Older people who feel closer to God have a sense of well-being as opposed to those who feel distant. In addition, frequent prayer heightens the feeling all the more.
A recent study by Baylor University, published in the Journal of Aging and Health, centers on three parts of wellbeing: contentment with life, self-esteem, and optimism.
In all three, there is a direct link between God and prayer, found the study involving 1,024 residents over 65 years of age — some Christians, others Christians in the past, and those who don’t claim to have a relationship with God.
“What we’re finding is that prayer can be associated with more or less well-being, depending on how you perceive God,” Blake Kent, a researcher and a doctoral candidate in sociology, said in a statement. “In a nutshell, the psychological benefits of prayer seem to be dependent on the quality of a person’s relationship with God.”
Along with Kent, study’s lead author Matt Bradshaw, Ph.D., who is assistant professor of sociology in the College of Arts & Sciences, discovered the following:
- The more the highly secure people pray, the more they have a sense of well-being.
- Those with an average relationship with God have a moderate sense of well-being.
- Those who don’t pray much or those who feel distant from God have varied results: whether a slight increase or even possibly a decrease in well-being.
God can be viewed in different ways — loving, just, intimate, and holy. Some scholars said that God may be the giver of goods and services.
“Is God seen as safe and secure? Then prayer seems to have a positive benefit. Is God distant, or even untrustworthy? Then it may be a different story,” Kent said. “When you can’t trust God, prayer is not associated with confidence in his care, but with uncertainty and anxiety. There is a perception out there that prayer is automatically good for your wellbeing. That may not be the case for everyone, because such a perception assumes that God is responsive and trustworthy. But many people don’t experience God that way.”
They continued: “Respondents who pray regularly to a God they perceive will be there to protect and comfort them may find relief in prayer and may choose health-promoting behaviors consistent with religious teachings or insights they receive during prayer.”
Further, those who want to have a relationship with a god they do not believe in may experience decrease in mental health and feel estranged.
For older people, God as a loving God is especially important for older people, particularly when they undergo abuse, loneliness, financial loss, and the like, noting their perception of God can bring down their stress levels to a minimum.
Also, their study shows that the older respondents want to make amends in their personal lives.
“We would argue this also occurs in the relationship with God,” they wrote. “A loving and supportive God who also is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient may provide considerable comfort, assurance and resilience to believers who are approaching the end of their lives.”