Religion and spirituality have been around as long as humans have been able to contemplate their own existence. Researchers have conducted many past and ongoing studies about the effects of prayer on individuals and our society. The growing body of evidence indicates that people who pray regularly (especially in a church community) to a loving, protective God tend to maintain better mental and physical health than their non-believing counterparts.
One health benefit of prayer is that it combats the negative effects of stress. People who pray for others are more empathetic and not focused solely on themselves. When you are not worried about yourself and your problems, stress diminishes. Opening your heart and mind to pray and care about others helps you feel happier and more connected to those around you. This type of social network encourages accountability of actions, which helps people take care of themselves and others.
Prayer can also greatly improve self-control. It can be particularly useful to people over-medicating due to health issues or those battling addiction. When you get worn down, sad, or agitated, it’s more difficult to maintain self-control. Those who pray before or during difficult situations feel as if they have shared the burden with someone who cares about them, and ultimately find it easier to resist temptations and practice better self-control. Those who practice better self-control are typically more healthy and engage in less destructive behavior.
Spirituality and prayer are sources of hope and optimism for many people. Hope is a necessary emotion to stay positive and actively care for yourself. When you suffer a sickness or a setback, prayer can give you hope that the future will be better, and that you can make it over the obstacle without diving into depression. People who pray do a better job of following medical orders and rehabilitating themselves after a surgery or other medical issues, and recover or heal quicker.
Praying to God and knowing that He loves and values us without contingencies, is known to boost self-esteem. Many sources of self-esteem, such as success, beauty, and popularity, are not as reliable. Prayer can solidify self-worth and make us more resilient in the face of hardship and negativity. Knowing that—even with flaws and mistakes—our lives matter and have purpose, can lead to a healthy mentality and a drive to be a healthier person.
Prayer has been shown to be a major source of comfort and strength in spiritual people. When people pray regularly, they take comfort in the secure relationship they feel with God. This strong relationship offers emotional comfort and can lessen anxiety or symptoms of depression.
Overall, faith in prayer can be a source of positivity and strength to use in your life. The positive effects can battle stress, anxiety, and depression, which are known factors that contribute to physical and psychological issues. Practicing spirituality and prayer on a regular basis can improve your attitude on life, your personal relationships, and ultimately your health.
"Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably" (Hebrews 13:18).
Jason Lewis has a BA in Human Performance and Exercise Health Science, and writes from Wilmington, Delaware. Mr. Lewis helped his mother recover after surgery, leading him to a profession in personal training.