Prayer For Stress Over Health
Prayer and Health Outcomes
Christian reality TV star Jessa Duggar Seewald recently shared three videos by Baptist pastor John Piper, one of which calls anxiety a sin.
Several Instagram commenters and at least one blogger were not happy with the implication that people could “pray the anxiety away.”
For many people, prayer is an integral part of their faith. And there’s research showing that prayer has some health benefits.
But experts say substituting prayer for medical treatment, especially with serious conditions such as anxiety and depression, can lead to years of struggling and more serious complications, including death.
Can prayer help others heal?
A number of studies have looked at the effects of religion or prayer on health — with some showing positive benefits.
One study, published last year in PLoS One, found that people who attended church more than once per week were 55 percent less ly to die during the 18-year follow-up period than people who didn’t frequent church.
A 2016 study from JAMA Internal Medicine also showed that women who attended church services more than once per week were 33 percent less ly to die during the 16 years of follow-up than non-churchgoers.These studies, though, don’t show whether it is religion that is giving the health boost or some other factor, such as social support.
Solo prayer is harder for researchers to measure than church attendance for a couple reasons. For one, “How often do you go to church?” is an easy question for people to answer. And two, different people may have different ways of praying.
Also, people tend to turn to prayer when things are going badly — such as when they are sick, lose a loved one, or are fired from a job.
“A lot of times prayer becomes a marker for distress or even greater physical illness, because it’s during those times that people turn to prayer for comfort,” said Dr. Harold Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University, and author of “Religion and Mental Health: Research and Clinical Applications.”
Studies done at one point in time in a person’s life — cross-sectional studies — may include only people who are struggling.
Overall, research on the benefits of praying for others, known as intercessory prayer, has been mixed.
One review of past studies found that praying for someone else has small health benefits for the person being prayed for. Another showed no effect at all.
And one study suggests that prayer may make things worse. This study, published in 2006 in the American Heart Journal, found that people who knew that someone else was praying for their recovery from heart surgery had higher rates of complications than people who weren’t being prayed for.
Praying may boost mental health
Praying for others might not help them that much, but several studies have found benefits for the person doing the prayer — whether they are praying for someone else or themselves.
This may stem from the effect that the act of praying has on a person’s mental well-being.
“The compassion that people display toward others when they pray for them is something that is good for the person doing the praying,” Koenig told Healthline.
Prayer may also have similar effects on mental well-being as meditation and yoga, which spill over into physical effects.
“Any benefit to mental well-being, which I think prayer has, is going to translate into benefits for physical well-being over time,” said Koenig.He is quick to point out, though, that he’s not talking about prayer “miraculously curing someone.” Instead, prayer can improve a person’s mental health, such as reducing anxiety and stress.
In turn, this can translate into “better physiological functioning,” such as lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lower blood pressure, and improved immune functioning.
A 2009 study by Koenig and colleagues found that six weekly in-person Christian prayer sessions with patients at a primary care office lowered their depression and anxiety symptoms and increased their optimism.
The prayer was led by a lay minister, but the patients sometimes joined them in praying. So it’s uncertain if the effects are the result of being prayed for or the act of praying.
Other studies have found that prayer decreased symptoms of pain after a C-section and improved the quality of life in women undergoing radiation therapy.
Prayer instead of treatment
Koenig said there’s a particular need for studies that follow people over decades to “see if those who regularly spend time in prayer end up experiencing better mental and physical health over time.”
Does this mean you can ditch your doctor or psychologist and pray instead?
“Absolutely not,” said Koenig.
Serious mental and physical problems are not things to mess around with.
Left untreated, anxiety disorder can lead to physical problems and an increased risk of suicide and depression. Depression is linked to physical illnesses, social isolation, and premature death.
Other untreated illnesses can also lead to death or other serious complications.
A study last year in JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that people who chose only alternative medicine therapies for their cancer were 2.5 times more ly to die than those who used conventional cancer treatments.This study didn’t look at prayer specifically, but it does show the risks of avoiding medical care.
