7 Proven Health Benefits of Prayer

Prayer is a very personal experience that can mean something different to each of us. But as a general definition, prayer refers to any act of devotion, praise, or thanksgiving to an object of worship, such as God, the universe or simply a friend or family member.

At least 55 percent of people in the United States pray every day, and many more pray once per week or month. Science may never prove whether or not our prayers are truly answered by a higher power, but research does show that prayer significantly benefits our emotional, physical and mental health.

Although it’s important to sincerely find prayer meaningful in your life. If you’re only doing it out of a feeling of obligation or for personal gain, research shows it can actually have a detrimental effect. Whereas, prayer, meditation, or other spiritual practices that maintain a focus outside of yourself have the most benefits.

1. Improves Self-Control

Scientists refer to the “strength model” of self-control, which suggests our cognitive resources, like our physical resources, have a limited strength. Most of us have likely experienced this. By the end of a long day, sometimes you simply don’t have the mental energy to go for a run or make healthy food choices.

A German study found that prayer can counteract this mental fatigue and boost your self-control. Those who had prayed briefly prior to a mentally demanding task were able to complete a challenging test afterwards without showing any cognitive depletion. Those who had not prayed prior to the task did not perform as well on the test.

Researchers at Queen’s University had similar findings. Over four separate experiments, participants exercised greater self-control when subtle reminders of religious concepts were present.

2. Enhances Relationships

Prayer can have a significant impact on your close relationships. Studies have shown that praying for a friend or intimate partner can increase your forgiveness towards them, as well as foster greater trust in the relationship. It’s also been found that those who pray for their romantic partners commit less infidelity.

In addition, one study looked at how people felt about the sacrifices they made in their close relationships. This is often a good indicator of your overall satisfaction with the relationship. The study found that praying for someone you’re close to increases your satisfaction with making sacrifices for your relationship. This helped people resolve disagreements more effectively and feel closer and more understood by their partner.

3. Improves Ability to Cope with Stress

A University of Florida study discovered that 96 percent of older adults specifically use prayer to cope with stress. In fact, prayer was the most frequently reported alternative treatment seniors use to feel better and maintain health in general. One-third of the respondents also reported using other spiritual strategies to improve their health, including imagery, music, art therapy, energy healing, humor, meditation and religious counseling. Seniors who prayed or used any other spiritual techniques were also found to have more positive and self-reliant coping strategies.

4. Turns on Disease-Fighting Genes

Researchers at Harvard Medical School discovered that relaxation techniques, including yoga, meditation, and repetitive prayer and mantra, are able to activate numerous “disease-fighting” genes in your body. Relaxation practices appear to switch on genes that protect you from various disorders, such as high blood pressure, cancer, infertility and rheumatoid arthritis. And the more regularly you practice a relaxation technique, the more benefit you’ll receive.

Woman praying on rocks

5. Combats Depression

Prayer has been shown to improve your overall sense of well-being. This may be due to the fact prayer, meditation, and other spiritual practices can increase your dopamine levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s released when you feel pleasure and happiness. It enhances your positive emotions, motivation, and cognitive abilities. Healthy dopamine levels are also known to prevent depression and anxiety.

Another study investigated adults at high risk for depression, based on family history. Typically, people at high risk have been shown to have thinning in certain regions of their brain cortex. Brain scans on those who placed a high importance on religion or spirituality showed significantly thicker cortices in exactly the same regions that showed thinning in those who were nonspiritual. And people who included spirituality in their lives had 90 percent less risk of developing major depression.

6. Helps Control Pain

A Bowling Green State University study found that spiritual meditation or prayer helped reduce the number of headaches practitioners experience. Researchers asked people who suffer from migraines to meditate for 20 minutes each day by repeating a spiritual mantra, such as “God is good. God is peace. God is love.” A second group was asked to use a nonspiritual mantra, such as “Grass is green. Sand is soft.” After a month, those who had used a spiritual mantra had less headaches and greater pain tolerance. Whereas, the neutral mantra appeared to have no benefit.

7. Promotes Longer Life

A survey published in the Journal of Gerontology polled 4,000 senior citizens and found that those who prayed or meditated regularly coped better with illness and lived longer than those who did not. These results are likely due to a combination of all the other proven benefits of prayer that boost your overall mental and physical health.

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Hannah A
Hannah A1 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Jessica K
Jessica K1 months ago

I like prayer because it helps me remember my proper place in the universe. Thanks

Lorrie O
Lorrie O3 months ago

An Athe-ist can pray to Athe-na for WisdOM.

Marie W
Marie W6 months ago

thanks for sharing

Mike R
Mike R7 months ago


Thomas M
Past Member 8 months ago

thank you

Colleen Stockard
Colleen Stockard8 months ago

Thank you for this! I'll share it with my friends :)

Shirley P
Shirley Plowman8 months ago


Susanne R
Susanne R9 months ago

- can be understood as involving overcoming instinct and being intellectually curious and thus open to non-instinctive possibilities,' said study lead author Edward Dutton, a research fellow at the Ulster Institute for Social Research in the United Kingdom."

I choose the comfort of believing.

Susanne R
Susanne R9 months ago

I pray every day. I'm not sure who or what God is, but I've felt a presence that brings me comfort in my darkest moments. I can't explain it, and I don't expect anyone else to understand it, but it's been within me all my life, and I don't want it to leave me.

Unlike trump. other politicians, and most televangelists, God has never spoken to me. (Who in their right mind would use a higher power to defend their greed and ambition?) I don't ask Him for anything because I don't feel worthy --but I do pray for my loved ones --both living and dead-- and that brings me comfort. My son is an atheist and has been since he was 13-years old. I was concerned at first but came to realize through our numerous discussions that he had very intelligent and well-thought out reasons. He was "blessed" (sounds ironic, doesn't it?) with an exceptionally high IQ. My granddaughter (his niece, not daughter) is struggling with this same "belief" issues and, like her uncle, is exceptionally bright. According to "Live Science": For more than a millennium, scholars have noticed a curious correlation: Atheists tend to be more intelligent than religious people. It's unclear why this trend persists, but researchers of a new study have an idea: Religion is an instinct, they say, and people who can rise above instincts are more intelligent than those who rely on them. Intelligence - in rationally solving problems - can be understood as involving overcoming instinct an