Prayer/Meditation

People need to pray, believe, and affirm that they have received what they prayed for. (Fox, Arnold, MD, and Barry Fox, PhD. Wake Up! You’re Alive! p 61-63. FL: Health Communications, 1988.)

Refer to Affirmation and the Brain for additional information.

Altered states of consciousness can be achieved using the Relaxation Response. The RR has four elements (quiet place, passive attitude, comfortable position, thought to ponder). A great many benefits have been discovered related to stress reduction when the RR is initiated consciously. (Benson, Herbert, MD, with Miriam Z. Klipper. The Relaxation Response. p 104-156. NY: Avon Books, 1975.)

The effect of prayer can be strengthened by belief. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer Is Good Medicine. P 129. NY: HarperCollins, 1996.)

Like meditation, prayer lowers heart rate and blood pressure and helps people regulate their emotional responses to stressful situations. (Marchant, Jo. Cure. P222-224. NY: Crown Publishers, 2016.)

Multiple benefits can be derived from prayer/meditation (e.g., enhanced immune system function, lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduction in release of harmful stress hormones). (Newberg, Andrew, MD, et al. Why God Won’t Go Away.p 129-131. NY:Ballantine Books, 2001.)

Studies: Prayer positively affects high blood pressure, heart attacks, wounds, headaches, and anxiety. Nothing seemed capable (e.g., lead-lined room) of blocking prayer. (Dossey, Larry. MD. Healing Words. p xviii-xxiv. NY:Harper Paperbacks, 1993.)

Studies have shown many physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of prayer (e.g., to plants, to the self, to others). (Hafen, Brent Q., et al. Mind/Body Health.p 387-389. MA:Simon & Schuster, 1996.)

Sensations of great bliss can occur during meditation or contemplative prayer. (Newberg, Andrew, MD, et al. Why God Won’t Go Away. p 40-42. NY:Ballantine Books, 2001.)

Prayer can be viewed as one of the ultimate activities of the frontal lobes of the cerebrum. (Nedley, Neil, MD. Proof Positive. p 280. OK:Nedley, 1998, 1999.)

Studies at Emory University in Atlanta Georgia: Zen meditation may involve an ability to switch off the brain’s “default network.” This recently discovered brain system is very active during wakeful rest and appears to switch off in the presence of demanding cognitive tasks. (Pagnoni, Guiseppe, et al. 'Thinking about Not-Thinking: Neuronal Correlates of Conceptual Processing During Zen Meditation.' PLoS ONE, vol 3.)

Meditation and prayer are excellent brain-power boosters as they battle stress (e.g., promote synchronized brain rhythms and reduce stress hormone levels). They give you some control over the way in which your brain ages. (Giuffre, Kenneth, MD., with Teresa Foy DiGeronimo. The Care and Feeding of Your Brain.p 236. NJ:Career Press, 1999.)

Different types of meditation and prayer affect different parts of the brain differently. Each appears to beneficially impact neurological function, physical, and emotional health (e.g., can increase blood flow to frontal, parietal, temporal, and limbic areas; can decrease metabolic activity; may trigger deafferentation). (Newberg, Andrew, MD, and Mark Robert Waldman. How God Changes Your Brain. p 63. NY:Ballantine Books, 2009.)

Providing caring service to others is a form of prayer. (Tomatis, Alfred A, M.D. Editor Timothy M. Gilmore, PhD, et al. About the Tomatis Method. p 206-207. Canada: Listening Centre Press, 1989.)

Distance is not a factor in how well prayer works. It appears to be simultaneous and can be Local (immediate presence) or Nonlocal (at any distance). It is not some sort of energy that is "sent" or "received." It appears to be simultaneous. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer Is Good Medicine. P 29-32. NY: HarperCollins, 1996.)

fMRI studies: In “devout volunteers” parts of the prefrontal cortex (e.g., plays a key role in vigilance and skepticism when judging the truth and importance of what people say) were deactivated when the subjected listened to someone who was supposed to be a healer. This helps to explain the reason some individuals can gain influence over others. Their ability to do so appears to depend on preconceived notions of their authority and trustworthiness. Researchers (University of Denmark) speculated the brain regions may be deactivated in a similar way in response to doctors, parents, and politicians. (Coghlan, Andy. Brain Shuts Off in Response to Healer’s Prayer.)

