Ever since the dawn of time (or at least since humans have existed), there have been countless theories about higher powers or a single higher being which have made, and continues to control, just about everything in the known universe. These theories have transitioned into special books which have been supposedly represented as the words and records between humans and the Gods themselves.
Now, times can be rough in this world, especially for certain people who are unfortunate enough to be born in a not so wealthy environment or whom are struggling financial wise. Tough times such as these will no doubt push people into the process of praying to the powers that may be and asking them either for advice on how to fix the situation, or sometimes practically begging for help.
Although being under stress isn’t as intense or soul-destroying as being utterly homeless or having recently loosing a loved one, it can be enough to warrant a prayer or two, especially if you were a religious person already. But do these prayers actually help your case? And if so, how and what other benefits are there? Let’s find out.
How Can Praying And Faith Relieve Stress?
The reason why religious people might pray is very simple; they may be struggling with something and want guidance or help from the ones who made us and control everything we know. The same can be done for people who are under stress or suffering from any other mental strain such as anxiety and depression.
While I myself identify as a Christian (although I don’t attend church or do much praying to God above, so I don’t really know if I can be classed as one) I can’t exactly say if praying makes me personally feel better about stuff or not as I don’t exactly pray to God above.
But for others who are more tuned in with their respected religions, they might feel as though their prayers get answered.
The Other Benefits To Praying And Having Faith
It would seem quite ironic to compare science and religion together, especially as both are extremely different; religion for the theories of higher beings and science for the full blown proof of unexplained things.
But it may come as a surprise to know that science itself states that praying and having faith does have its benefits, from a lot more in fact rather than just simply relieving somebody’s stress.
Multiple studies have been done over the years on the connection between faith mental health. They found that people with higher religiousness have a greater chance of gaining a more positive outcome of their mental health than people with a lower state of religiousness; basically, the more religious somebody was, the fewer depressive symptoms they experienced.
It seems then that being religious adds a huge bonus to your life as you will be less likely to be depressed or encounter any other sort of mental strains such as stress and anxiety because of your faith with the powers that may be from above the fluffy clouds. However, there is a large problem (or two) that we’re overlooking…
The Problems With Prayer And Faith
The main problem with religion and faith is that there are of course people out these who don’t believe such things as Gods or higher beings/powers of any sort. In fact, as technology is advancing and we are starting to see the universe for what it is, and perhaps how it was really created, atheist numbers are slowly but surely growing higher and higher; humans see no need to believe in something which seems to not exist.
Furthermore, you can’t simply force anybody to believe in something they don’t want to. Although there isn’t any proof that there is a God in charge of all of us, there certainly isn’t proof that there isn’t one also, and everybody is free to their own opinions; we can’t force an opinion or direction on somebody if they don’t want to themselves – even if it seems that having a religious view decreases the chance of you having a negative mental state.
In addition to atheists and science supposedly bringing us closer and closer to the truth of us and the known universe, people who are heavily religious may depend all their wealth and good fortune on their respected God; this isn’t a healthy set of logic mainly because if something doesn’t go your way, and your misfortune or in this specific case, your stress, doesn’t disappear, you will be confused and wondering if you have done something to upset God or the powers above as they aren’t fixing your problems.
Only you can ultimately change the world to how you want it, and solely depending on God to do it for you is bad; of course, there’s no harm in asking God for guidance occasionally, and maybe to place a small amount of luck on your side every now and then.
Is Prayer The Final Method Of Stress Relief?
The researchers have the crystal clear evidence that religious people are less likely to be affected by depression or other negative mental health, so does that mean that having faith and praying to the Gods above is the sure path to becoming relieved from stress for life?
First off, you certainly can’t be relieved from stress forever. Sure, you can find the methods which are right for you to soothe it when it affects you, but it is impossible to avert stress from your life completely; it is natural and believe it or not, we are meant to have a little bit of stress from time to time – being stressless turns us away from being human.
Secondly… many people just aren’t religious and choose to believe in science and the Big Bang rather than God, and that’s perfectly fine. There is still a vast lack of evidence to support any side of how us and the universe were created, and the sole purpose of why we are here. For these people who would never see themselves praying to what some have called a “sky fairy”, praying would simply not be a method on their “stress relief methods” list.
To end it all off, the power of religion and prayer can be wonderful for the people who believe in God and the heavens above. There is heavy evidence to prove that praying and having faith if you are religious can help you lead a life where you are less likely to be overcome with depressive symptoms and quite possibly stress.
