Judith Aronson, PhD

Class of 2008


Praying in the face of life-threatening illness (2008)

Judith Aronson

This study describes the meaning of praying to adults during the illness experience. Using hermeneutic phenomenology, thematic analysis discerns five findings from transcripts with 19 in-person semi-structured interviews of ten urban participants between ages 40 and 65. Praying must be palatable, that is the experience must be congruent to the individual. Praying moves participants from one self state to another. The ability to pray may be lost and then found again, often in unpredictable ways. Praying evokes a connection to a person to a person, deity or belief. Praying attempts to comprehend the incomprehensible. Palatable prayer is contrasted with a visceral negative response to unpalatable prayer or nonconductive environments. Despite a quest for personal authorship, participants seek validation for their prayer experiences. Praying invigorates and restores the self, is an affective experience consisting of vitality affects and temporal contours that result from affect attunement and is best described as a nonlinear dynamic system. Praying is emergent and fragile and an apt subject for the clinical process. If the individuals praying feel narcissistically vulnerable, they may feel their prayer experiences may not be validated. This study prompts further research regarding the meaning of praying during various life events, particular life stages or within the context of a particular group.