Around three-quarters of people who pray do so as a coping mechanism in order to deal with a bad relationship or negative emotions, says researcher Shane Sharp at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"If they vented their anger to their abusive partner, the result is likely to be more violence. But they can be angry at God while praying without fear of reprisal," he says.
Praying also helps restore people's self-worth as they see themselves in the way they believe God sees them.
Although prayer may be seen as a talk with an imagined person, those who do so firmly believe in the existence of God.
(Source: Social Psychology Quarterly, 2010; 73: 417).