The Structure of Prayer Scales measure prayer behavior. The scales were designed to assess several broad, conceptu­ally distinct categories of prayer such as pe­tition and confession.


The measure has 28 items that assess six prayer types: confession, petition, ritual, meditation-improvement, habitual, and compassionate petition. Initially, indi­vidual items were generated with the ex­plicit intention of covering a variety of prayer types and habits. Factor analytic pro­cedures were then employed, resulting in the following scales:

  • Confession (5 items) 3, 4, 7, 14, & 17
  • Petition (3 items) 13, 15, & 22
  • Ritual (3 items) 1, 9, & 20
  • Meditation-improvement (5 items) 2, 16, 23, 26, & 27
  • Habit (4 items) 10, 12, 25, & 28
  • Compassionate petition (8 items) 5, 6, 8, 11, 18, 19, 21, & 24

Practical Considerations:

This pencil-and­ paper measure requires 5 to 10 minutes to complete. Instructions are required but can be altered for specific purposes. For exampie, researchers may want to assess general prayer practices or prayer behavior within a specific context (e.g., in response to a stressful event).


The authors ob­tained data from a general university in Col­orado (SI, N = 145), a Christian college in Colorado (S2, N = 101), a general university in Indiana (S3 and S4, Ns = 159 and 307, re­spectively), a conservative evangelical sem­inary in Colorado (S5, N = l 08), and a group of cancer patients (S6, N = 166). The majority of the participants in these samples were Christian (N = 745, 80%). The authors report that the samples represent a broad range of religious perspectives from liberal to conservative. Descriptive statistics for demographic variables and prayer scales are not presented.


A principal components analy­sis was conducted on the data from each of the six samples. In addition, data from the three samples (SI, S2, and S3) where a common response coding system was used were combined for a separate analysis. This allowed for greater response variability and a greater ratio of respondents to items. Multiple solutions employing both orthogonal and nonorthogonal rotations were consid­ered. In choosing a solution, the authors considered eigenvalues (i.e., equal to or greater than one) as well as meaningful­ ness/conceptual integrity of the factors. A factor loading of .30 was adopted as the item selection criterion. Items that demon­strated the highest factor loadings across the samples were selected for the final scales. The following are Cronbach’s alpha reliabil­ity coefficients for the scales:

S6 S1/S2/S3
Meditate/ imp.
Comp. petition

In most cases, the scales demonstrate ade­ quate reliability; however, the coefficients for confession and petition based on the S2 (the Christian college) data and the coeffi­cient for meditation-improvement based on the S5 (seminary) data are particularly low. This may reflect restricted variation within these samples of highly religious individuals.


In general, the scales have face validity. Intercorrelations of the scales are not presented; however, in previous studies that used many of the same items and yielded a similar factor structure, the inter­ correlations suggested that people who pray tend to use a variety of prayer strategies. Another issue concerns the meditation-im­provement scale. Several items on this scale (e.g., “when I pray I feel secure”) ap­ pear to reflect an affective outcome of prayer as much as prayer habits/behavior. Researchers investigating the relations among prayer and positive/negative affect, subjective well-being, and other similar constructs should be aware of this. Finally, with respect to establishing validity, future research may focus on the relations among the present scales and other measures of re­ligious thought and behavior.


Prayer or meditation is approached in a wide variety of fashions. For the purposes of this study, please think of “pray” and “meditate” as the same sort of practice. We would like you to indi­ cate for each of the following statements the position that most accurately reflects your per­sonal practices. Please use this code for your answers:


  • l = strongly disagree
  • 2 = moderately disagree
  • 3 = slightly disagree
  • 4 = slightly agree
  • 5 = moderately agree
  • 6 = strongly agree


  1. When I pray alone, I have a ritual that I adhere to strictly.
  2. Through deep prayer I am able to know God better.
  3. It is important to me to tell God about my sins or faults.
  4. When I pray, I want to share my life with God.
  5. I usually pray for God to make me a better person.
  6. I pray to give thanks for all God has done for me.
  7. When I feel guilty about something, it helps to tell God about it.
  8. When God has answered my prayers, I usually give thanks.
  9. My prayers are like rituals; they have a regular, orderly sequence.
  10. I usually say a prayer before each meal.
  11. I like to say prayers for people about whom I care very much.
  12. I always pray before I go to sleep.
  13. I must admit that I usually pray to get something.
  14. Confession is important to me because it helps me lead a more respectable life.
  15. When I pray, I ask God for special favors.
  16. Prayer helps me keep my life balanced and happy.
  17. When I pray, I confess to God the things I should not have done.
  18. Usually when I feel unable to help my loved ones, I ask God for help.
  19. I ask God to help others when I am unable to.
  20. When I pray, I have certain words of phrases that I repeat a number of times.
  21. In my prayers I like to express my recognition for what God grants me.
  22. Most of my prayers are for God to solve problems.
  23. When I finish praying, I feel like a better person.
  24. I pray for other people.
  25. A morning prayer helps me cope with the world during the day.
  26. Prayer is a way for me to connect with my inner spirit.
  27. When I pray, I feel secure.
  28. I pray daily.


Luckow, A., Ladd, K. L., Spilka, 8., McIntosh, D. N., Parks, C., & LaForett, D. (1997). The struc­ture of prayer. Unpublished manuscript, University of Denver, Denver, CO.

Recent Research:

Beck, J. R., Spilka, B., & Mason, R. (1992, Au­ gust). Prayer in religious and social perspective: A study of a seminary sample. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Associa­tion, Washington, D. C.

Luckow, A., Ladd, K. L., Spilka, B., McIntosh, D. N., Paloma, M., Parks, C., & LaForett, D. (1996, August). The structure of prayer: Explorations and confirmations. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, Canada.