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Power of prayer boosts self-control and emotional stability

Teresa Tanoos's picture
People turn to prayer 'as a coping response to the high demands in life' and are rewarded with increased strength and ability to resist temptation.

A new study has confirmed that prayer helps people resist temptation by maintaining control over their emotions.

Since the beginning of time, people have made bad choices based on emotion, rather than thinking things through or pausing to pray and ask God for direction.

According to researchers, people turn to prayer as a way to cope with life’s inevitable challenges and, in exchange, they receive a renewed strength and the power to turn away from temptation.

In contrast, prior research has shown that when people rely on their own strength to control their thoughts and emotions, as opposed to relying on God’s strength through prayer, their risk of having an angry outburst is increased, as is their risk of binge eating and drinking.

In this latest study, however, German psychologists from Saarland University and the University of Mannheim have discovered that prayer helps people control their emotions and behavior.

The psychologists reported that pausing for a short period of personal prayer “buffered the self-control depletion effect”.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, are consistent with and in support of an increasing amount of research confirming the power of prayer in helping people maintain self-control.

Previous research on the power of prayer has also demonstrated a link between praying and lower rates of infidelity and alcohol abuse.

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This latest study involved a group of 79 adults. Among them, 41 were Christian, 14 were members of other religions, another 14 were atheists and 10 were agnostic.

Each of these adult participants were left alone for five minutes, at which time they were asked to either pray or think freely about one thing as intensely as possible.

The participants then watched funny film clips that half of them were instructed to react normally to, while the other half were told to suppress their emotions and control their facial expressions as they watched the funny clips.

Lastly, the participants took Stroop tests, which use words describing color, such as the word “red” or the word “blue”, but the words are written in different colored ink (e.g. the word “red” is written in blue ink).

To test their level of self-control, the participants were instructed to respond only to the ink color, not the written word, as humans instinctively prefer to read the written word instead of the ink color.

The results were interesting, as the participants who thought freely in the first part of the test and then tried to suppress their emotions while watching the funny film clips, had more problems with the Stroop tests.

However, the participants who prayed during the first part of the test, continued to maintain a high degree of self-control by the time they took the Stroop tests. Put simply, they did not have the struggles that the free thinking group did.

The research team also found that the participants who prayed and then tried to suppress their emotions during the funny film clips, did so just as well as those who instead focused freely about one thing, but there was one fascinating difference: the prayer group did not become depleted. In other words, personal prayer “buffered the self-control depletion effect”.

SOURCE: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Personal Prayer Buffers Self-Control Depletion, published November 22, 2013.



In my book From Leaf to Life: Unlock the secrets to true health, I listed I open to Grace as the second Credo of wellness. In my clinical experience as a medical herbalist, I have seen many times in my own life and in others how prayer and opening ourselves to God brings healing and even enhance the therapeutic outcome of the treatment. The reason why many are not healed is that we failed to integrate the physical body, emotions and our spirit in our healing journey. God as you understood Him should be a part of our healing process.