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The Power of Prayer

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The Power of Prayer and Meditation

Since the beginning of man, there has been prayer and meditation. While that may be common knowledge, most do not know the effects prayer and meditation have on the human mind and body. Many people may regard these practices as useless and archaic, however many also believe they have powerful effects; such as stress relief, and improvement of mental and physical health and even brain growth. Although it may be a controversial subject, there are many studies on the effects of these practices. In the end, the actuality of these affects remains a mystery. Though both claim to produce much of the same effects, prayer and meditation are a little different; Meditation is the art or discipline of slowing one’s thoughts to enter a place of spiritual peace or focus. Prayer is the act of conversing to or with a deity. Despite what you may believe, Prayer is a widely used practice. “One third of Americans use prayer to facilitate physical healing,” (Jeffrey, Kluger, Park, Walsh p.1) States an article on the benefits of prayer on health. Western medicine may attempt to water down the connection between prayer and healing, yet some studies show that there is a connection between meditation, prayer and good emotional and physical health. We often get caught up in our in our fast paced lives with stress not following far behind. There are many avenues to choose when it comes to dealing with stress appropriately; such as exercise, therapeutic aromas, and even anti-depressants if the stress is overwhelming. However according to some studies; stress is easily manageable with simple meditation. For example this article states that “The relaxing effect of meditation suggests that stress-induced impairment in cognitive function may be influenced favorably by meditation.” (Sharma, Mohan, Ramesh p.1) In a fast paced lifestyle with much sensory input, quieting ones thoughts and looking within oneself or spiritually directed meditation could be a positive experience. One claimed effect of prayer and meditation is a feeling of a spiritual high, euphoria, or a feeling of loosing control of your body. These feelings are believed by some to be because you are experiencing a spiritual contact with your god, or you are finding spiritual balance. Others believe that this is because of changes in the brain during these practices. Studies by a scientist named Newburg and his team have shown significant brain changes in people who pray or meditate a lot. “Pray and meditate enough and some changes in the brain become permanent. Long-term meditators--those with 15 years of practice or more--appear to have thicker frontal lobes than non-meditators. People who describe themselves as highly spiritual tend to exhibit an asymmetry in the thalamus--a feature that other people can develop after just eight weeks of training in meditation skills.” (Jeffrey, Kluger, Park, Walsh p.1) This effect on the brain growth is very positive since growth of the frontal lobes and thalmus can increase memory. Another effect that prayer and spiritual meditation may have would be the inner or emotional healing it can provide. “Prayer provided a framework around which the interdependence of inner and outer transformation and healing could occur” (Stanley, p.11). The act of praying for forgiveness, or communicating or meditating on the one you believe is the creator of the universe and yet loves you unconditionally, can give you a sense of peace and purpose. Since peace would be the opposite of stress, and stress can cause negative emotions, it wouldn’t be farfetched to state that prayer increases emotional health. Some believe that beneficial health effects of prayer and meditation are non-existing or a placebo effect, much like when a person believes they were healed by a product that has no healing qualities. Many believe prayer is close to useless, judging from the fact that people who pray are struck will illnesses just as well as the ones who don’t, and because it is close to impossible to have a controlled experiment on something so hard to measure. “After all, many saints suffered from a laundry list of physical maladies. We are only human,” (Jeffrey, Kluger, Park, Walsh p.2) states an article. Some may ask if it is even possible to have a reliable outcome with researching the effects of prayer or meditation on anything. Is there any way to control the amount of prayer that one person gives? Can prayer for another be as effective as you praying for yourself? These are just a few questions that remain unanswered according to science; as there is no scientific way yet figured out. It is difficult or impossible as some may claim, to test the effects of prayer, due to the incapability of measuring the effects and dosage as you can traditional medicine. In conclusion, prayer and meditation have many effects on the human mind and body. The real question is whether the effects have to do with a supernatural experience, or if it is just the power of the human brain at work creating elusions of bliss. One thing science and religion can agree on is, that prayer and meditation both can reduce stress, and make someone feel if not become physically healthier. Perhaps science and rituals as old us humans themselves, will unite and one day find the unbiased truth behind these effects.

Works Cited

Mohan, Amit, Ratna Sharma, and Ramesh L. Bijlani. "Effect Of Meditation On Stress-Induced Changes In Cognitive Functions." Journal Of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 17.3 (2011): 207-212. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 May 2012.

Stanley, Ruth. "Types Of Prayer, Heart Rate Variability, And Innate Healing." Zygon: Journal Of Religion & Science 44.4 (2009): 825-846. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 May 2012.

Kluger, Jeffrey, Alice Park, and Bryan Walsh. "The Biology Of Belief. (Cover Story)." Time International (Atlantic Edition) 173.8 (2009): 34-39. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 May 2012.

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