I can remember the first time I said a prayer; I was five years old and for reasons I will leave unsaid right now, I was scared for my Mother. Now, at five years old, I had not been indoctrinated into any specific religion. My Mom was a non-practicing Catholic and never shared her faith with me until I was much older and specifically asked her about it. So how then, at five years old, when I was scared did I reach out to some unseen force and ask for help? While I don’t have the absolute answer for that, I do know that saying that prayer made me feel better and I carried that with me throughout my entire life. I still pray and even now it is not always directed at a certain deity or it doesn’t follow specific religious rules – for me it is a way to externalize my worries and fears, to give them to the universe to handle because I feel too small to handle them on my own. I also give thanks, prayer isn’t always about fear or worry, it is also for me, a way to acknowledge that I have been taken care of, that my life is full of blessings.
I recently read an article about prayer in Psychology Today that is about the science, psychology, and metaphysics of prayer which prompted me to write this particular blog entry. While it is not new, science has shown that prayer works. Also, that collective prayer works even better. Now, I could get into my personal views about it, and how I think our thoughts shape our world and reality. That the power of belief is stronger than the power of doubt, and that what we put out into the universe is what comes back to us – so in that light, we kind of answer our own prayers – which speaks to those religions that favor the divinity of self. The article points out some measured results of prayer:
An interesting bit of science attached to this ethnocentric and geocentric evolution of prayer comes out of Duke University Medical Center, where a study found that, within a group of 150 cardiac patients who received alternative post-operative therapy treatment, the sub-group who also received intercessory prayer (they were prayed for) had the highest success rate within the entire cohort. The fascinating thing about the study is that it was double-blind – neither the researchers, nor those on the receiving end of the intercessory prayer knew that these patients were being prayed for — suggesting an intervening variable.
A comparable double-blind study, conducted at San Francisco General Hospital’s Coronary Care Unit, demonstrated similar results. Those patients “prayed for” showed a significantly diminished need for imminent critical care, maintenance medications and heroic measures, as well as witnessing fewer deaths – again, suggesting an intervening variable.
Clearly, the intervening variable implied by these studies isn’t a case for God. It does suggest, however, some relationship between the states of consciousness experienced by those praying, and the subjective experience of those prayed for.
I firmly believe that we all pray in one form or another and I think it is time we start taking away the stigma that goes with it. I pray not because I am part of an organized religion; I pray because I believe it helps me focus on things greater than myself, I pray because there are billions of people that I share this planet with who need to be thought of kindly and blessed through my intentions that they be able to lead a happy and blessed life, I pray because sometimes I need a little help.
Do you pray or meditate? What or who do you direct your prayers to? Have you seen tangible results in your life from your efforts?
Please remember that we are learning from each other and be respectful of the views of others even if you do not believe what others believe – Please practice tolerance.