Even though prayer may not “miraculously” cure you, there may still be a place for it alongside traditional treatments.
“The combination of getting the best medical care and having a strong religious faith and prayer can lead to better mental and physical health,” said Koenig.
How Is Stress Affecting My Health?
Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The way you respond to stress, however, makes a big difference to your overall well-being.
Sometimes, the best way to manage your stress involves changing your situation. At other times, the best strategy involves changing the way you respond to the situation.
Developing a clear understanding of how stress impacts your physical and mental health is important. It's also important to recognize how your mental and physical health affects your stress level.
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin
Stress can be defined as any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain. However, not all types of stress are harmful or even negative. Here are the different types of stress:
- Eustress: This type of stress is fun and exciting. It's known as a positive type of stress that can keep you energized. It's associated with surges of adrenaline, such as when you are skiing or racing to meet a deadline.
- Acute stress: A very short-term type of stress that can either be positive or more distressing. This is the type of stress we most often encounter in day-to-day life.
- Episodic acute stress: Acute stress that seems to run rampant and be a way of life, creating a life of relative chaos.
- Chronic stress: Stress that seems never-ending and inescapable, the stress of a bad marriage or an extremely taxing job. Chronic stress can also stem from traumatic experiences and childhood trauma.
During this reaction, certain hormones adrenaline and cortisol are released. This speeds the heart rate, slows digestion, shunts blood flow to major muscle groups, and changes various other autonomic nervous functions, giving the body a burst of energy and strength.
Originally named for its ability to enable us to physically fight or run away when faced with danger, it’s now activated in situations where neither response is appropriate— in traffic or during a stressful day at work.
When the perceived threat is gone, systems are designed to return to normal function via the relaxation response. But in cases of chronic stress, the relaxation responses doesn't occur often enough, and being in a near-constant state of fight-or-flight can cause damage to the body.
Stress can also lead to some unhealthy habits that have a negative impact on your health. For example, many people cope with stress by eating too much or by smoking. These unhealthy habits damage the body and create bigger problems in the long-term.
The connection between your mind and body is apparent when you examine the impact stress has on your life. Feeling stressed out over a relationship, money, or your living situation can create physical health issues.
The inverse is also true. Health problems, whether you're dealing with high blood pressure or you have diabetes, will also affect your stress level and your mental health.
When your brain experiences high degrees of stress, your body reacts accordingly.
Serious acute stress, being involved in a natural disaster or getting into a verbal altercation, can trigger heart attacks, arrhythmias, and even sudden death. However, this happens mostly in individuals who already have heart disease.Chronic stress can have a serious impact on your health as well. If you experience chronic stress your autonomic nervous system will be overactive, which is ly to damage your body.
The first symptoms are relatively mild, chronic headaches and increased susceptibility to colds. With more exposure to chronic stress, however, more serious health problems may develop. They include, but are not limited to:
- hair loss
- heart disease
- sexual dysfunction
- tooth and gum disease
Stress also takes an emotional toll. While some stress may produce feelings of mild anxiety or frustration, prolonged stress can lead to burnout, anxiety disorders, and depression.
Although stress is inevitable, it can be manageable. When you understand the toll it takes on you and the steps to combat stress, you can take charge of your health and reduce the impact stress has on your life.
The following articles in this journey will help you identify how stress affects you. It will also assist you in identifying the best stress reduction strategies that will work for you and it will assist in preventing burnout. Here's a glimpse of what you'll learn:
Recognize the Signs of Burnout
High levels of stress may place you at a high risk of burnout. Burnout can leave you feeling exhausted and apathetic about your job. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent and address burnout if you recognize the symptoms.
How Exercise Reduces Stress
Physical activity has a big impact on your brain and your body. Whether you enjoy Tai Chi or you want to begin jogging, exercise reduces stress and improves many symptoms associated with mental illness.
Effective Ways to Manage Stress
Although there's a lot of talk about the importance of managing stress, most people aren't exactly sure how to do it. It's important to have a toolbox filled with stress reduction tools that help you combat stress effectively.
