When people pray, they generally seek broad strength, support or blessings rather than specific, detailed requests. That’s one of the findings of an analysis performed on a public prayer book placed in the Johns Hopkins University Hospital from 1999 to 2005.
Looking at the nearly 700 prayers written in the book, the study found they fell into one of three categories: about 28 percent of the prayers were requests of God, while another 28 percent were prayers to both thank and petition God, while another 22 percent of the prayers thanked God.
Most writers anthropomorphized God, addressing the deity as they would a relative, friend, or parent. "Most prayer writers imagine a God who is accessible, listening, and a source of emotional and psychological support, who at least sometimes answers back," researcher Wendy Cadge tells Science Daily.
Influencing Health Matters
"Prayer writers also tend to frame their prayers broadly, in abstract psychological language, and this allowed them to make many interpretations of the results of their prayers," she said, explaining that the study found that prayer provides a means through which people can reflect on and reframe difficult events in an effort to understand those events in the context of their beliefs.
The study complements other recent research that focuses on whether prayer has any measurable influence on health. Most of these studies have focused on how often people pray, and whether those who pray have fewer serious health problems, recover faster from surgery, or are healthier overall than others.
"If researchers studying religion and health take seriously even the possibility that prayer may influence health, they need to learn more about what people pray for, how they pray, and what they hope will result from their prayers," says Cadge. "The information in this study serves as general background and informs the mechanisms through which religion may influence health."
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