Praying for others may or may not help them that much, empirically, but several studies have found benefits for the person doing the prayer, whether they are praying for someone else or themselves. This may stem from the effect that the act of praying has on a person’s mental well-being. The compassion that people display toward others when they pray for them is something that is good for the person doing the praying, which could positively affect their relationship with the person being prayed for.￼
Prayer may also have similar effects on mental well-being as meditation and yoga, which spill over into physical effects. Personal spirituality or prayer can help improve a person’s mental health, such as reducing anxiety and stress. In turn, this can translate into “better physiological functioning,” such as lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lower blood pressure, and improved immune functioning.
Prayer appears to contain at least eight empirically distinguishable psychological elements: examination (self-reflection), intercession (caring for others), suffering (empathy), tears (release), rest (comfort), sacrament (adherence to tradition or ancestry￼), petition (asking for help or material needs), and radical (indignation or anger about present conditions).
Although a lot needs to be examined, and while the psychological and neuropsychological research on prayer is equivocal, it’s an intriguing subject for future research.￼