The Health Benefits of Prayer



I stopped myself a few times this week. I read some Facebook posts that increased my inflammatory response. I could feel my blood pressure rise. I was ready to enter the boxing ring of words and ideas. These posts surely needed some other perspectives. I started typing out my responses, click, click, click on the keyboard keys. But then. . .


I caught myself. I managed to pause. I took a deep breath and asked myself, "Is this really helpful? Is this a contribution to my well-being, to someone else's well-being, to the community's well-being?"


Clearly not!


Just today, I came upon an article about the health benefits of prayer. I was so intrigued that I started doing more research. The academic in me thrives on learning and teaching. So, I'll share what I learned.


But first, full disclosure. I'm into prayer. I got through the rigors of graduate school, juggling career and family life, and various life challenges through prayer. Currently, I attend several Zoom devotionals each week. And I spend even more time in prayer and meditation now that I'm not working full-time and you know, getting older, closer to the day I will die than closer to the day of my birth. I'm holding onto my belief in God and something glorious after this life--this platform for a whole lot of growing going on.


Sometimes I pray in a way that probably causes God to roll His eyes, you know the bargaining kind of prayer: "Hey Lord, I think I need another 30 or 40 years to fulfill some dreams. And if you could, make them healthy because it's kind of hard to fulfill dreams when you're sick. Of course, whatever Your will is, but you know. . .my vision's not so bad - healthy, old, in action fulfilling those dreams that serve humanity."


Some other personal benefits of prayer?


I feel so much better in a state of prayer than a state of reaction.


I fell more productive, too. I can pray for my family, friends, colleagues, our world.


I know, without a doubt, prayer causes no harm or hurt.


Like those reactive posts I thankfully didn't post.


So, about the evidence-based health benefits and not just my own testimony, there are quite a few.


Dr. Harvard Benson, a cardiovascular specialist at Harvard Medical school, states that "long term daily spiritual practices help to deactivate genes that trigger inflammation and prompt cell death."


I may not fully understand how genes are deactivated or what inflammation at the cellular level looks like, but I bet you agree that sounds like something we would want to experience, doesn't it?


Research also demonstrates that prayer slows down our brain waves. People who pray often have increased feelings of tranquility, peace of mind and control over life's challenges. And since half the doctor visits in the United States occur because of depression, elevated blood pressure, migraines and ulcers--conditions most often related to increased levels of stress and anxiety--prayer is gaining attention among doctors.


Imagine the day, when a doctor writes out on a prescription pad: prayer, fruits and vegetables, exercise.


Finally, prayer boosts the immune system, decreases the severity and frequency of numerous illnesses and supports those of us who are aging to live longer than those who don't pray when faced with a serious illness.


So, I invite you to join me. Let's pray. Let's reduce our blood pressure. Let's calm our anxieties and stress levels. Let's deactivate genes that trigger inflammation and prompt cell death.


Who wouldn't want to pray with all those great side-effects!


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