Do we really go beyond our prayers and intentions?

I have coached research groups who have been studying not only intentions, but how (or if) specific intentions can indeed translate to actual behavior. The scholarly literature calls this the “intention-behavior gap”. So far, the trend is that intentions of purchasing low-priced items are statistically reliable predictors of actual purchase behavior within a 1-2 month gap. The data on sustainability-oriented intentions (sustainable entrepreneurship, recycling) translating to actual behavior within 1 to 12 months seem noisier.

One insight that stands out to me is how “easy” it is to “intend”. Many research on values, attitudes, norms, and control stop short at researching intention and usually, the explanatory power of these antecedents is quite high. For example, it feels good (attitude) to think about sustainability. It is easy to say that one intends to perform sustainable actions. But do these intentions really translate to actual behaviors? I’m beginning to rethink the practical relevance of “intention” in certain contexts like sustainable consumption behaviors and sustainable entrepreneurial behaviors because of what my research groups’ findings have initially revealed.

And if we think about it, prayers can be similar to intentions. It feels good to pray, but do we actually act on our prayers? What I like about today’s gospel about the Lord’s Prayer is the emphasis of Jesus on personal agency (action) as part of the conditions that could manifest the prayer’s intentions. My favorite line: “… He will give him whatever he needs (not out of friendship) because of his persistence.”

In a way, I am also reminding myself through this reflection that reflection without action is not complete. This is why the Lasallian Reflection Framework and Lonergan’s general empirical method is so beautiful; experience, insight, judge, and act.

Luke 11:1-13. The Lord’s Prayer


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