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Dissertation Abstract

The Effects of Long-Distance Intercessory Prayer and Anti-Tobacco Communication on Teenager Intention to Smoke Cigarettes

Mark Herringshaw 
Regent University

This double-blind quantitative study builds upon previous research exploring the efficacy of intercessory prayer. Recent efforts to measure this phenomenon have examined prayer as an adjunct to traditional medical and psychological treatments. This project moves the discussion into the social science sector examining whether intercessory prayer can amplify the impact of existing anti-tobacco communication and education projects on the cognitive intentions of Minnesota teens. To assess intention the researcher administered a modified version of The Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey to a group of 236 public high school and junior high school students, 114 of whom had been prayed for by a group of 37 volunteers. Each volunteer knew the first names and case-generated identification numbers of four students. Prayer topics were suggested but not scripted. Prayers were directed to the Judeo-Christian God for 10 minutes per day for 30 days prior to the survey. The sample students were unaware of the prayer element of the study. ANOVAs and regression analyses were used to assess the impact upon a collapsed construct of four survey questions reflecting intentioned behavior of 1) prayer treatment alone and, 2) prayer treatment with combinations of three communication variables. A Cronbach's Alpha analysis showed the reliability of the collapsed intention variable at .938. One inconclusive effect and one significant effect were found. In the first research question an ANOVA measuring duel variables, prayer and exposure to anti-smoking classroom curriculum together showed an effect on student intention not to smoke (P<.018). But the regression for this construct showed no significance (P<.145) yielding an inconclusive result. Prayer with the other communication variables (media communication and a composite of media and classroom communication) showed no significant effect upon intention. In the second research question prayer alone, when isolated in the regression analysis, showed a significant effect on the intention construct (P<.049). The inconclusive findings from question one suggest that prayer may supplement the effectiveness of classroom antismoking communication. The significant result from question two shows that prayer as a single variable does impact student intention to smoke. While intriguing, these results raise a plethora of questions that could be addressed in future research on intercessory prayer in social science contexts.