Studies of Christian participants who received intercessory prayer: Deactivation of the frontal brain network per fMRI predicted the “Christian participants’ subsequent ratings of the speakers’ charisma and the experience of God’s presence during prayer.” An important mechanism of authority may facilitate charismatic influence as well as other interpersonal interactions. (Schjoedt, Uffe, et al. Abstract.)

Meditation can enhance one’s ability to communicate with the self. This can be helpful in working through negative feelings and in healing of illnesses. (Sylvia, Claire, with William Novak. A Change of Heart. p xi-xiii. NY:Little, Brown and Company, 1997.)

Experiments show that rats and mice can be made healthier through prayer. These creatures presumably do not know they are being prayed for, are not religious, and do not "believe" in prayer. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer Is Good Medicine. P 129. NY: HarperCollins, 1996.)

PET scan studies: It appears there is a default network that becomes active whenever the brain is not specifically occupied and breaks off when the brain has other tasks to attend to. The default network utilizes large amounts of glucose, and more oxygen gram for gram that a beating heart. With strong connections to the hippocampus, it appears to be involved in selectively storing and updating memories. Individuals skilled in meditation may be able to control this default network. (Fox, Douglas. The Secret Life of the Brain. New Scientist. 2008.)

The frontal cortex lights up during meditation. Prayer is a form of meditation. (Pert, Candace, PhD Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind. CO: Sounds True, 2000.)

Prayer is a universal being-and-not-doing phenomenon, and an attitude of the heart. A person’s own belief can strengthen the effect of his/her prayers. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer is Good Medicine. p 18-19, 129. NY:HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.

Per Larry Dossey, MD: Prayer is an attitude of the heart, a matter of being and not doing. It is the desire to connect with the Absolute, however it may be conceived. When you experience the need to enact this connect, you are praying. (Pearsall, Paul, PhD. The Heart’s Code. p 159-160. NY: Broadway Books, 1998.)

All prayers do not always work. Statistically speaking, however, studies have shown that prayer can be effective, directed and non-directed. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer is Good Medicine. p 49-59. NY:HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.)

The outcome of a study by researcher Bernard Grad at McGill University in Montreal with plants, suggests that emotions may influence healings, positively as well as negatively. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Be Careful What You Pray For. P 179-180. NY: HarperCollins, 1998.)

Prayer is not some sort of energy that is “sent” or “received.” (Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer Is Good Medicine. P 29-32. NY: HarperCollins, 1996.)

Prayer (and other healing modalities such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage) are based on the belief that energy fields are influential in controlling the physiology of the human body and its health. (Lipton, Bruce, PhD. The Biology of Belief. p 99. CA:Mountain of Love/Elite Books, 2005.)

Modern scientists postulate the existence of form-generating, non-physical fields. This may explain why many methods of alternative medicine, including prayer, can work—although science does not yet have instruments that are sensitive enough to measure them. (Childre, Doc and Howard Martin. The HeartMath Solution.P259-260. CA:Harper SF, 1999.)

Chronic anger and resentment ages a person quickly. Studies: Those who showed the most forgiveness had lower heart rate, lower blood pressure levels, and less reactivity to stress. (O’Brien, Mary, MD. Successful Aging. p 133-135. CA:Biomed General. 2007.)

There are different kinds of prayer. Evidence suggests that prayer, like drugs, can have effects that can be positive, neutral, or negative. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer Is Good Medicine. P 9. NY: HarperCollins, 1996.)

A 1994 Gallup poll found that 5 percent of Americans admitted they have prayed for harm to come to others. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Be Careful What You Pray For. P 1. NY: HarperCollins, 1998.)