Live a More Mindful Life
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8 Prayers for Anxiety and Stress Relief
Anxiety and stress can really get the best of us sometimes. The more we dwell on the bad things, the worse we feel energy wise and health wise. Here are 8 prayers that you can pray in different situations of life’s troubles and problems.
Dear Omnipotent Father, the Almighty, all powerful God, give me strength today through all of my health issues. I pray that You will eradicate the diseases plaguing me this day. I feel weak and useless.
You have the power to do as You please gracious Father, and I pray that Your will be done. If You will that my back pain goes away or stays, I will obey You, Lord.
If You will that my migraines get stronger or go away, I will love and honor You this day. Amen.
Gracious, Heavenly Father, You already know the worries on my heart. I pray that You will give me the peace that passes all understanding in the trials that are ahead.
I am scared about what the future holds in my career, family and finances. I give these worries to You Father and ask that You will carry me through this difficult time. Your agape love surpasses all love that I could possibly give.
I thank You and praise You for Your patience with me. I love you Father! Amen.
Father in heaven, I fear for the doors that may be closing in my life. I have a good job, but the company is cutting back. I pray that if I am fired that You will open a new door for me.
I pray that You will provide me the exact outlet You want me to be in to do Your will. I pray that You will provide me a job that will still pay for my mortgage and feed my spouse and children.
You are gracious Father, and I have experienced many blessings from You in my life. I am thankful for all that You have done for me. Amen.
I will obey You Father no matter what.
Holy God in heaven, I come to you now with a heavy heart. You already know that I have been screened for skin cancer and You already know the results. I pray Father that the results will give me a clean bill of health.
But if they don’t, I pray Lord that you would free me of this disease and heal me completely. I will obey You Father no matter what. You are omniscient and know what is best for me; that is why I love You so much.
I praise Your Name, O Holy God! Amen.
Lord, I am scared about the bills this week Father. I was not expecting the car to break down requiring $800 in repairs. Lord I don’t know how I am going to make it this month.
I pray that You would provide me necessary means to make up the extra money in side work. If not side work, I pray that You will provide the money somehow. I trust in You completely Father and I will declare your grace and mercy because You are good, Lord.
You are faithful. You are abounding in love! I love you, Father! Amen.
Salvation for Loved ones
Father, You know the agony I am in over my brother. He refuses to believe in You and I am scared that he may never. Lord, please give me an opportunity to talk with him when he will actually listen. I don’t want to be in heaven without him Father.
I love him so much! Please hear my distress and anguish! My heart is breaking for him every single day that goes by. I pray that he will receive salvation, Lord, no matter from who tells him the gospel.
In Jesus is life and I want so badly for my brother to experience the life-changing power of the cross. I love You, Abba, Father! Amen.
The Thorns in my Flesh
Oh patient Father, I am so thankful that You love me. Lord, I pray that you will help me to be patient with my co-workers that defile Your Name every single day. Lord, I pray that You will soften their hearts to receive the message of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. I cannot stand hearing them speak Your name in vain, Father.
I pray that You will fill me with overwhelming joy that I can sustain the depravity that is before me. You are amazing, Father, for being patient for as long as You have with all of mankind. I pray that I will be patient with the mankind that I come in contact with on my short time here on earth.
You are worthy of all praise! Amen.
Lord, you know my situation. I want so badly for You to bring a suitable mate into my life. Lord, I love You with all of my heart and I want a partner that feels the same way.
I do not want to be unequally yoked and I pray that You will give me discernment to know when to run away and when to stay. I will continue faithfully in obeying You, Father, no matter the outcome.
You know what is best for me and I will gladly follow where You lead me with my anxiety over this issue. I love You, Father! Amen.
One fact of life for God’s children is that we all face trials, troubles and tragedies at some point. I hope you are encouraged by the fact that God loves you so much and He is always there to listen when you pray through all of life’s tribulations. God bless you as you live a life worthy of the calling!
Bible verses about anxiety
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Prayer, Relationships, and Health – John Templeton Foundation
Over the course of dozens of studies, Frank Fincham has compiled an impressive list of ways that prayer and forgiveness make a difference.
