Does prayer always help relieve anxiety?

Does prayer always help relieve anxiety?

Prayer has been shown to have a positive effect on health, even helping relieve anxiety. But its effectiveness really depends on your view of God, says a new study.

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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  1. Ernst Lamothe Jr August 26, 2014 at 10:24 am · Reply

    I actually have always found prayer useful in a lot of situations. I know it is not for everyone but it works for me.

  2. Prayer is a wonderful source of comfort for me in many situations in life. I thank my parents for an early religious background where prayer was personal and the answer to many discomforts.
    Later in life I joined a church when prayer is more ritualistic. Prayer, however, remains a personal connection with a God who cares. I sometimes find it hard to comfort a friend with a serious or devastating illness who doesn’t believe in God.

    • Evelyn Applewhite September 6, 2014 at 6:50 am · Reply

      Ms Lois you are so correct and I totally agree that people who don’t believe in GOD is difficult to comfort. Jesus during HIS TIME here on Earth would ask…. Do You Believe.? Why do you doubt.? I myself thank GOD for a praying mother….Let us prayer to GOD for the unbelievers.

  3. A conversation with God will always provide a sense of peace and comfort in al situations. Prayer does make a difference in the life of a Christian.

  4. Chaplain Joseph Czolgosz August 26, 2014 at 2:02 pm · Reply

    Thanks, Vince, for highlighting this important research. As Chaplain, I continue to observe the impact of a person’s grasp and sense of their relationship with God, as they imagine God, on their healing, their well-being and even their perception of their illness, suffering, or injury. Quality of prayer, whether personal and spontaneous or formal, ritual prayer, is dependent on our respective convictions about God. You lift up research related to an important dimension of our Advocate heritage, our philosophy of Human Ecology: the understanding and treatment of the human being as a whole person in light of one’s relationship with God, self, family, & the society in which one lives

  5. Thank you Chaplain Czolgosz.

  6. It is a wonderful adaptation that our bodies and minds react in such a way to such a plethora of placebos. Just as in sugar pills and headaches, the truth about the reality of the situation is hijacked by our body’s ability to be affected by our state of consciousness. Simply believing in getting better can have a positive effect on patient and personal health outcomes. It’s why physicians should always be keen on creating an environment in which a patient can keep a positive view of his or her treatment and prognosis. Meditation, family support, religion/prayers, or sugar pills can all be tools for physicians to alleviate the pain and suffering of patients in their care. And while some religious activities may have obvious negative consequences in relation to managing a patient’s healthcare, I do believe that it should not be in a physician’s place to recommend use or dis-use of prayer in a health crisis. Whether the patient believes in a personal loving or judgmental god is their own belief structure and physicians should stay clear of such areas. That is an arena for priests, ministers, imams, rabies, gurus, and the like.
    To read a more complete and comprehensive view of the study I clicked on the “News Release” link in the advocate article and it helped understand their more unbiased perspective of the findings. Over all, an interesting article about religion’s positive and negative effect on personal health outcomes.

    • Evelyn Applewhite September 6, 2014 at 6:55 am · Reply

      Anon, for you information the apostle Luke was a physician. I see how important it is to know what “we are talking about” when we speak.

  7. Great story, Vince. It makes perfect sense that someone’s personal views and convictions would influence how prayer affects their anxiety. And a health crisis is a perfect example of when this might most be seen–a time when anxiety and religious convictions both come to the forefront full-force.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.