Topic Overview

What is prayer?

Prayer is part of the world's oldest faith traditions and cultures. For many people around the world, prayer has a place in their daily lives. It is how they connect with God, a higher power, inner strength, or spiritual energy.

Prayer can be a very personal experience. It can be silent, as in meditation, or spoken aloud. Or it may involve chanting or singing. While prayer is often a part of formal religious services, you can pray anywhere—alone or with others.

What is prayer used for?

People value prayer for different reasons. Some people say that prayer helps them feel connected to an inner sense of meaning or purpose and that it strengthens their belief in a higher being.

You can use prayer for anything that is important to you. Common reasons for using prayer include:

  • Expressing gratitude.
  • Seeking calmness.
  • Asking for blessings, such as good health.
  • Asking for divine protection from harm.
  • Looking for strength to cope with problems in life, including illness.
  • Seeking wisdom when making decisions.

Does prayer have a role in your health?

Science doesn't prove whether prayer helps to cure serious health problems. It's not easy for experts to research how prayer affects physical or mental health. Even experts in the field of spirituality in health care have a hard time agreeing on how to define words like prayer.

But you may still find that prayer has a positive effect on your health. For example, it may make you feel more calm and less stressed. And that can help you feel healthier overall.

To learn more, see the topic Spirituality and Your Health.

Related Information


Other Works Consulted

  • Freeman L (2009). Spirituality and healing. In L Freeman, ed., Mosby’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Research-Based Approach, 3rd ed., pp. 485–518. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
  • Pizzorno L (2013). Spirituality and healing. In JE Pizzorno, MT Murray, eds., Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 404–418. St. Louis: Mosby.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine

Current as ofJanuary 19, 2016

Current as of: January 19, 2016