The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin recently published a series of studies that suggests saying a prayer for another person may help reduce negative emotions. Studies showed that after people were intentionally insulted, asking them to pray for a person in need helped calm them down.
One researcher said, “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.”
These studies reflect the idea that prayer changes us as much as it changes anything else. Perhaps this is one reason why Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 6:28). He wanted us to genuinely pray for their well-being, but in doing so He likely knew the effect it would have on our own hearts.
Praying for those who persecute us is a radical idea. It’s typically not the first thing to come to my mind. My initial thought is to pray against them. But it’s hard to deny the benefits.
A man I once counseled found himself consumed by the rage he felt towards his ex-wife. For decades she would run him down to their children and intentionally exclude him from their lives. His ex-wife didn’t change, but his attitude started to shift once he began praying for her. In a way he couldn’t explain, praying for her freed him from the anger that had consumed him for years.
How has praying for others, even someone who acts like your enemy, had an impact on you?