Study: Prayer can change behavior

By Linda Williams | Posted - May 13th, 2013 @ 11:20am

SALT LAKE CITY — Praying for close friends and romantic partners can affect behavior in positive ways, according to a study released this month.

The Christian Post reports a group of five studies shows that "colloquial, intercessory prayer focused on the partner changes observable behavior."

It found those who prayed for their friends or partners more easily forgave others, were less vengeful and had overall more cooperative behavior.

The findings include:

  • Participants who prayed more frequently for their partner were rated as less vengeful in discussing something the partner had done to upset or annoy them.

  • The partners of participants who prayed for them noticed more forgiving behavior than the partners of participants who were assigned to set aside time each day to think positive thoughts about them.

  • Participants assigned to pray following a partner's hurtful behavior were more cooperative with their partners compared to participants assigned to engage in thinking about God.

  • Participants who prayed for a close relationship partner on days in which conflict occurred reported higher levels of cooperative tendencies and forgiveness than on days when conflict occurred and they did not pray.
Florida State University's Dr. Frank D. Fincham, one of the authors of the research, told the Post that the "changes documented do not occur for prayer in general." He said the results showed only intercessory prayer on behalf of one's partner or loved one led to the noticeable changes.

About the Study
Led by Nathanial Lambert, a former FSU doctoral student who is now an assistant professor at Brigham Young University.

Participants were undergraduate college students who indicated they were comfortable with prayer and praying for others.

Research paper on the study was published in the journal Personal Relationships. Read the abstract here.

Fincham also said these are the first findings in which the partners who are the subject of the prayers reported a positive change in the behavior of the person who prayed.

"My previous research had shown that those who prayed for their partner reported more prosocial behavior toward their partner, but self-reports are subject to potential biased reporting," Fincham said.

"This set of studies is the very first to use objective indicators to show that prayer changed actual behavior, and that this behavior was apparent to the other partner, the subject of the prayer," he added.

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