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Study: prayer calms the angry heart

A 2011 study conducted by researchers from universities in America and Europe concluded that prayer helps a person calm their anger.

The study conducted by Brad Bushman a psychology and communications professor from Ohio State University, Sander Koole of Holland’s VU University of Amsterdam and University of Michigan’s Ryan Bremner found that prayer quelled a person’s anger even if they were not particularly religious.

There were various stages to this study. In one session, the researchers asked the participants in the study to to write a paper that was then evaluated by a partner who purposely and aggressively criticized the paper. They were extremely negative about what the participant had wrote.

They then had some participants of the study group think about what their partner had said and others spend five minutes praying for them.

Once they had gone through this process, the participants then played a game with their partner. If the participant won, they were allowed to blast their partner with loud music. The participant also determined how loud the music was and how long it lasted.

The researchers found those who prayed for their partner were significantly restrained in how much they blasted their partner. However, if the participant prayed negatively about their partner, it had no effect. In fact, it some instances it even worsened the amount they blasted their partner.

They had to pray positively for the person to calm their anger.

Speaking on behalf of the research group, Bushman said:

“People turn to prayer when they’re feeling negative emotions, including anger. We found that prayer really can help people cope with their anger, probably by helping them change how they view the events that angered them and helping them take it less personally.”

In their news release, Koole stated that the effects of prayer in calming a person “were quite large.” He suggested that a person “may want to consider the old advice of praying for one’s enemies. It may not benefit their enemies, but it may help them deal with the negative emotions.”

Jesus said:

44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:44 NASV)

Notice how Jesus connects loving your enemies with prayer — literally praying for the those who persecute you. The Greek word for persecute is ‘diokonton’ and though it includes the idea of persecution it means to chase, pursue, follow or seek after. It it talking about someone who purposefully went out of their way to hurt or offend you.

But notice how Jesus connects love with praying for them. The prayer benefits us maybe even more than the person you are praying for. If you are struggling to forgive, pray for the person who offended you.

But praying for your enemy can have an impact. When we look at all that befell Job, when his friends showed up they criticized Job and blamed him for the misfortune. It was all Job’s fault.

But finally God tired of it and He spoke to  Eliphaz the Temanite:

8 Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves, and My servant Job will pray for you. For I will accept him so that I may not do with you according to your folly, because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”

God told him to make an offering and Job would pray for him. Job would pray for the man who was criticizing, condemning and blaming him for all his misfortune. And it was because of Job’s prayer, that Eliphaz and his friends would be spared.

Obviously, Job was praying for Eliphaz, not against him and if this verse is any indication, God will particularly hear the prayer of the offended.


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