What is the state of your prayer life? This is a question that may be difficult to answer due to a lack of knowledge about the subject or it may be too personal. Many people believe that prayer is only for religious people, but there is more to it. Prayer is simply communicating with God, and it is a universal concept. Everyone, consciously or unconsciously, encounters it in their lives. What does science think about prayer? Here are some studies involving prayer.
A 2005 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine comparing secular and spiritual forms of meditation discovered that spiritual meditation was more calming. In secular meditation, you focus on something non spiritual, such as your breath. In spiritual meditation, you concentrate on a spiritual word or text. Participants were divided into groups, with some taught how to meditate using self-affirmation words (“I am love”) and others taught how to meditate using words describing a higher power (“God is love”). They then meditated for 20 minutes every day for four weeks. Researchers discovered that those who practiced spiritual meditation had lower anxiety and stress levels, as well as a more positive mood. They also tolerated pain for nearly as long when asked to put their hands in an ice water bath.
“We have a logical reason why religion might influence physical health through mental health, enhancing social support, influencing health behaviors, all of which affect physical health outcomes,” said researchers at the Heritage Foundation. So, at the very least, prayer is beneficial. It works. In fact, “101 medical schools now incorporate patient spirituality into their curriculum, up from 17 in 1995.” This fact suggests that these principles are being incorporated into medical education.
In July of 1988, Dr. Randolph Byrd published one of the most famous accounts in the Southern Medical Journal. Byrd devised a double-blind study in which 393 patients in a hospital’s coronary care unit (CCU) agreed to participate in one of two randomized test groups. One group would be placed on a list to receive intercessory prayers (IP) on their behalf without their knowledge. The control group would not be prayed for. The amount of ventilation assistance, antibiotics, and diuretics required were all monitored during their stay. The study concluded that patients in the IP group had statistically lower medical needs.
According to David H. Rosmarin, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and director of the Spirituality and Mental Health Program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., finding people who are open to praying but don’t already do it is difficult. Brain scans are difficult because people frequently pray aloud and do not typically remain still when praying, as they do when meditating. Prayer is only likely to benefit those who are open to it in terms of mental health.
I’m sure the debate over God’s existence will go on forever. Prayer has been shown in the studies above that it can change a person’s mindset and can help improve their health, and deciding if it can help you is a personal choice, but we can all agree that it is not wrong to pray for goodwill and blessings for your family, friends, work, strangers, and even your enemies. You never know, someone out there is praying for you.
By: Royd Guyon