Does prayer always help relieve anxiety?
Researchers at Baylor University say when it comes to easing symptoms of anxiety-related disorders, what matters most is “the type of attachment the praying individual felt toward God.”
People who see God as loving and supportive reap the most benefit from prayer when it comes to allaying feelings of worry, fear and self-consciousness, study leaders said. On the flipside, those who viewed God as distant and judgmental didn’t realize the same positive benefits.
“While previous research has shown that people who have a secure attachment to God are more satisfied with life and less depressed and lonely, little attention has been paid to psychiatric symptoms,” said study leader Matt Bradshaw, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, in a news release.
Bradshaw also noted that those who cultivate a more personal relationship with God, as opposed to reading prayers in a formalized way, benefit most.
“In general, meditative and colloquial prayers have been linked with desirable outcomes, including emotional well-being, while ritualistic prayer actually has been associated with poor mental health outcomes,” he said.
Data from nearly 2,000 people, who participated in the Baylor Religion Survey in 2010, was analyzed for the study. The findings are published in Sociology of Religion.
Bonnie Condon, vice president for faith outreach at Advocate Health Care, says she’s seen the power of prayer work in the hospital setting.
“Prayer can be very healing and can help a person manage anxiety and stress,” Condon says. “Reaching out to God or a divine higher power is a way to connect to hope, healing and strength. For many people praying or quiet meditation brings peace and connects them to lifegiving energy, creativity and hope for the future.”
Conclusions drawn from this study support earlier findings, Bradshaw said.
“Our previous work has found that prayer is associated with desirable mental health outcomes among individuals who believe that they are praying to a God who is close as opposed to remote, and the results from the current study are largely consistent with this finding.”
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