The Power of Prayer – even if you don’t believe
By Duane Hewitt
Prayer helps us in ways that we may not realize and are not identified in spiritual sources like The Bible. And whether or not you believe in a Supreme Being, there is evidence pointing to some very tangible benefits to prayer.
Putting aside our questions or beliefs concerning God, prayer has been shown to have a positive impact on mind and body. Prayer induces a state of relaxation. During prayer, breathing slows, anxiety eases, and processes of mind and body are slowed and recalibrated. Like laughter and beautiful music, neurotransmitters in the brain are activated for our benefit when we pray. When done regularly, the positive benefits to mind and body endure.
Harvard Medical School makes an interesting claim in an online article titled Mind-Body Genomics, (Sue McGreevey, May 1, 2013) stating that “Relaxation response immediately alters gene expression tied to inflammation, metabolism and insulin.” [It should be noted here that Genomics is the area of molecular biology that deals with the structure, function, and mapping of genomes. A genome is an organism’s complete DNA, which includes its genes. Each genome holds all the data required to construct and sustain that organism.] The Harvard article goes on to state that the “relaxation response” (a physiological state of deep rest) is brought about by such practices as “meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and prayer.” The result yields “immediate changes in the expression of genes involved in immune function, energy metabolism, and insulin secretion.” Each of these functions has a direct impact on an individual’s health.
In its online article “What is Prayer” as posted in Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing, The University of Minnesota declares that according to research led by Dr. Christina Puchalski, Director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, “prayer is the second most common method of pain management (after oral pain medication), and the most common non-drug method of pain management.” Here too, we are being provided with validation concerning the power of prayer in terms of tangible physical benefits vis-à-vis the realities of our day-to-day world.
It doesn’t stop there. It’s widely understood that prayer works wonders when it’s part of a person’s belief system. And whether you attribute this to the placebo effect (where a beneficial treatment is attributed to a patient’s belief in that treatment) or you think it has more to do with the power of thought over mind and body, the positive outcomes (due prayer) are no less true.
We all suffer stresses that bombard our mental and physical health. Depression and anxiety are two major offenders. And although it’s important to understand the full range of remedies for such things as depression (diet, rest, exercise, positive thinking, social interaction, and so on) prayer can arguably play a significant role that offers very real paybacks.
This article is not meant as a dissertation on prayer or what has or has not been verified in regards to prayer, but it does point the way for those who want to research the various findings concerning prayer. If you don’t already pray, there is data suggesting there are good reasons to begin.
Prayer is good. It can keep us functioning in a healthy state of mind and body. If you’re in doubt, perhaps that should be something to pray about – and all the evidence indicates that such efforts can only do you well.
Copyright 2017 Duane Hewitt. All rights reserved.