Mind: Medicine for the Mind, Body and Spirit (Prayer)
From the Christian standpoint, the benefits of prayer are beyond question as it causes the insistent and humble petitioner to seek the mighty and unseen hand of God to intervene in our circumstances. To the scientist, the application of faith and the performance of miracles are questionable variables that need to be measured and hypothesized. Needless to say a number of studies by Christian and Atheist Scientists have been undertaken to test the efficacy of prayer upon physical and spiritual wellbeing leading to interesting findings.
The American National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) defines prayer as “an active process of communicating with and appealing with a higher spiritual power”- for Christians, it is God.
What Does Science Say About Prayer?
Psychologists at Sheffield Hallam University studied 251 men and 223 women between 18 and 29 to determine what aspects of religious observance were more likely to influence mental wellbeing found that personal prayer was more beneficial than going to church for social reasons. They also found that although women appeared to more religious than men, it was the frequency of praying that was most strongly associated with the reduction in anxiety and depression. Those who prayed more frequently were also found to have noticeably higher self esteem.
It has also been suggested that prayer engenders a calming state of mind in an individual which improves emotional wellbeing and mood. Prayer is also associated with positive emotions such as peace, joy, hope, faith, trust and love which contribute improved state of wellbeing. There is a need however, to consider further, the effects of prayer for the “prayer” and the “prayed for”.
Research in Canada found college students involve in church activities had higher levels of psychological wellbeing, made fewer visits to the doctor and were better able to cope with stress than those who were non religious.
A study undertaken in Gainsville and Wayne State University in Detroit found that the most common alternative therapy used by older adults was prayer with over 96% of study participants cited it as a means to reduce stress.
A well-known double-blind scientific study conducted between 1982 and 1983 involving 393 patients in San Francisco General Hospital’s Coronary Care Unit into the therapeutic effects of intercessory prayer (praying for others) found health improvements in patients who were prayed for. They required less CPR, antibiotics, diuretics and ventilation. There were also fewer incidents of pulmonary oedema and deaths.
A study of 150 patients who had undergone angioplasty at Duke University Medical Centre by Dr Harold Koenig in 1997 and 1998 and received intercessory prayer had the greatest success rate. These patients were between 25 and 30% less likely to experience complications.
Another American study of over 4000 participants aged between 65 and 74 years who prayed and attended religious services were found to be 40% less likely to have high blood pressure than their non church going/praying counterparts.
Prayer has positive benefits for all age groups and studies have demonstrated improvements in health and wellbeing in the following ways:
(source: © hopecalls.org
- Better health
- Less hypertension
- Less stress, even during difficult times
- More positive feelings
- Less depression
- Greater psychological well-being
- Superior ability to handle stress
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