If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer Mathew 21:22 (NIV)
The effectiveness of prayer has been studied for centuries to know if prayer truly works. Conclusions from many theories and formulated assumptions prove that prayer benefits man in several ways.
Primarily, the findings of empirical studies on the efficacy of prayer are derived from different health research. The result, according to most research, concluded that prayer is effective.
Studies have also proven prayer is a better remedy to heal the sick than medicine and medications. In addition, studies have shown that those who pray more often live more fruitful lives compared to those who do not have the habit of praying.
This is primarily due to how prayer improves an individual’s mental health, convinced of having someone greater to talk to and depend on. You can liken this to a child who has parents to rely on and another without any parents who can take care of his needs and problems; who do you think will live without fear or worries?
In this article, we will consider the scientific benefits of prayer, which prove that the benefits of prayer are not spiritually one-sided, as some may assume. They are also empirical (observable) benefits of prayers.
Is Prayer Really Effective?
Christians often receive harsh criticisms from people who believe prayer isn’t as effective as they claim. They criticize Christians for praying in critical conditions instead of finding practical ways to solve their problems.
But the undeniable truth is that prayer has lasted for generations without the belief dying; which raises the following questions:
- Why do people still believe in something that doesn’t work even after centuries?
- Why has the tradition of prayer lasted this long?
For a fact, humans believe in what they can see, witness, or attest to. So, the question of why Christians depend on prayer is mainly because they have seen what it can do. In essence, they know for sure that prayer is effective. Therefore, many have relied on prayer for generations because it evidently works.
We can all point to the Scripture or discuss personal experiences of how prayer has saved and uplifted people. As John 5:16 says, The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective, meaning that the prayers of those who believe are very effective. So, prayer indeed works!
However, many may still argue that prayer isn’t effective because they fail to understand that the ways of man are not the same as God. So even when one experiences delay in receiving answers to prayers, it is all part of God’s plan.
Besides, Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Therefore, experiencing a delay in seeing the results of prayer doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. More so, when God doesn’t respond according to what you requested, know that it is for your good (See James 4:3) – after all, He is wiser than all humans combined.
Why is Prayer Effective?
From all indications, prayer is the link that connects man and God. It is like sending emails to the divine world.
Meanwhile, prayer is effective because:
1. We Pray to a Supreme Being.
Since creation, God has loved man despite man’s failure to honor Him on numerous occasions. He will do everything for us (Psalm 107:28-30), even sacrificing His only begotten Son to cleanse our sins.
Consequently, whenever we make our petitions to God, He hears and grants our requests in ways that please Him.
This is why God’s word admonishes us to call the name of Jesus at the end of our prayers to remind God of His love for us. When we use the name Jesus, our prayers never go unanswered; by that, our prayers are effective.
2. Believing Has Always Brought Answers.
Recent findings have also proven this psychologically. If you’re confident that prayer works, it boosts your hormones (mentally) and makes you feel better when you pray. This is more like – prayer gives hope, and when we have hope, we feel satisfied.
In addition, spiritually, if we believe in prayers, God hears and answers (1 John 5:15). Therefore, our prayers become effective when we conceive that it works.
So it’s a two-way thing; you believe in prayer (psychologically) and feel better – then, on top of that, God answers. This is synonymous with having faith in God through prayers.
3. God Faithfully Answers.
God’s faithfulness is one of the major reasons prayer works. Moreover, He promised in Jeremiah 29:12-13, saying Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Therefore, God’s faithfulness makes prayer effective.
Is Prayer Scientifically Proven?
Studies have proven beyond reasonable doubt that prayer works. In 2008, empirical research based on Eysenck’s dimensional model of personality,
which was carried out on high-school students to determine the effectiveness of prayer, made a valid observation.
The findings revealed that students (especially in missionary schools) who engaged in the habit of prayer had better mental health scores than the students who didn’t.
More so, it is observable that people who pray and believe in prayer are more confident. This, according to research, is because they’re filled (mentally) with spiritual and divine backing and,
as a result, are not afraid of what scares others. Similarly, prayerful people are aware of the effects prayer has on them, which boosts their morale.
Health-wise, studies have proven that prayer heals the sick. More so, it can reduce psychological stress, lower blood pressure, boosts heart health, boost immunity, and, most importantly, increase longevity.
Prayer is also effective in dealing with anxiety, stress, and worries and consequently boosts confidence, increases self-esteem, and causes happiness.
Furthermore, some scientists who carried out different researches on prayer believe when we pray, we become emotionally uplifted.
For instance, if you are given a chance to speak your mind to the president and with the assurance that he’ll grant your request, how will you feel after laying your complaint?
This feeling of satisfaction will suddenly overwhelm you and make you feel optimistic and excited; this is precisely what those who believe in prayer feel.
In addition, in our individual observations, we can see the effect prayer has in our lives and the lives of people who have attested to the effectiveness of prayer.
