What Your Prayer Life Says About Your Relationship to God

January 16, 2023

Have you ever considered how and when you pray as a thermostat for how healthy your connection to God is? 

Byrd and Bea (2001) researched university students and their attachment to God during times of stress. They assessed the types of prayer used and whether the students ran to or ran away from God in difficult times. The results? Some did. Some didn’t. It depended on their attachment or connection to God. The avoidant person avoided. The anxious person anxiously pleaded with God for help. The confident or secure student came to God for comfort and support. 

Which category might you fall into if you were part of this research study?

If you might be more avoidant, what does that mean? Avoidant people experience discomfort when emotionally close to others (Byrd & Bea, 2001). Space or independence is preferred, especially since others are not viewed as reliable to meet one’s needs. Conclusion of the study: this type of person was less likely to utilize conversational prayer. Stress made them want to avoid talking to God. If subconsciously or consciously you believe others, even God, are unreliable, you wouldn’t want to pray during times of stress. You are the only person you can count on to deal with the problem!

If you might be more anxious, what does that mean? The anxiously attached individual tends to fear abandonment and rejection (Byrd & Bea, 2001). This person worries about whether they are doing enough to maintain the relationship or get the help needed. Conclusion in the study: this type of person tends to ask God for a materialistic type of help, showing their dependency on God to strengthen their fragile connection to him. Sounds good? Not so fast. This person is often begging and pleading with God and is more fearful and anxious than trusting and confident. Look at your prayer journals and see if you find this type of desperate plea for help. You may discover evidence of an anxious attachment to God that is more rooted in a fear of losing his love and help rather than confidence that he will come to your aid. 

Wait, I don’t fit either of those. The securely connected person uses meditative and conversational prayer (Byrd & Bea, 2001). Those who do not avoid God during stress are motivated by a desire to be close to him. For the person who finds closeness comforting, stress encourages more prayer instead of less. You see God as your strong tower (Proverbs 18:10) and run to him, believing he will provide for all your needs without being overly anxious or scared. 

Ultimately, the first step to strengthening your connection to God is increasing your awareness of how you interact with God, especially when stressed. We can’t change what we don’t know or see.

Questions to consider: 

1. Am I avoiding God when I’m stressed?

2. Am I anxiously concerned and pleading with God for help when I’m stressed?

3. If yes to either #1 or #2: Where did I learn that God was not a source of comfort or support in times of stress?

References

Byrd, K. R., & Boe, A. (2001). The correspondence between attachment dimensions and prayer in college students. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion11(1), 9–24. https://doi-org.cui.idm.oclc.org/10.1207/S15327582IJPR1101_02

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