Millions of Americans who experience difficult emotions, such as sadness, fear and anger, often try to find a prescription medication or a doctor's diagnosis to alleviate their pain.
However, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that people who frequently pray find comfort from their emotional troubles. In his study, Shane Sharp interviewed dozens of victims of violent relationships who represented a wide range of the United States' population in educational, racial and geographic backgrounds.
Sharp discovered that individuals who were sad or angry benefited from prayer, in which they spoke to a source who they believed to be God. The study, which appears in the journal Social Psychology Quarterly, concluded that prayer helped many of the victims cope with their feelings in a positive manner.
"If they vented their anger to that abusive partner, the result was likely to be more violence," said Sharp. "But they could be angry at God while praying without fear of reprisal."
Sharp also found that praying served as a helpful distraction for many people. By folding their hands and concentrating on what to say to God, they were able to take a reprieve from their anxiety. He said that prayer is similar to an intimate conversation with a close friend or parent.