Surprising benefits of bedtime prayer

Scientific research confirms that prayer offers people important psychological benefits, not just spiritual

Ludovico il Moro in bed praying to the Madonna and Child (by a Lombard master, ca 1490)

Bedtime prayers once were part of every child’s nighttime routine along with warm baths, teeth-brushing and stories read aloud. But how many parents still kneel with their children before tucking them in every night to offer bedtime prayers?

Surprisingly, many Catholics still heed the advice from Thessalonians, which urges us to “pray without ceasing.” A 2013 Pew Research Poll found that more than half of Americans pray every day, while a similar 2012 poll discovered that over 75 percent believe prayer is an important part of daily life.

Even recent scientific research confirms that prayer offers people important psychological benefits in addition to the spiritual benefits they seek. A Psychology Today story noted five scientifically supported benefits of prayer:

  1. Prayer improves self-control. Studies demonstrate that self-control, like muscle, becomes fatigued and must be exercised regularly to remain strong. Studies demonstrate that prayer can reduce alcohol consumption and has an energizing effect.
  2. Prayer makes you nicer. Having people pray for those in need reduced the aggression they expressed following an anger-inducing experience.
  3. Prayer makes you more forgiving. People who pray for the needs of a romantic partner or friend are more willing to forgive others.
  4. Prayer increases trust. Those who pray together experience feelings of unity and trust, suggesting that praying with others can help build close relationships.
  5. Prayer offsets the negative health effects of stress. Researchers discovered that people who prayed for others were less vulnerable to the negative physical health effects associated with financial stress. In addition, the focus on others seemed to contribute to the stress-buffering effects of prayer and enhance the overall feeling of wellness.

Full story at OC Catholic.

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  1. And I thought psychology was one of those satanic social sciences! Well, good to know prayer can have psychological and mental health benefits as well. Mindfulness seems to be the big fad right now.

  2. Prayer is how we communicate with our Creator. The Holy Father Benedict XVI wrote that through the standard prayers – Glory be, creed of the Apostles, Our Father and Hail Mary – we prepare our spirit for a direct dialog with our God. Gratias agamus Deo Dominum nostrum. It is a great privilege to be a Catholic.

    • Steve Seitz says:

      Gratias,
      I’ve always considered the Apostle’s Creed to be the creed of the early church and not an actual prayer. Onviously, though, one could include this in a prayer such as the rosary.

      • The Apostles’ Creed is the first prayer if the Rosary, when one first holds the Crucifix.

        I have a great affection for the Apostles’ Creed because all of Latin America, by Papal dispensation, uses it at Mass instead of the Niceness Creed. It has nurtured our religion. In fact, the Spanish Language evolved around the proper translation of the Creed from the Latin. I will try to show this amazing evolution of a Language around a prayer in my next post.

      • Credo in Deum, pater omnipoténtem, Créatórem Coeli et terræ.
        Creo en Dios, Padre todopoderosa, Creador del cielo y de la tierra.

        Et in Jesus Chritum, Filum emus únicum, Dominum nostrum;
        Y en Jesucristo, su único Hijo, Nuestro Señor;

        qui concéptus est de Spiritu Sancto;
        Que fue concebido por el Espíritu Santo;

        Natus ex Maria Virgine;
        nació de Santa Maria Virgen;

      • Continued – influence of the Apostles’ Creed in molding the Spanish language.

        passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mórtuus et sepultus:
        padeció bajo Poncio Pilato, fue crucificado, muerto y sepultado:

        descéndit ad inferos; tertia die resurrexit a mòrtuis:
        descendió a los infiernos; al tercer día resucitó de los muertos:

        ascendit ad cœlos, sedet ad dexteram Dei Patris omnipoténtis;
        subió a los cielos, está sentado a la diestra de Dios Padre todopoderoso;

        inde ventúrus est judicáre vivos et mórtuos.
        desde allí ha de venir a juzgar los vivos y los muertos.

      • Continued – how Spanish developed around the Apostles Creed

        Credo in Spíritum Sanctum, Sanctam Ecclésiam catthólicam,
        Creo en el Espíritu Santo, la Santa Iglesia católica,

        Sanctórum communiónem, remissionem peccatorum,
        La comunión de los Santos, la remisión de los pecados,

        carnis resurrectiónem, vitam ætérnam. Amen.
        La resurreción de la carne, la vida eterna. Amen.

        No other prayer has been so perfectly preserved, not the Our Father, not the Hail Mary. So here we see a Language develop around the preservation of an ancient prayer.
        I pray the Apostles’ Creed (in Latin) daily. It helps me keep the faith in trying times.

  3. There is the problem of falling asleep before you finish your prayers, especially if you are exhausted from the labors of the day. Sleep can come on without advanced warning. Try to squeeze in some prayers before the end of the day.

  4. A third great article. I have begun to pray for everyone who comes on here, and it is hard to hate those for whom one prays.

  5. A short prayer every evening helps one sleep.

  6. not to be too picky, but this Gringo is pretty sure the first line of the Spanish should be ‘Padre todopoderoso’; todopoderosa is feminine. Perhaps a typo.

  7. Linda Maria says:

    There is a cute little kneeling teddy bear, still, in our family home, clad in a little nightcap, set on a bookshelf with children’s and family books– and he recites a cute version of this familiar bedtime prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep I pray the Lord my soul to keep Guide me safely through the night And wake me with the morning light Amen.” My elderly mother prays to her Guardian Angels, nightly! She likes to talk about her devotion to Our Lady, and to her Guardian Angels!! She is now a widow, (after nearly 70 years of marriage!) and always has a good night’s sleep, trusting God, resting in Him!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Yesterday, Psychology Today issued a retraction, apologizing for a misprint in their Nocturnal Wellness & Oneness study. They attributed the error to a programming flaw in the lab’s new voice recognition system. The voiced “Meditation” was translated synonymically as “Prayer” in print, to which PT spokesman Ms. Summer Breeze added, “But hey man, if Bedtime Prayer is your thing, that’s cool.”

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