Frank Fincham, who holds an endowed chair of the Florida State University College of Human Sciences, is a former Rhodes Scholar with an Oxford doctorate and a long track record of insightful study of relationships, religious practice, and health. In 2011 he was the recipient, as director of the FSU Family Institute, of a $1.
13 million, four-year grant from the John Templeton Foundation to investigate the ways that prayer and forgiveness affect relational well-being and physical health.
The results — in the form of the accumulated outcomes of dozens of studies and reviews — provide compelling evidence that prayer for one’s partner and the cultivation of forgiveness has quantifiable benefits.
I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER FOR YOU
Petitionary prayer — praying for the needs and desires of someone else — is the focus of several studies that Fincham and various co-authors worked on for this grant.
Studying relationship pairs including both romantic couples and close friends, Fincham’s team found that praying for one’s friend or partner increases interpersonal trust and relational unity and correlates with a greater sense of satisfaction with the sacrifices inherent in any relationship, along with fostering greater capacities for cooperation and forgiveness.
Most of the results Fincham was able to measure related to the person who did the praying — fitting with the theory that other-focused prayer was helping to change their internal thought processes. But in some of the studies, having a partner who prayed was also associated with the other partner also having greater feelings of commitment in the relationship.
Many of Fincham’s prayer studies focused on a narrow set of variables, but in one investigation Fincham and his colleagues examined a web of potential associations between four measures (relationship satisfaction, prayer for one’s partner, physical health, and psychological health) and three established correlations with feelings of loneliness (insecure attachment, relational infidelity, and psychological health). Although they did not find that prayer for one’s partner mediated the correlations in the ways they had hypothesized, Fincham did show that participants who prayed for their partners experienced fewer feelings of loneliness.
BREAKING THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE
Recent social science has suggested that children who witness domestic violence between their parents are more ly to experience it — as either transgressor or victim — as an adult. Fincham and his colleagues looked at the ways that an attitude of forgiveness — considered as a personality trait rather than as forgiveness for any one transgression — might help break that cycle.
Fincham’s research found that the ability to forgive one’s mother (for unspecified transgressions) seemed to reduce the lihood of “intergenerational transmission” of violence in three of the four possible pairings of roles (perpetrator and victim, parent and offspring). The only scenario where a forgiving attitude did not seem to help was when the father perpetrated the initial violence and the offspring later became a domestic violence victim.
A FORGIVING HEART
A forgiving outlook may be able to help someone avoid metaphorical heartbreak, but what about the health of their actual heart? Here again, Fincham has had a hand in a number studies about the way that “trait forgiveness” — as well as “trait anger” — might be correlated with cardiovascular health.
True to the stereotype of a fuming boss who suddenly keels over from a heart attack, generally angry people were found to have worse cardiovascular health, while generally forgiving people showed better outcomes.
Interestingly, for people who were generally angry and forgiving, the presence of forgiveness was still correlated with good outcomes, despite the anger.Stress is an obvious candidate for the mediating factor in these relationships — since angry people experience higher stress, and high stress is known for its negative cardiovascular effects. Even in situations of experimentally induced stress — having one hand submerged in near-freezing water — the trait-forgiveness cohort showed healthier cardiovascular responses.
As is the case with much psychological research, Fincham’s research subjects have consisted largely — though not entirely — of undergraduates based near his university, so more work will be needed to show that the same results would be found in a more diverse population. Fincham has also identified additional opportunities to expand the scope of the research to look at whether, for instance, an orientation towards gratitude might have similar correlations to those observed with forgiveness.
Fincham’s results cannot be said to prove that prayer and forgiveness “work” in a supernatural sense. But they certainly suggest that in the aspects of the world that psychologists can measure, there are clear benefits to a praying and forgiving life.
Stress and How to Lower It
- Some stress is okay if it motivates you to get things done.
- Too much stress can lead to health problems such as depression, and insomnia.
- Try stress-lowering activities such as yoga or writing in a journal.
