The Meaning of Hope: Faith and Flourishing
Dr. Charlotte Witvliet
The spiritual dimension of hope has been less emphasized in previous investigations. This study built upon empirical work on prayer (Sandage et al., 2011) and hope as important variables connecting faith to mental health (Chang et al., 2013). College students (175 F, 80 M) completed a survey containing state and trait measures of hope and hopelessness, as well as two newly developed scales of hopeful spiritual beliefs, one addressing hope which transcends death, and one which measures hopeful prayer. We also used measures of meaning in life, religiosity/spirituality, religious commitment, attitudes toward God, religious coping, and flourishing. First, we tested hope-related measures in relation to meaning, spiritual, and religious variables. Correlational analyses found that hope-related measures had statistically significant positive correlations with each meaning, spiritual, and religious variable. Hopelessness had inverse and significant correlations with these variables. Second, we conducted multiple regression analyses to determine whether trait hope-related measures accounted for significant variance in scores on faith measures. Trait hope-related measures accounted for more than half of the variance in religious commitment scores, positive attitudes towards God scores, and positive religious coping scores. Of all hope-related measures, hopelessness was the best predictor of meaning in life. Hopeful spiritual beliefs best predicted positive religious coping, positive attitudes toward God, and religious commitment. Lastly, we aimed to determine if hopeful prayer mediated the relationship between religious coping with a past difficult event and current levels of flourishing. The mediation model showed that hopeful prayer mediated the relationship between religious coping (with a past difficult event) and current flourishing. These findings substantially contribute to a multidimensional understanding of hope as strongly connected with spirituality and religiosity in a flourishing life. This research suggests that individuals who have experienced a past difficult event can still flourish through hopeful prayer.
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