It doesn’t matter what your religious background is, it’s good to believe in something. Whether you’re Catholic, Muslim, Jewish or any other denomination, the integral part of religion is having a faith in a higher power. One way we can feel connected with our faith is through prayer.
We pray for many reasons. We pray to feel closer to that universal higher power, we pray for others and we pray for our health. There have been reports that those who have prayed for good health have recovered from serious illness.
But is this the will of God, Buddha or a coincidence?
The link between prayer and good health has been the topic of study and debate, and the question begs to be asked: Does prayer belong in hospitals?
The power of prayer
A doctor from Thomas Jefferson Hospital has been studying the effects of prayer on the human brain for over 20 years. By injecting patients with a radioactive dye, Dr. Andrew Newberg can see how prayer affects brain activity through brain scans.
He notes that when individuals are at rest, the brain scans show areas of red, but when they become deep in prayer the red turns to yellow, indicating changes to brain activity. Newberg also says these changes in brain activity levels affect change in different neurotransmitters, the chemicals in our brain, suggesting prayer promotes the ability to heal.
Because the brain controls basic body functions like heart rate, blood pressure and the immune system, the act of praying could activate changes throughout the body, which could have a healing effect.
But is God answering prayers or does prayer have more to do with de-stressing? Many researchers are not convinced that prayer is a means to cure, but they do recognize that reducing stress is beneficial to health, especially during times of illness and hospitalization.
Essentially, Dr. Newberg points out that faith of any kind can help us gain a better sense of self and distract us from the bigger problem – the health issue.
Prayer and healing
Studies have shown that people who pray experience better well-being, better psychological health and positive behaviors as well. Other studies, though, have not shown any relationship between prayer and improved health. So does God work only for some and not others? That’s not the case at all. And for those who do recover, are they considered miracles? Once again, it’s not that black and white.
Illness is all about coping. Many people say that they can will themselves back to health by staying positive and “fighting” the illness. Because we know so much of the detrimental effects of stress on the body, finding ways to reduce stress can promote healing. So if prayer is your outlet to reduce stress while expressing your faith, then it can definitely be a viable way to help heal.
Good health and well-being often is a matter of opinion. What may seem like a measure of recovery may not be the same for everyone. We may feel better after praying, although test results may show no difference. Just like age, isn’t it sometimes more about how we feel and not about the number?
Whether you’re religious or not, it’s important to find a healthy outlet to reduce stress, especially in times of illness. For many, the power of prayer can see them through. The point is, staying positive can be integral to recovery and well-being.
Whatever it may be for you – prayer, meditation or a lucky charm – it may be the one thing that gets you through your stressful time.
A daily dose of vitamin C and regular hand washing are both good methods to boost our immune system. Those simple and effective ways to keep us healthy are important, especially during cold and flu season when we need extra help to fight the spread of illness.
As a doctor, I see people with a wide variety of health issues every day. One that I have noticed is really prevalent is depression in seniors. As people get up in years, the risk of dementia and other degenerative diseases of the brain become much more likely.