You know when you’re stressed out – your body feels tired and your thoughts are spinning. It can also help to know why your body reacts that way, and what you can do about it. Our bodies are designed to handle calm situations, and also exciting or dangerous ones.
When you’re in the middle of something scary or challenging, your body gets into a mode that’s better for handling the situation. This is a state of high energy and sharp senses, such as the way you feel when you’re playing a fun sport or doing really well on a test.
However, when the situation turns into more than you can handle, that’s when you start to feel the effects of stress. It’s as if your body is shouting “Do something!”, and your brain is shouting back “I don’t know what to do!”
What is stress?
When you’re stressed, you feel changes in your body and your mind. Your heart beats faster, your blood pressure goes up, and your face may get flushed. Your muscles may tighten up, or you might feel anxious. You may feel rushed and confused, or forget things. You may feel sick to your stomach. You might be irritable, and get into arguments with your family and friends.
What causes stress in our lives?
We live in an interesting, but also fast-paced world. There are lots of sources of stress, including:
- Homework and projects at school
- Family tension as you try to be more independent from your parents
- Pressure from friends to do risky things
- Tension with your boyfriend or girlfriend
- Difficult people in your life
- Upsetting news about disasters, war, or personal tragedy
- Media messages that lower your self-esteem
- Not getting enough sleep
- Chronic illness
What are the effects of stress?
A certain amount of stress is OK if it helps to motivate you to deal with a short term problem. For example; if you’re stressed about writing a paper for school, and your stress causes you to ask your teacher for advice, and you finish the paper, then your stress has done its job.
In the short term, stress can:
- Help you focus on a situation or solve a problem
- Tire you out
- Make you nervous or irritable
On the other hand, if you’re experiencing a lot of stress day after day, your body may start sending you warning signs that something’s really wrong. This kind of chronic stress can take a physical and mental toll on your body and mind.
Long term stress can put you at risk for health problems such as:
- Substance abuse
- Obesity and other eating problems
- Digestive problems
- Lower immunity to colds and other illnesses
These chronic problems are really your body’s way of telling you “Hey! I’m under way too much stress – something’s got to change!”
If you notice that you feel stressed just about every day, you should take some steps to (1) lessen the number of stressors in your life, and (2) try some techniques that will help you de-stress.
How can I lower my stress level?
Here are some ideas for different activities you can do to lower your stress. Pick a couple that look interesting to you, and try them out.
If these ideas help you de-stress, you can include them in your daily or weekly routine. If not, you can try others on the list, or come up with a list of your own.
Talk to your parents or another trusted adult about how they de-stress. They might have some good ideas you can try out.
Helpful Hint: Make a list of your favorite stress-reduction activities, and tape it where you’ll see it often, such as on the fridge, in your notebook, or on your computer screen. When you’re over-stressed, stop what you’re doing, pick one thing off the list, and do it!
Stress Reduction Activities
Simplify. You may feel you’re not in control of everything that’s expected of you. It’s up to you to decide what you can do, and what you can’t. To help simplify your life, sit down and make a list of everything you feel you need to do. Then separate all the items on the list into these three sections:
- These can wait
- These should get done soon
- Do these TODAY
If you see that there’s just too much to do TODAY, you’ll have to cut down on some activities to make your schedule more manageable.
Exercise is a great way to lower your stress. While exercising, you can focus on what you’re doing with your body, which helps free your mind from other worries.
Vigorous exercise also triggers the release of chemicals in your body called endorphins, which make you feel happier and more relaxed. You don’t have to be a super-athlete to exercise. Even something as basic as walking for half an hour can help you relax and improve your mood.
Or, you can sign up for a class at your local YWCA or YMCA, such as dancing, volleyball, or swimming.
Yoga, Tai Chi, & Qigong. These types of movement use stretches and poses for flexibility, strength, concentration, and relaxation.
Yoga emphasizes flexibility and strength, while Tai Chi and Qigong help with concentration, balance, and patience. You can do any of these exercises in a class at your local YWCA, YMCA, dance center, or at home on a towel or mat.
