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6 Not-so-obvious benefits of prayer

Prayer has many obvious benefits. It connects you to God, others, and yourself. It increases your gratitude. Praying for others strengthens your bond to them and engenders hope.

Surprising benefits of prayer that are backed by scientific studies.

Prayer has many obvious benefits. It connects you to God, others, and yourself. It increases your gratitude. Praying for others strengthens your bond to them and engenders hope.

Delve a little deeper, you’ll discover several other surprising benefits of prayer that are backed by scientific studies.

  1. Prayer works.

While it’s difficult to systematically study prayer, scientific studies do suggest that prayer can effectively help patients in hospitals heal more rapidly. One study quantified that patients who were prayed for did 11% better than others who did not have such attention.

Another study on this topic was conducted at Duke University Medical Center. Out of 150 cardiac patients, a smaller subgroup was prayed for. The results were surprising.

“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.

“The same experiment was repeated at San Francisco General Hospital’s coronary unit with similar results.”

Prayer is effective , and can help even the most hopeless situations.

  1. Prayer has a similar effect on the brain as psychedelic drugs.

Have you ever had a religious experience, or a moment in prayer where you are left feeling elated or deeply connected? Prayer can create a level of ecstasy and connection that is similar to that of psychedelic drug usage. Essentially, your brain on drugs and your brain on prayer produce similar results.

Some scientists explain that when a person is involved in a religious experience such as prayer, it activates the same pleasure circuits that sex and drugs do.

James Giordano from the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. stated in an interview for Medium , “We are able to even understand when a person gets into ‘ecstasy mode,’” he says, and to identify specific brain areas that participate in this process.

“When activity in the networks of the superior parietal cortex or our prefrontal cortex increases or decreases, our bodily boundaries change.

“These parts of the brain control our sense of self in relation to other objects in the world, as well as our bodily integrity; hence the ‘out of body’ and ‘extended self’ sensations and perceptions many people who have had mystical experiences confess to.”

Andrew Newberg, a prominent researcher in the field of neuro-theology, studies brain activity in those who are praying. He found that activity in the parietal lobes decreased similarly during both prayer and drug usage.

Herbert Benson, a Harvard scientist, says, “As an individual goes deeper and deeper into concentration, intense activity begins taking place in the brain’s parietal lobe circuits—those that control a person’s orientation in space and establish distinctions between self and the world.” Benson has documented a “quietude” that then envelops the entire brain.5

Additionally, David Spiegel, Medical Director at the Stanford University School of Medicine, hypotheses that this might be why prayer helps those struggling with addictive substances.6 A recent study at NYU’s Langone Medical Center showed that alcoholics who were experiencing cravings to drink were able to mitigate their desire with prayer.7

  1. Prayer manifests our goals.

Prayer helps us define our goals to determine what we really want in life.

Manifesting can be a form of prayer that leads to greater success and fruition of our goals. When we visualise, the brain creates a synapse or pathway that makes it easier for the body to execute the goal.

When we visualise what we want, we create a pathway embedded into the brain so that when it comes time for the body to execute, it’s simple. We have already “done” it before.

When we visualise while praying, we develop neural pathways so when it comes time for the body to execute, it is an easy process.

  1. Prayer reduces feelings of fear, isolation, and anxiety; it also increases happiness.

Prayer can actually make us happier. The act of prayer increases serotonin, the “happiness” neurotransmitter. Prayer also helps us to let go. Ironically, by “giving up” control to God, it provides us with a feeling of control in our life.8 It also can lower rates of depression and anxiety.

Praying moves us away from flight or fight, and allows us to think rationally. Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, a marriage, family and addictions therapist, explains, “When we sit down and engage in prayer or meditation, we are able to shift away from this frightened and stressed survival mode into an intentional state, and ultimately re-engage our prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that rules our executive functioning and enables us to make intelligent mindful decisions.”

  1. Prayer can reduce anger and aggression.

In a 2011 Ohio State University study, participants were asked to either pray for or think about someone who angered them. Those in the prayer group felt less angry and experienced less aggression after being provoked.

Brad Bushman, co-author of that 2011 study, said that prayer can give the one praying a different perspective. “We found that prayer really can help people cope with their anger, probably by helping them change how they view the events that angered them and helping them take it less personally.”

One study found that when dating and married partners prayed for one another, they tended to be less aggressive toward each other and more inclined to forgive.

  1. Prayer Lowers blood pressure.

Prayer provides us with another specific physical and emotional side effect that is incredibly beneficial to our health and lives- it lowers our blood pressure.

Herbert Benson, a Harvard scientist, states that when we pray, “The limbic system, which is responsible for putting ‘emotional tags’ on that which we consider special, also becomes activated. The limbic system also regulates relaxation, ultimately controlling the autonomic nervous system, heart rate, blood pressure, metabolism, etc.

Prayer has several emotional benefits and health benefits backed by science. Whether you’re looking for a way to focus your goals, achieve elation, or improve your overall health, take prayer for a ride and reap the rewards.

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