University of Georgia Institute for Behavioral Research Center for Family Research
ProSAAM :: Program for Strong African American Marriages
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We are very happy to have you visit the website of the ProSAAM project. The project is designed to examine which of three approaches to marital enrichment and enhancement is most effective. All of the approaches build on 30 years of research in the marital area. ProSAAM is an effort to Promote Strong African American Marriages.

The project will compare three groups. One group will work through an established self-help program on their own. A second group will meet in small groups with a trained leader who will lead them through the program. A third group will meet with a trained leader, but this group also will use a series of prayers that tie into skills they’re learning in the PREP program. Each of the approaches has its own advantages, but currently there is no comparative information about which approach will provide the greatest benefits.

You can find out more about the ideas that inspired the project, the personnel working on the project, and some recent press releases by following the links on the left side of this page.

We hope that one outgrowth of the current project will be increased dialogue between communities of faith and scientists studying ways to strengthen marriage, family, and relationships. It is increasingly important that scientists and theologians be able to address each other's concerns and engage in a productive dialogue. For more information about activities that bring science and religion into contact, we recommend the Science and Religion website supported by the John Templeton Foundation.

The current project is designed to offer new insights at the boundary between theology and science using a rigorous, open-minded and empirically focused methodology. We address the benefits of a theologically inspired intervention, intercessory prayer, in the context of documenting the psychological processes and benefits put in motion by intercessory prayer. By examining this intersection between psychology and theology, we are able to ask whether there is a way for the practice of intercessory prayer to become more effective and more generally influential in promoting well-being and changing one’s life. We propose that just as physical exercise may benefit an individual more if it is done regularly and with a focus on particular key physical systems, intercessory prayer for one’s partner may show enhanced benefits if it is done regularly and in a manner that captures key psychological processes.

We anticipate that the beneficial effects of focused, intercessory prayer for the partner will encourage many couples to make intercessory prayer a regular part of their own spiritual development activities. By finding and developing a connection to their own spiritual center, they will make better decisions about their primary relationship with their partner. Moreover, the personal and marital benefits experienced will encourage them to go further in their own spiritual exploration and gain a fresh appreciation of the critical import of the spiritual dimension of their life. Nothing is likely to be a more immediate and more powerful reward for the participants than the recognition that prayer is helping their marital relationships. On the other hand, documenting the benefits to psychological and physical health will be powerful in convincing researchers and policy makers of the value of intercessory prayer as a spiritual exercise.

We also anticipate that, because the project is well grounded in current psychological theory, positive results will be accepted by marital researchers and will engender a greater openness to spirituality as an important aspect of the empirical study of marital relationships. If so, this will provide a model to marital researchers of a more open approach to the study of marriage and perhaps begin to redress the relative oversight of spirituality in marital theory and research. At the same time, the current approach may demonstrate to religious leaders that psychological theory may be helpful to them in promoting prayer and spirituality. Accordingly, the work proposed has the potential to influence both training programs for marital counselors at the same time that it has the potential to facilitate a new and more open dialogue between religious leaders and marital researchers.

Likewise, we incorporate organized intercessory prayer in order to examine its potential impact on important social outcomes. It is expected that participation in organized intercessory prayer will confer a range of benefits, including enhancing future dissemination efforts.

At its most basic level, the project is based on the conviction that enhanced spirituality will promote social relationships, individual mental health, and individual physical health outcomes. We expect to find evidence in the social arena to support Sir John Templeton’s prediction that “if governments encourage people to become more spiritual there will be a reduction in healthcare.”