Prayer may be an age-old cure for anger.
The Bible tells us to pray for our enemies. Now psychologists are saying the same thing.
Saying a prayer may help calm anger and allow people to behave less aggressively towards those who have upset them, researchers say.
“Prayer gets people to view the world in a very kind and gentle way and reduces feelings of anger with empathy,” said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.
Prayer is a coping mechanism that can offer angered individuals perspective on the events that upset them, he said.
The effects of prayer did not depend on a person’s own prayer life, church attendance or religious affiliation. Atheists did not participate.
Bushman’s research, a series of three separate studies, is the first to examine how prayer may influence anger and aggression.
They focused on the person praying, rather than the recipient of the prayers, and asked only about general benevolent prayers, not vengeful ones, which may actually fuel aggression.
“When people are confronting their own anger, they may want to consider the old advice of praying for one’s enemies,” said Ryan Bremner, a research partner at the University of Michigan. “It may not benefit their enemies, but it may help them deal with the negative emotions.”
In the first study, participants who prayed for another person after becoming angry reported lower levels of anger than those who simply thought about the person. Prayer did not affect fatigue, depression, vigor, tension or other emotions.
Students in the second study were given harsh feedback on an essay, told to think or pray about their critic, then asked to blast that person with noise through headphones in response. Students who prayed for their partner acted less aggressively, choosing shorter and softer blasts.
The third study was designed around previous research that found that angry people are more likely to attribute negative events to other people, rather than situations out of their control. Participants told to pray for or think about someone they new personally before accessing a list of negative situations. Those who prayed felt less provoked and less angry by the events.
“The effects we found in these experiments were quite large, which suggests that prayer may really be an effective way to calm anger and aggression,” Bushman said.
The research appears in the Journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
I am in need of prayers. I am separated from someone who I love dearly and have an infant with. I left him because of his anger, aggressive behavior and alcohol and drug addictions. I miss him more than life but want him to change for himself and for our child. He blames me for all of his problems because he lacks the insight to look deep within himself. I want him to have a moment of clarity and to be able to self-reflect and realize what he has done and how much pain he has caused me. I need prayers for this person to kill the temptations in their life and bring love into their heart. Help them to quit being so selfish and to change.
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