“At the end, prayer and meditation are like anything else in life. If used with knowledge, awareness, and the right intention, they can benefit you.” -By Michelle Roya Rad
Question: Dear Stacy, My family and I just found out that one of our family members may have cancer. We are devastated and extremely distraught, he is too young to be sick. He still has some tests and scans to go through before we get the full prognosis. In the meantime we are a mess and don’t know what to do. Do you believe in the power of prayer during a situation like this? –Distraught in Dundalk
Answer: Dear Distraught in Dundalk, I am sorry to hear about your relative and yes, I do believe in the power of prayer during a time like this. No matter your faith, religious affiliation or spirituality, the power of prayer is proven to be beneficial.
Clay Routledge at nationalreview.com states, “According to the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study, over half of American adults pray daily, and less than a quarter seldom or never pray. Prayer is not exclusive to the religiously affiliated. Pew finds that 20 percent of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated pray daily and that another 18 percent pray weekly or monthly. And despite people’s tendency to frame debates about the value of religious beliefs and practices in political terms, daily prayer is a bipartisan activity; 42 percent of people who pray daily are Republican and 40 percent are Democrat. People all over the world from different cultures, faiths, and backgrounds regularly pray.”
I know this is not a scientific or even a scholarly resource, but sites like www.quora.com offer interesting commentary and group discussions on a variety of topics by everyday people. The one on “Do-you-believe-in-the-power-of-prayer” is very interesting and may give you and your family some insight and hope.
David Small from theprayerwarrior.com gives us 13 reasons why he believes in prayer and says that “Prayer is powerful because it disrupts the status quo in your life.” Prayer: 1. Changes Things. 2. Transforms Me. 3. I Get the Desires of My Heart. 4. God Answers Prayer. 5. Protects My Life. 6. Fills My Mind and Heart With Peace. 7. Gives Me Hope. 8. Fills Me With Faith. 9. Moves the Mountains in My Life. 10. Quiets the Storms in My Life. 11. Brings Angelic Help to My Life. 12. God’s Will is Done in My Life. 13. Fills Me With Divine Wisdom.
Debbie Przybylski from crosswalk.com asks, “Do we realize the power we have available to us when we take our authority in prayer? Most of us don’t realize our authority because if we did, we would be praying far more. We would be sacrificing everything else in order to pray. We have authority in prayer to actually see our personal lives and the lives of others change. We can pray authoritative prayers for our neighborhoods and cities. We can change nations through prayer if we choose to use this mighty weapon. The power of prayer is waiting for you to ask and receive.”
If you are one of the sceptics and you are not sure about this idea of prayer or you are not a “religious” person, that is okay, because research shows prayer is positively associated with well-being and physical health. Clay Routledge from nationalreview.com shares, that “…many people find prayer to be a worthwhile spiritual activity. Those who want to dismiss this should at least consider the tested psychological and social benefits of prayer as well as the reality of how most believers turn to faith-based practices in addition to, not instead of, other courses of action.”
“A nationwide survey of older adults found that the negative effects of financial problems on health were significantly reduced among those who regularly prayed for others. Religious practices such as prayer also contribute to perceptions of meaning in life, which promote psychological well-being. Some studies have found mixed results when it comes to the association between prayer and mental health. Results from a large national survey helped clarify this relationship. Researchers found that prayer is psychologically beneficial for those who perceive God as loving but may cause anxiety for those who view God as distant and unresponsive. Other research suggests, not surprisingly, that the content of prayer matters. For example, among a sample of cancer patients, those who focused their prayers on thankfulness and concern for others were found to have the least symptoms of depression.”
Kent Ingle from foxnews.com found, “Although science is ill-equipped to prove the existence of God, scientific research does show that prayer works. The literature I looked at states, regardless of God’s existence, elements of prayer are universally valid – across various religions, traditions, and practices. The act of prayer itself has beneficial physiological effects.”
“Prayer, much like meditation in Buddhism, or concentration on breathing techniques in Yoga, causes the mind and body to focus on singular focal points that align the mind, soul, and physical aspects of a person to lower cortisol levels, improve oxygen utilization, and confer numerous other psychological benefits.”
“Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D., and lecturer at Harvard, says, “It’s clear from the correlational studies within the epidemiology data that positive relationships exist between religious and spiritual practice and health outcomes on a variety of different conditions.” Moreover, she says that in a study and confirmation study on intercessory prayer, “the prayer groups had statistically significant improvements in outcome, suggesting that the intervention has clinical relevance.””
In conclusion, researchers at the Heritage Foundation said, “We have a logical reason why religion might influence physical health through mental health, through enhancing social support, through influencing health behaviors, all affecting physical health outcomes.” So, at the very least, prayer is beneficial. It works. In fact, “Today, 101 medical schools incorporate patient spirituality in their curriculum, up from 17 in 1995. This fact suggests that these principles are being incorporated into medical education…”
“While researchers may contest the idea of God answering prayer, many aren’t denying that it can serve beneficial roles in people’s lives. Shaya Love at Vice goes on to say, “Prayer and meditation could be extremely helpful, both to the body and mind.”
“While I’m sure the debate surrounding the existence of God will persist indefinitely, there’s no debating the power of prayer and its transformative impact in the lives of people throughout the world and throughout history. It’s time Christians acknowledge the empirical evidence and continue lifting up their friends, families, and communities in prayer.”
Michelle Roya Rad, Contributor to the Huffington Post, states, “In regard to science, studies done of brain activities on prayer and meditation have indicated that people who engage in these activities on a regular basis have a change in the frontal lobes. This is the area that controls concentration and focus. When one is in a state of deep prayer, the parietal lobe’s power goes down, which can contribute to a sense of transcendence. Furthermore, it has been indicated that people who pray and meditate on a regular basis have some permanent changes to the brain. Self-aware people who have been meditating with clear intention for 15 years or more seem to have thicker frontal lobes than non-mediators. The frontal lobes are involved in motor function, problem solving, spontaneity, memory, language, initiation, judgment, impulse control, rationality, and social and sexual behavior.”
“Prayer and meditation can influence our state of mind, which then have an effect on our state of body. It can help with anxiety, sadness, blood pressure, sleep, digestion and breathing. It also can influence thinking. These, overtime, can change the brain activity and ultimately the subjective and objective experiences of us in the world.”
“There are two general types of prayer: personal or individualistic and group or collective. Logically, if one is good, two is better. When a group of people meditate or pray together with the same clear intentions, self-awareness and enough focus and concentration, then the effect could be even more positive.”
I know this was a long one, but I knew that my humble opinion about the power of prayer needed some backbone and some scientific information. With that said, I challenge you in this new year to pray and meditate more, for yourself, for others, for your community, for our country. Nina Podbury and news.americanbible.org created the 28-Day Prayer Challenge. Join them (and me!) through the month of February (my birthday month) as we pray for specific needs in the U.S. and around the world. We’ll be praying for people waiting to read God’s Word in their heart language, people carrying the ache of trauma in their hearts, Americans wondering how the Bible changes lives and communities and so much more. What would you like to pray and meditate on?
Use this guide to draw your heart to a particular need and ask God (or your higher power) to meet it. Then after you’ve prayed, cross it out until you’ve completed all 28 days.
Are you ready to take the challenge? It just may surprise you!
Here are some resources on the topic: