Can Prayer Heal the Body and Mind?
An elderly Catholic woman clutches her rosary beads as her lips recite another “Hail Mary.” Tibetan prayer flags flow on a breeze. A shaman induces a trance state. A choir sings a gospel song. A young man hikes along a mountain trail. A child asks God to keep her injured puppy alive. A yogi sits in quiet meditation. A middle-aged woman walks a labyrinth. A Reiki practitioner lays his hands on a patient. A dancer’s body becomes music in motion.
No matter what style a prayer is expressed in, the intention is the same: to connect with or communicate with a supreme power.
The Brain’s “God Spot”
In the book Where God Lives, author Melvin Morse, a medical doctor who has studied children’s near-death experiences, explains that when people pray, participate in mind-body healing, experience paranormal or psychic activity such as telepathy, or listen to their intuition, the right temporal region of the brain is stimulated. Until recently, that area of the brain was thought to exist solely for the purpose of processing and interpreting memory. Now scientists are recognizing that part of the brain as where we find insight into the meaning of life and connection with a God spirit.
Research into and documentation about how prayer promotes healing continues to grow. A January 2004 article by Matthew R. Kutz, Ph.D. titled Observations on Prayer as a Viable Treatment Intervention and published in “The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice” reports that 99 percent of family doctors who were surveyed in one study said they believed that religious beliefs can heal, and 75 percent of them said they believed that other people’s prayers can promote healing. That same study concluded that “poverty of personal faith” should be considered a health risk factor at the same level as alcohol and tobacco abuse.
Articles about the benefits of prayer in health settings have been published in prestigious trade journals such as The British Medical Journal, American Family Physician, and Clinical Nursing Research. And the National Institutes of Health has funded research about the affects of meditation on patients with heart disease and as part of the treatment for people with binge-eating disorders.
The Secret Ingredient
Regardless of the prayer style, the one ingredient necessary for prayer to work as intended, according to Larry Dossey, author of the book Prayer is Good Medicine, appears to be love, which he defines as “compassion, empathy, deep caring.”
Research seems to confirm that when you express love through right temporal brain activity, heaven meets earth. But if you’ve ever had a prayer answered, you already knew that.