6 Reasons to Start Praying

A friend of mine told me a story about a buddy she knew in college. He was struggling with some life stuff. He vented to my friend about it, and she suggested that he pray. He balked at the idea at first, unsure if God even exists. She encouraged him, saying, “Well, at a minimum, praying can’t hurt. But if God does exist, then praying could help.” She learned years later that he gave it a try and its impact had changed his life—in fact, he went on to pray daily.

Prayer is part of my daily routine, and I’m not sure how my life would look without it. Like any discipline, prayer requires practice and persistence to grow into a solid habit. An invitation to prayer is sometimes the first step to developing a positive, life-building routine. You can try it today without any prior experience. Even if you’ve had a poor experience with it in the past, here are 6 reasons to start praying.

1. The research supports it.

Everyone experiences some level of anxiety, but studies show that praying makes people feel less anxious. Over 1,700 people participated in a Baylor University study that found that “people who pray to a loving and protective God are less likely to experience anxiety-related disorders—worry, fear, self-consciousness, social anxiety and obsessive compulsive behavior—compared to people who pray but don’t really expect to receive any comfort or protection from God.” Jesus knew this effect of prayer, which is why he told a crowd of anxious people, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Prayer opens the door for anxious people to find rest.

Prayer opens the door for anxious people to find rest.

2. It builds connection.

We’ve all gotten news from a friend about a job loss, death of a loved one, or sudden medical hardship. What do you do in those situations? Bring over a casserole. Send a card. Take your friends’ kids out for ice cream with your kids so your friend can get some rest. But also offer to pray for or with them. It does two things. First, I truly believe God hears me, as Psalm 34:17–18 states, but it also helps those people know I empathize with them. When others know you’re praying over their situation, it signals to them that you care. Prayer can build relationships between neighbors, friends, and even enemies. It’s one of the few ways to bring people from different walks of life together in a meaningful way. A simple “I’m praying for you” can change everything.

3. You may feel peace.

Who wants a chaotic life? Philippians 4:6–7 gives us a playbook for finding peace, and it includes prayer. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I remember being unable to sell my house before moving to a new state. My wife and I were kind of stressed but sought peace through prayer. We felt the stress melt away believing that God would work it all out at the right time. A few days before Christmas, we got the call that our house sold. Some people would say prayer had nothing to do with that sale, but we firmly believe that the timing was divine. Even if it wasn’t, we had peace through it all because we’d committed to pray while waiting.

4. It can provide help.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kenneth Pargament, a professor emeritus at Bowling Green State University, told the Wall Street Journal, “…the general trend is for the religious impulse to quicken in a time of crisis.” Meaning, people need help, and when they are vulnerable they often turn to prayer. Nobody is mentally, emotionally, or spiritually strong enough to navigate life alone. We all need help. Friends, family, and coworkers are great, but reaching out to God through prayer can provide help in a different way.

5. It’s a way to feel hopeful.

Put bluntly, learning to pray can’t hurt anything. It can only help. The people who feel hopeless often turn to prayer because they don’t know what else to do, but prayer was not designed to be a last resort. Romans 12:12 puts it this way: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” I find prayer to be a calming, connecting experience that provides strength in tough times and confidence in great times. If you’re low on hope, prayer provides some.

6. Praying is good for your health.

Praying can calm down your nervous system. It has been shown to reduce psychological stress levels and counteract the natural “fight or flight response” people activate when in conflict. Prayer tones down our feelings of anger and makes people less reactive to negative emotions. All of these are good for your health.

Sound off: Do you know anyone who would be a good role model for prayer?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think is the purpose of prayer?”