This article highlights the benefits of prayer on wellbeing.
There is one age-old method that can help our physical and psychological well-being which is free, doesn’t require any prescription and has zero side effects. It is known as prayer. Millions of people around the world rely on it to see them through hard times.
Prayer can take various forms – Scripture meditation, fasting, making a pilgrimage, taking the Sacraments, going on a weekend retreat, saying daily devotions, or contemplating a sunset or a flower.
How does prayer benefit our well-being?
It is known that prayer can lead to concrete results in mental health improvement and stress reduction. Prayer generates optimism, enriches interpersonal relationships and the quality of life. It allows us to connect to something greater them ourselves – to God – and enable us to release control. All of these result into improved health.
Research on the benefits of prayer on well-being
Mahlet Endale, a licensed psychologist, has witnessed first-hand the benefits of religion and prayer or meditation on one’s mental health. As a doctoral student, Endale spent three weeks in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami.
“People had very different reactions” to the tragedy, she says. “Some people were drawn closer to religion and their faith, whereas for some people it really tested their faith”. While everyone’s faith journey is different, Endale was convinced that religious and meditative practices have a positive impact on one’s sense of well-being. She notes that regardless of religion, faith or belief, researchers have noted countless benefits.
As Dr Wayne Jonas found, among all forms of complementary medicine, prayer is the single most widely-practiced healing modality.
Another researcher - Harold Koenig - notes: “A large volume of research shows that people who are more religious or spiritual have better mental health and adapt more quickly to health problems compared to those who are less religious or spiritual. These possible benefits to mental health and well-being have physiological consequences that impact physical health, affect the risk or disease, and influence response to treatment”.
Prayer as a way to alleviate stress
Many of us go through stressful periods. In these circumstances, prayer can be a way of sharing the burden that stress has placed upon us. The requirements are simple: all we need is belief in God and faith that God is looking out for us.
Prayer provides us with stress relief in a variety of ways. A prayer for help is a great source of comfort and relief because we do not feel we have to bear our burden alone. Often when we are hurt or confused, we can feel as if there is no one to talk to or depend on. A prayer during these tense times relieves that feeling of loneliness. The belief that God is listening to our prayers and will help us is a source of hope to many of us. Expressing gratitude and giving thanks through prayer reminds us of the positive aspects of our existence and can help ward off feelings of sadness.
It is advisable that prayer be a regular part of our life. We can incorporate prayer at the beginning and end of each day. Prayer at the beginning of the day sets the tone for a spiritual day, and fills us with strength to face the day’s challenges. Prayer at the end of the day helps us to acknowledge the presence of God throughout the day, allows us to give thanks for the help God provided during the day, and provides us with an opportunity to ask for help with any ongoing situations.
This article was compiled by Ms. Maria Theresa Portelli.
Updated: April 2018