How Prayer Improves Your Health

Written By Dave Rolf

Did you know that spiritual and religious practices are used around the world to cope with and treat physical and mental illnesses? We are not saying that this is the only way to cure a disease nor are we implying that it will truly cure an ailment. However, we know that it can make you feel better about what you are going through.

Complimentary, alternative and integrative medicine are all names for this holistic practice that can ease a patient’s mind and even give them hope in healing. While this idea may be stigmatized and feel like there is no basis behind it, science is actually backing up the positive effects of spiritual practice during sickness. Please note that we are not only talking about Christianity here — we are talking about believing in a Higher Power altogether. Praying is a highly effective coping tool that is often under-utilized in healthcare settings. Understandably so, since it is not a Westernized medical treatment and not all patients feel comfortable with spiritual advice from their physician. However, Professor of Psychology Thomas Plante defines prayer as a conversation with the sacred, and all of the major religious traditions encourage prayer making it inclusive. Prayer can be as ritualistic as repeating statements or equally as spontaneous and unstructured. There is no right or wrong way to pray.

Most people are taught about prayer from a young age and are (hopefully) also taught that there is no incorrect way to pray. While it is true that most people are likely to pray when their needs are greatest, there are statistics to show that many Americans pray in their own way.

More than half (55%) of Americans say they pray every day, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, while 21% say they pray weekly or monthly and 23% say they seldom or never pray. Even among those who are religiously unaffiliated, 20% say they pray daily. Women (64%) are more likely than men (46%) to pray every day. And Americans ages 65 and older are far more likely than adults under 30 to say they pray daily (65% vs. 41%). – pewresearch.org 

The American Psychological Association organizes prayer into the following types:

Contemplative-meditative prayer (e.g., worshiping God, reflecting on the Bible)
Ritualistic prayer (e.g., repeating statements)
Petitionary prayer (e.g., asking God for things)
Colloquial prayer (e.g., thanking God for things)
Intercessory prayer (e.g., praying for others)

Now that you know the statistics, you’re probably wondering how prayer ties into improving your health.

Prayer can be used for improving mental health, which improves your overall well being.

Psychotherapy, mediation, audiovisual resources, and pastoral services can all incorporate prayer to help make a positive impact on your health. When properly utilized, spiritual techniques can decrease depression and stress in addition to clinical anxiety. This study notes that: Defining complex and multifaceted concepts such as spirituality and religiosity is not easy as there is no universal definition accepted by researchers (Cook, 2004). The lack of consensus made it difficult to compare results between studies, but several outcomes show a positive correlation between prayer and the prevention/improved quality of life/increased survival of various diseases. To get the best results, multiple definitions of Spirituality were used in the study. They are listed below:

Sullivan (1993) defined spirituality as an individual and unique feature that links the self to the universe and to others, and may or may not include a belief in a god. 

Puchalski (2012) describes spirituality as a way to find meaning and purpose in life by connecting the inside with the sacred.

Koenig et al. (2012) define spirituality as ‘distinguished from humanism, values, morals, and mental health, by its connection to which is sacred, the transcendent’ and that religion ‘involves beliefs, practices, and rituals related to the transcendent, where the transcendent is God’.


In addition, qualitative and quantitative methodologies were used to measure the relationship between prayer and spiritual health. Scientists found that public and private practice of prayer increased participants’ closeness to God and having a stronger sense of identity, which is important for maintaining a high sense of self-esteem. 

According to Mirror-Mirror.org:

Developing self-compassion is helpful to good mental health and contributes to a stable sense of identity. Your sense of identity has to do with who you think you are and how you perceive yourself. It’s about how you define yourself. Self-esteem is how you value yourself. It has to do with your sense of self-worth and is often based on comparisons with others. Self-compassion is a way of relating to yourself with kindness, even when things are going badly and you’re not performing so well. It gives you resilience and flexibility.

Scientists also suggest that praying for oneself and for others has been found to be beneficial for spiritual-health and maintaining healthy relationships.

Finally, prayer does make a positive impact on health according to statistically significant data. It can be used as a coping strategy, to strengthen relationships with others and with one’s self, and to find peace in the midst of illness. Patients can increase their self-esteem and overall mental health by helping to solidify your identity.

Now — can we pray for you here at Listen.One? Let us know. We’d be happy to.



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