Prayer Beliefs and Change in Life Satisfaction Over Time


A considerable number of studies have focused on the relationship between prayer, health, and well-being. But the influence of some types of prayer (e.g., petitionary prayer) has received more attention than others. The purpose of this study is to examine an overlooked aspect of prayer: trust-based prayer beliefs. People with this orientation believe that God knows that best way to answer a prayer and He selects the best time to provide an answer. Three main findings emerge from data that were provided by a nationwide longitudinal survey of older people reveals. First, the results reveal that Conservative Protestants are more likely to endorse trust-based prayer beliefs. Second, the findings suggest that these prayer beliefs tend to be reinforced through prayer groups and informal support from fellow church members. Third, the data indicate that stronger trust-based prayer beliefs are associated with a greater sense of life satisfaction over time.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Researchers have encountered significant difficulty differentiating between Conservative Christians, fundamentalists, evangelicals, and Pentecostals. Evidence of this may be found, for example, in the work of Woodberry and Smith (1998). These investigators argue that, “… distinguishing between Conservative Christians, evangelicals, charismatics, and Pentecostals is complex … They are better understood as loosely connected networks of ministerial, parachurch organizations, schools, seminaries …” (Woodberry and Smith 1998, p. 33). In fact, merely trying to identify the defining characteristics of Pentecostalism is fraught with difficulty, as Hunt et al. (1997) found. These investigators reluctantly concluded that, “… the movement is evolving so rapidly that it is not entirely clear whether these distinguishing hallmarks still hold” (Hunt et al. 1997, p. 2). Clearly, the current study is not the place to resolve these longstanding issues in the field. As a result, the term “Conservative Protestant” is used in the discussion that follows.

  2. 2.

    The proportion of Conservative Protestants in the current study might initially appear to be much higher than their numbers in the general population. However, it is important to recall that approximately half the participants in the current study are African American, and as the data provided later in this study will reveal, they are much more likely than whites to affiliate with Conservative Protestant congregations.


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This research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging (RO1 AG014749) and the John Templeton Foundation.

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Correspondence to Neal Krause.

Appendix: List of Conservative Protestant denominations

Appendix: List of Conservative Protestant denominations

African Methodist Episcopal

African Methodist Episcopal Zion

American Baptist Association


Assembly of God

Bethany Open Bible

Bible Fellowship Church

Calvary Chapel

Calvary Reform

Christ Holy Sanctified

Christ Memorial

Christian Reformed

Christian and Missionary Alliance

Church of Christ

Church of God

Church of God in Christ

Church of Holiness

Emanuel Evangelical Brotherhood


Evangelical Lutheran

Faith Bible


Jehovah’s Witnesses

Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod


Mormon—Church of the Latter Day Saints

National Baptist Convention

National Baptist Convention USA


Other Baptist Churches

Other Methodist Churches

Other Presbyterian


Salvation Army

Seventh Day Adventist

Southern Baptist Convention

Truth Gospel Holiness Church

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

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Krause, N., Hayward, R.D. Prayer Beliefs and Change in Life Satisfaction Over Time. J Relig Health 52, 674–694 (2013).

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  • Prayer beliefs
  • Life satisfaction
  • Denominational differences