According to an article published in Psychology Today, personal prayer provides several psychological benefits to the individual praying.
The article entitled, ‘”Prayer and Mental Illness’, written by Rob Whitley, Ph.D., discussed two large studies that revealed prayer positively strengthens a person’s mental well-being.
One study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, concluded that young adults who prayed daily experienced less anxiety and had a higher self-esteem and were more satisfied with life than those who didn’t. This was a large study involving several thousand students and even included follow up for several years after.
Whitley cited another survey of 2,000 adult Californians experiencing mental illness, where 80% “agreed or strongly agreed” that prayer helped them during their struggles.
This second study confirmed Whitley’s own research on African Americans, who stated that “regular prayer was a major factor in their recovery” from their struggles with mental illness.
Stress is a significant contributor to physical and mental health problems. In 1 Peter 5:7, the Apostle Peter encourages us to cast or throw all our concerns and worries upon God, because the Lord cares for you.
In this verse, Peter uses the same Greek word for casting, epirhipto, that we find in Luke 19:35, when we are told that people threw their cloaks on the back of the colt that Jesus would ride when entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
This is a visual picture of how we are to literally throw our cares and anxiety on God and allow Him to carry them.
But for this to be effective, Peter says we must first humble ourselves before God when we come in prayer.
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 having cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares about you. 8 (1 Peter 5:6-8 NASV)
In other words, we must admit to ourselves and God, that we don’t have the strength to battle these issues on our own, and we need God’s help.
The Apostle Paul then offers a second bit of advice when it comes to dealing with anxiety. He says that during our times of prayer, we need an attitude of thankfulness as we acknowledge those things we can be thankful for.
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
We need to take the focus off our problems, and onto God, who has provided in the past.