If you’re shy about taking a class, you can borrow a DVD the library, or find one on TV and try the movements at home.
Take a Break. Sometimes your tired brain is just craving a little time off from your busy day. Stop what you’re doing, and find a quiet spot where you can put your feet up.
Drink some tea (without caffeine), or take a bath. Read a book or magazine, or even watch TV.
These things sounds so basic, you might think, “why bother?”, but when your feet are up, your stress level drops.
Meditation and Prayer offer you ways to calm, focus your thoughts, and feel more positive. Meditation involves sitting still in a quiet place, focusing your thoughts on your breath or on a slow chant, and trying to be aware of what is going on in the present moment, instead of stressing about the past or freaking out about the future.With prayer you focus on feeling connected to a higher spiritual power, and on wishes and hopes you may have for yourself or people you care about. You might to contact your local church, temple, yoga center, or Buddhist center about a prayer or meditation group.
If you’re shy about attending a group, you can borrow DVDs from the library about different meditation and prayer techniques.
Massage can work wonders on a stressed-out body. A gentle massage can untie knotted muscles, and make you feel relaxed all over. A professional massage can be expensive, but even a simple foot-rub or shoulder-rub from a good friend can take the edge off your stress – you can check out local massage schools to see if they offer discounted services.
Journaling. If you enjoy writing, this can be a good way to de-stress. Write down what’s been happening with you on a daily basis and how you feel. By writing your thoughts and feelings down on paper, you’ll ly feel less stressed.
Have a good cry. You may know that little kids get upset easily, cry and make a fuss, and then get over it quickly. This approach can work for you too.
At the end of a stressful day, if you find yourself crying to a supportive friend, family member, or to your pillow, this can help you de-stress. In our culture we often try to convince people not to cry, as if it were a sign of weakness, but that’s really not true.
If crying helps you communicate your frustration, vent your stress, and get some support, than there’s nothing wrong with a good cry every now and then.
Sleep. Teens in our culture are often sleep-deprived on a daily basis, and even just a few nights in a row of not-enough-sleep can make you feel irritable and nervous.
You actually need more sleep at this time in your life (about 9 hours per night) than you will as an adult.
Although your school schedule and social life make it difficult, try to put sleep at the top of your priority list, right up there with eating healthy foods.
Special note: Drugs, alcohol, or binge eating are really harmful ways to try to de-stress. These things may seem to make you feel better in the very short term by numbing your senses, or making you feel silly or forgetful. However, they have destructive effects on your life and your health and are not worth the temporary quick fix they might seem to provide. If you find yourself turning repeatedly to these harmful activities, it’s time to seek counseling to help you deal more positively with your stress.
What should I do if I’m dealing with extreme stress?
Sometimes the stressors in your life are very serious.
Some examples of extremely stressful situations are: being in a serious accident; being the victim of a crime or sexual abuse, or experiencing violence in your family life, including daily fighting, yelling, and hitting.
These serious stressors can have lasting effects on the way your body and mind handle stress, and this can set you up for mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Here are some resources for coping with extreme stress:
- Parents or other trusted adults. If you feel that your stress is more than you can manage on your own, you should definitely seek help. Have an honest talk with a parent(s), guardian, or another trusted adult in your life. Be has truthful as you can about the stress you’re dealing with and the effect it’s having on you. Opening up to a caring adult can help you feel less alone, and that person can help you find ways to manage your stress.
- Counseling and medication. In addition to help from family members, counseling can be a great resource. It involves meeting with a professionally-trained person; a therapist, social worker, health care provider, or religious leader. This person can help you figure out the cause of your stress, how to minimize it, and how to learn techniques for handling stress in the future. Sometimes your health care provider will prescribe medicine to help you manage the symptoms of your stress, as they work with you on ways you can make your life less stressful.
Throughout your life it’s important to be aware of the signals coming from your body and your mind. If you realize that you’re getting stressed out, remember that you can do something about it now and in the future. However, if you feel that you just can’t manage your stress or that you’re having a hard time coping with something (and it lasts for up to two weeks or more) it’s important to talk with your health care provider.