose in life than ritual prayer; significant effects were found for types of prayer, spirituality, and their interaction; Ethnic group evidenced no main or interactive effects with the outcomes. Implications and recommendations for future research were also discussed.

: prayer, spirituality, purpose in life, resilience, Korean Americans, African Americans. religion, counseling.


Jeppsen, B., Possel, P., Black, S. W., Bjerg, A., & Wooldridge, D. (2015). Closeness and control: exploring the relationship between prayer and mental health. Counseling and Values, 164.

Poloma, M. M., & Pendleton, B. F. (1989). Exploring types of prayer and the quality of life. Review of Religious Research, 31, 46–53.

Possel, P., Winklejohn Black, S. W., Bjerg, A. C., Jeppsen, B. D., & Wooldridge, D. T. (2014). Do trust-based beliefs mediate the associations of frequency of private prayer with mental health? A cross-sectional study. Journal of Religion and Health, 53, 904–916.

Spilka, B., & Ladd, K. L. (2012). The psychology of prayer: A scientific approach. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

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