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Does Prayer Really Work?

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid (John 14:27 NLT)

Have you ever experienced a time when you didn’t know where to turn or how to fix a problem? Were you ever in a place where you couldn’t escape despair, gloom, and anxiety? If so, you’re not alone.

Losing a loved one, getting fired from a job, going through a divorce, a global pandemic, escalating random violence, racism, and other difficult situations can make us sad, lonely, and scared. These feelings are normal reactions to life's stressors. Most people feel low and sad at times. But statistics demonstrate that anxiety has reached an all-time high and doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

How common is anxiety?

•	In a 2020 survey, 62% of respondents reported experiencing some degree of anxiety. (SingleCare, 2020)
•	An estimated 31% of all adults will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their life. (Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2020)
•	An estimated 19.1% of adults in America had an anxiety disorder as of 2001-2003. (Harvard Medical School, 2007)
•	Anxiety disorders are more prevalent in women than men in the United States and worldwide. (NIMH, 2017) (Our World in Data, 2018)
•	Specific phobias are the most commonly occurring anxiety disorder, affecting more than 19 million adults in the U.S. (ADAA, 2020)
Worldwide anxiety statistics
•	It is estimated that 264 million adults around the globe have anxiety. (World Health Organization, 2017)
•	Of these adults, 179 million were female (63%) and 105 million were male (37%). (Our World in Data, 2018)
•	The prevalence of all mental disorders increased by 50% worldwide from 416 million to 615 million between 1990 and 2013. (World Health Organization, 2016)

Anxiety Statistics in the United States
•	Anxiety is the most common mental disorder in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults. (ADAA, 2020)
•	The prevalence by state of mental illness ranges from the lowest in Florida (16.03%) to the highest (22.66%) in Oregon. (Mental Health America, 2017)
•	The majority of adults with anxiety have a mild impairment (43.5%), 33.7% have a moderate impairment, and 22.8% have a serious impairment. (NIMH, 2017)
•	Nearly half (47%) of survey respondents experience anxiety regularly. (SingleCare, 2020)
•	19 million adults experience specific phobias, making it the most common anxiety disorder in America. (ADAA, 2020)
•	15 million adults have social anxiety. (ADAA, 2020)
•	7.7 million adults have PTSD. (ADAA, 2020)
•	6.8 million adults have generalized anxiety. (ADAA, 2020)
•	6 million adults have panic disorders. (ADAA, 2020)

The data provides a dismal report about our country and the world's current worry and anxiety. Yet, despite this information, our Heavenly Father, who loves us dearly, desires that we communicate with Him through prayer. He wants us to come to him with our troubles to get the answers and breakthroughs from anxiety.

God is always attentive to our prayers. Regular prayer will bring blessings to us, our loved ones, and those we pray for. It can also bring more tranquility and help us understand God’s plan.
The Bible explicitly describes God’s promises to us regarding anxiety:
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid (John 14:27 NLT)
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9)
“You shall not fear them, for it is the LORD your God who fights for you” (Deuteronomy 3:22).
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Can prayer help us feel less anxious?

What are our core beliefs about the nature of God?

When we pray, do we feel close to a loving God who is always within reach, or do we perceive God as distant and unapproachable?

Our perception of God can influence prayer's impact on our mental well-being, as shown by a recent study.

Research conducted by Baylor University found that those who pray to a caring and protective God tend to experience fewer anxiety-related conditions, such as fear, worry, self-consciousness, social anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive behavior.
The Sociology of Religion journal recently published a study that delved into the relationship between prayer, attachment to God, and symptoms of anxiety-related disorders among U.S. adults. The researchers analyzed data from 1,714 participants who participated in the Baylor Religion Survey, focusing on general anxiety, social anxiety, obsession, and compulsion. This insightful study sheds light on important factors contributing to our mental well-being.
It's important to understand that some individuals struggle to build a solid connection with God. They may feel insecure or avoidant towards Him, which can lead to feelings of rejection or anxiety related to unanswered prayers. However, overcoming these challenges and developing a deeper faith in God's presence in our lives is possible with patience and persistence.
Research has shown a correlation between one's connection to God and mental and physical health. A recent study by Oregon State University discovered that religion and spirituality offer distinct yet complementary advantages for one's well-being. Religious affiliation and service attendance promote healthier habits, such as decreased smoking and alcohol intake, while prayer and meditation help regulate emotions. Additionally, Columbia University's research revealed that regular meditation or other spiritual practices can positively impact one's well-being.

Another recent study from Columbia University discovered that regularly practicing meditation or other spiritual activities can also thicken certain parts of the brain's cortex, which may explain why these practices can help prevent depression, particularly in those at risk.

From today onwards, here are five compelling reasons to make prayer a regular practice:

1. Prayer helps us develop a relationship with God.

Like our parents here on earth, our Heavenly Father wants to hear from and talk to us. When we pray, He listens. Then He answers our prayers through thoughts, spiritual feelings, scripture, or other people's actions.

2. Prayer helps us gain an understanding of God’s loving nature

The scriptures teach, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). We can feel that love as we speak daily through prayer, seeking His guidance.

3. Prayer provides answers

Praying and listening to God's answers can help you better understand our purpose in life. God will help us understand why we are here and what we can do to return to live with Him after this life.

4. Prayer helps us find direction in life.

When we privately pray to God, we can work through serious decisions in our life. God always listens and often provides the specific answers and guidance we seek. Even when He chooses not to answer immediately or in the way we might have hoped, prayer is a way to find peace.

5. Prayer gives us the strength to avoid temptation.

Jesus counseled His disciples, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). Through prayer, we can overcome temptations to sin. Pray for God’s help to keep you from making wrong choices. This will give us the strength to do what is right.

Consistently making time for prayer can harness its power to help alleviate anxiety and promote healing.

Dear Father, please show me how to let go of the worry, anxiety, and fear I often experience. Thank you for your word that reminds me "not to fear." When problems arise, and hopelessness invades my thoughts and actions, show me how to lean on you, pray, and trust you to help me. Amen.
Your turn: Do you struggle with anxiety? What are ways you combat this? Do you have a specific scripture that helps you through worry and fear?

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Anthony Hayes
Anthony Hayes
27 mai 2023

Prayer does work!!! I am living proof.

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