On the other hand, if you are not religious and are a more firm believer on everything being created by the Big Bang and us by evolution rather than from a big bearded fellow, then you would be better off if you focused on a completely different method of relieving your stress as praying… well, that would be the last thing you would do.
Whatever your religious beliefs however, you’ve got to be impressed by how powerful and effective faith and prayer is for people though. With how the world can be sometimes, it’s nice to have hope and a little faith that the powers above will be able to sort out our messes.
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We live in a society where anxiety is on a rise. Think about all the things in your life that can cause you stress! If you are a student, going back to school, the pressures with friends and fitting in, sports and pleasing your parents can all cause a lot of stress. If you are a working professional, the demands of work and finances can cause a lot of stress. If you are a parent, meeting the demands of work and home and how to do it all can cause a lot of stress.
So how can we relax? The bible gives us an important tool to help us calm down and that is using prayer to relieve stress.
Prayer Produces Peace
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
One of the promises of the bible is that prayer will lead to peace. Think about all the emotional energy you spend worrying about things you have no control over? Think of how often your mind is consumed with these things? What would it feel like to actually experience a sense of peace and resolve over those things? Have you been using prayer to relieve stress?
Prayer to a Friend
If we have never really prayed before, the thought of prayer can feel awkward or intimidating. One of most important things to understand is that we can approach God as if we are talking to a friend.
Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting.
How do you view God? As a judge? a father? or a friend? What are characteristics of a friend that you value? Honesty, faithfulness, love? Take a moment to write down the qualities of a friend that you value and realize that God has all of these qualities. You can also take time to look into the scriptures on these qualities to help you develop a deeper understand of God as a friend. Understanding God better helps us to be inspired to pray and share our burdens with him, allowing us to relieve our anxieties.
So the next time you’re feeling stressed remember that God is right there wanting to extend a listening ear as a friend and that he has the power to bring us a peace that working harder won’t and another person can’t.
Make time to pray that much needed prayer and watch your stress lift away!
The last thing I think of when I’m stressed out with work deadlines and complicated homework projects with the kids is to get on my knees or attend Mass. But a growing body of research suggests prayer and religion rank high among the best stress busters.
In her new book, “The SuperStress Solution,” Dr. Roberta Lee devotes a section to the topic of spirituality and prayer. She writes: “Research shows that people who are more religious or spiritual use their spirituality to cope with life. They’re better able to cope with stress, they heal faster from illness, and they experience increased benefits to their health and wellbeing. On an intellectual level, spirituality connects you to the world, which in turn enables you to stop trying to control things all by yourself. When you feel part of a greater whole, it’s easy to understand that you aren’t responsible for everything that happens in life.”
Among the research she cites is one study of approximately 126,000 people that found that the people who frequently attended services increased their odds of living by 29 percent. Another study conducted by the National Institute for Health Care Research (NIHR) illustrated that the Canadian college students who were connected to their campus ministries visited doctors less often and were less stressed during difficult times than the other students. The students who had strong religious correlations also had higher positive feelings, lower levels of depression, and were better equipped at handling stress.
Dr. Lee points to the research of Harold Koenig, M.D., associate professor of medicine and psychiatry at Duke University, who surveys more than a thousand studies appraising the effects of prayer on health in his book “Handbook of Religion and Health.” Among them:
- Hospitalized people who never attended church have an average stay of three times longer than people who attend regularly.
- Heart patients were 14 times more likely to die following surgery if they did not practice a religion.
- Elderly people who never or rarely attended church had a stroke rate double that of people who attended regularly.
- People who are more religious tend to become depressed less often. When they do become depressed, they recover more quickly.
Why all the benefits of prayer and religion? First, religion and faith provide social support, a consistent element of happiness and good health. Regular churchgoers not only get support from their community, but they also GIVE support to others, and the altruistic activity promotes better health. Second, religion reinforces a belief system. People bond when they hold common opinions and beliefs, even if it’s a form of gossiping. Third, religion and spirituality do what a parent or supervisor at work does: give you 10 laws to abide by. And, although you may not like the regulations set upon you and try to break a few, you are glad they exist, because, for the most part, your life runs more smoothly when you follow them. Finally, faith attaches meaning to events. It gives folks hope, the ultimate stress reducer. Hope, doctors say, is about the best thing you can do for your body. It’s better than a placebo.
Originally published on Beyond Blue at Beliefnet.com. To read more of Therese, visit her blog, Beyond Blue at Beliefnet.com, or subscribe here. You may also find her at www.thereseborchard.com.