Ninety-nine percent of Evangelical Protestants believe that engaging in spiritual disciplines such as prayer, reading the Bible and having a strong Christian faith positively impacts their mental and physical health, according to a recent report by Grey Matter Research and Infinity Concepts.
The report, titled “Faith and Wellness: Evangelical Insights on Healing and Physicians,” reveals that only 1% of Evangelicals do not share this belief in the potential improvement of mental and physical health through spiritual practices and stronger faith.
The report also found that 96% believe a strong Christian faith contributes to positive physical health; the same proportion said the same about reading the Bible. For prayer, 98% affirm this belief.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Ron Sellers, founder and president of Grey Matter Research and a contributor to the report, expressed surprise at the high percentage, stating that achieving such a level of agreement among any group is uncommon.
Sellers, a Christian himself, attributes the widespread belief to teachings from various sources, including churches, Bible studies, parents, Christian television and ministries.
“To see such a nearly unanimous belief on this was really surprising,” Sellers said, noting that his own Christian faith compels him to agree with the 99% in the report.
Sellers emphasized that the findings should not be misconstrued to suggest that 99% of Protestant Evangelicals deny the existence of mental or physical illnesses. Rather, the belief centers around the idea that spiritual disciplines can alleviate symptoms associated with these struggles.
Sellers clarified that this belief also does not imply that all individuals in the 99% expect miraculous cures for mental or physical ailments. The focus of the report, he said, was on positive mental and physical health and the potential benefits of prayer, Bible reading and strong faith, rather than claiming these practices can cure specific diseases or eradicate suicidal ideation.
“The research is not saying that anyone believes that prayer is the cure to suicidal tendencies or, ‘If you pray, you’ll never have suicidal tendencies,’ or anything like that. That’s not at all what people are talking about when they answered the question,” he said.
Sellers cautioned against misinterpreting the report by placing blame on individuals for their mental or physical health struggles within the Church. He also discouraged attributing these struggles solely to insufficient prayer, Bible reading or weak faith.
“There are people out there who twist what the Bible has to say, or what [ministry leaders] have had to say over the years for their own purposes. There are undoubtedly going to be people who will twist something like this to do their own purposes,” Sellers said.
Despite the high percentage of Evangelicals finding agreement on this topic, Sellers noted that the findings do not mean that all of those who agree are actively practicing spiritual disciplines themselves.
The report also found that among the 99% of Evangelicals who said a strong Christian faith can benefit them mentally and physically, 59% reported having moderate or low engagement in spiritual practices.
Sellers stressed that the report shows that merely acknowledging the potential benefits does not ensure that individuals are actually engaging in these practices to experience the positive effects, he said.
He compared this phenomenon to other areas of life where people know certain behaviors are beneficial or harmful but fail to follow through. For example, many individuals continue smoking despite knowing its detrimental effects, and a significant percentage of Americans are considered clinically obese despite the knowledge of its impact on health.
“For the people who strongly believe, for instance, that reading the Bible can have a positive impact on their physical and mental health, six out of 10 aren’t reading it every day,” he said. “So here’s just another case of things that we know to be good for us and we’re not doing. And that’s not even yet approaching the topic of what impact the Bible, prayer and strong Christian faith may have on our spiritual health. But, we’re not doing these things as we should be.”
The report’s collaborative contributor, Mark Dreistadt, president and CEO of Infinity Concepts, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the need for greater alignment between belief and action within the Evangelical community.
“I think Evangelicals, mentally, consciously, recognize the value of prayer and the importance of faith in our overall search for wellness. Secondly, there is somewhat of a disconnect between what people believe and what they live out. And I think that’s probably true in almost every aspect of life. What we believe in and what we do — there’s not always 100% alignment,” Dreistadt said.
Dreistadt expressed a desire to see more research conducted on the correlation between faith and medicine, highlighting the complementary nature of these areas. He observed a lack of adequate research on how Christianity and health intersect and advocated for building a bridge between the fields of wellness, medicine and faith.
“If you’re in the field of wellness and medicine, you often don’t talk about faith. And people who are in the world of faith and spiritual life tend not to talk about medicine,” he said.
“I think there’s a bridge there that needs to be built. And I think research and having good solid information about the relationship between the two will help build that bridge.”
Dreistadt said he hopes that the report would inspire individuals to engage in frequent prayer, noting biblical encouragement to pray for one another and the promises of divine response and healing. He acknowledged that while healing may not occur in every instance, there are significant testimonies that support the fulfillment of scriptural promises within the walk of faith.
“There’s significant anecdotal information that underscores the fact that when people pray, oftentimes, God will respond and that healing will take place. But, that doesn’t mean that every time we pray, everyone will be healed. That’s one of the great mysteries of faith,” Dreistadt said.
“But, I do believe there are significant testimonies and stories and anecdotes that illustrate that the scriptural admonition and scriptural promise is indeed being fulfilled in our walk with God.”