We can observe on TV and in the church that the cripple walks, the blind sees, and the deaf hears- all proving beyond reasonable doubt that prayer is scientifically proven to be effective.
Scientific Benefits of Prayer.
1. Prayer Improves Mental Health.
Research has proven that prayer is effective for curing those afflicted with stress, hyperactivity, depression, and attention-deficit disorder (ADD).
The world today is full of pressure as we are constantly faced with numerous responsibilities that can cause stress and mental illness.
However, reflecting on our problems in prayer can help relieve the initial stress caused by the issues. And by this, we are ‘off-loading’ most of our worries to the Almighty God. This is great for boosting your mental health and reducing the chances of mental disorders.
2. Increases Longevity.
Those who pray are healthier and more likely to live longer. This is because they are less likely to engage in unhealthy habits such as drinking and smoking.
In addition, they tend to get sick less often, have lower blood pressure, and lower chances of stroke and heart diseases.
Furthermore, prayer minimizes the chances of suffering from life-threatening effects of stress such as anxiety and worry. It also helps the body heal more and age smoothly. According to science, all these are necessary for a healthy body and improved life span.
3. Reduces Pain.
Those suffering pain and chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, AIDS, and more are recommended by physicians to engage in prayer habits as it reduces and controls stress.
Diseases and illness aside, prayer also reduces the pain caused by heartbreak. Researchers say that if you lose someone close to you, praying is a great way to pour out your misery and relieve yourself of the emotional trauma.
4. Prayer Boosts Self-esteem.
A psychological study by Oxford University (2008) has proven that prayer boosts self-confidence. The study further revealed that it minimizes feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety.
In boosting your self-confidence, you’ll be filled with the feeling that someone is there for you even if the world seems to be against you. Meanwhile, most therapists recommend prayer for their patients, mostly in this regard.
5. Prayer Promotes Humility and Reduces Ego.
This is according to a study conducted by Columbia University. When you ask for something from someone higher than you, you unconsciously humble yourself.
This makes one respectful and conscious that they’re dependent on someone. In addition, prayer makes you subconsciously selfless because you are more concerned for the greater good than just yourself.
6. Improves Heart Rate.
As discussed above, prayer helps reduce stress, regulating the heartbeat. Though it is a more spiritual and mental activity, when you pray, your heart rate speeds up and minimizes your chances of suffering from heart attacks and cardiac arrest.
7. Improves Mindset.
Prayer brings about positivity and erases all forms of negativity. When you pray, you become confident that something great will happen.
So, while others are doubting, worrying, and having a terrible state of mind, yours would be full of hope and optimism. Consequently, this saves you from hopelessness, depression, and regrets.
More so, praying helps you feel there’s a brighter day ahead, especially in difficult times. It reduces the burdens we carry on our minds.
Although having a positive mindset doesn’t mean things will turn out the way we dreamt of, in reality, trusting someone (God) with our problems will help take a considerable chunk of the burden off our shoulders.
8. Prayer Helps in Health Recovery.
According to a study conducted by some University of Pennsylvania researchers, Prayer helps boost the mentality of patients into believing they’re healed.
This aids in recovery by reducing pain effects and improving the heartbeat of a sick person. In addition, your mind and body become solely focused on healing as prayer keeps you focused on hope.
9. Boosts Immunity.
Initial studies reveal that praying improves the body’s immunity by preventing several minor illnesses like headaches, fever, and body pains.
Similarly, it reduces asthmatic symptoms. However, researchers are yet to determine the causes of this effect. Additionally, praying makes it easier for a sick person to overcome an illness.
10. Makes One Happy.
Happiness is one of the greatest emotional feelings, and prayer, according to research conducted by the Heritage Foundation, is an excellent source of it. When we pray, the level of dopamine (hormones that cause happiness) in our brain increases and causes a positive effect.
Health Benefits of Prayer.
- Prayer lowers blood pressure.
- It combats stress and stress-related issues.
- Prayer promotes healing, especially healing from illness.
- Aids in treating some health problems such as insomnia, muscle pain, joints, tendons, etc.
- Prayer boosts immunity.
- It strengthens the heart.
- Prayer keeps negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions at bay
- It alleviates panic disorders
- Ensures good mental health and slows the progression of some mental and old age-related mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s
- Prayer lowers the chances of experiencing anxiety and depression.
Science is part of our lives as long as we are still alive. Even as Christians, it is permissible to be scientifically inclined. As such, there is a need to balance scientific and spiritual beliefs.
When we understand the scientific benefits of prayers and merge them with spiritual gifts, we’ll be convinced beyond reasonable doubt that prayer is effective.
Therefore, it’s a good thing that scientists and researchers have studied to prove that prayer is truly beneficial. Their conclusions prove beyond reasonable doubt that prayer works and is indeed very helpful.
Is an Ordained Minister and Life Coach. He is an ordained minister since 1988. Shortly after receiving Jesus as his personal savior, he answered the call to ministry.