There is an important difference in demanding a specific answer and the open-ended prayer for help; a specific demand may or may not be the best answer to the need and it may or may not be granted. Making specific demands can have tragic results. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Be Careful What You Pray For. P33. NY: HarperCollins, 1998.)

Study of specific forms of hands-on healing and prayer: these modalities were effective in speeding recovery rates for surgery patients. (Pert, Candace B., PhD.Molecules of Emotion. p 268. NY: Scribner, 1997.)

Since the heart thinks and feels, it is reasonable to assume it can pray without words. Joining hearts in shared mental stillness may be a very powerful way of “corporate prayer.” (Lipton, Bruce, PhD. The Biology of Belief. p 162. CA:Mountain of Love/Elite Books, 2005.)

Study of 400 patients hospitalized in a San Francisco coronary care unit. As compared to the control group, patients who received intercessory prayer had significantly enhanced outcomes (e.g., fewer complications, cardiac arrests, pneumonia). (Benson, Herbert, MD, with Marg Stark. Timeless Healing. p 182-184. NY:Scribner, 1996.)

Study by Dr. Randolph Byrd in SF: heart-surgery patients who were prayed for by groups around the world did significantly better in their recovery than those who were not prayed for by these groups. Some form of healing info-energy seemed to be involved and it was not impacted by distance or time. (Pearsall, Paul, PhD.The Heart’s Code. P43-46. NY:Broadway Books, 1998.)

Study: Dr. Randolph Byrd’s double-blind study of patients in the CCU of SF General Hospital. Patients who were prayed for specifically had better specific outcomes. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer is Good Medicine. p 29. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.)

Double blind randomized study SF CCU: patients who were prayed for were five times less likely to require antibiotics, three times less likely to develop pulmonary edema, and none required mechanical ventilation (as compared to the control group). (O’Brien, Mary, MD. Successful Aging. p 102. CA:Biomed General. 2007.)

Study: of 393 coronary-care-unit patients performed by Dr. Randolph Byrd in San Francisco. Those patients who were prayed for had better outcomes as compared with the control group. (Sylvia, Claire, with William Novak. A Change of Heart. p xi-xii. NY:Little, Brown and Company, 1997.)

Study by Dr. Randolf Byrd, San Francisco General Hospital: 400 intensive care heart patients were randomly assigned to one of two groups (e.g., not prayed for specifically, specifically prayed for). Prayed-for patients had fewer complications. (Nedley, Neil, MD. Proof Positive. p 280. OK:Nedley, 1998, 1999.)

Meditation can alter the release of hormones such as vasopressin. (Newberg, Andrew, MD, et al. Why God Won’t Go Away. p 43-45. NY:Ballantine Books, 2001.)

Meditation can boost the immune system and serve as a stress reducer. (Bricklin, Mark, et al. Positive Living and Health. p 218. PA:Rodale Press, 1990.)

Refer to Immune System and the Brain for additional information.

A 2010 survey by Baylor Institute and Gallup Organizations showed: 79 percent of Americans have prayed for their own healing, 87 percent have prayed for the healing of others, and 26 percent have participated in “laying on of hands.” (Http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/651815/?sc=rsln  Accessed 4-16)

A 1998 CBS This Morning Poll showed: 67% of Americans pray for their own health; 82% pray for the health of others; and 63% think the doctor should join in praying for healing if the patient requests this; and 75% say personal prayer, or other spiritual and religious practices, can speed or help the medical treatment of people who are ill. (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cbs-poll-prayer-can-heal/  Accessed 4-16.

Researchers found that intercessory prayer was effective even when the recipient did not know he or she was being prayed for. There have been countless instances in which distant or intercessory prayer succeeds without the knowledge of the recipient. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer Is Good Medicine. P 27, 129. NY: HarperCollins, 1996.)

Experiments show that a variety of lower organisms (bacteria, fungi, yeast, seeds, and various types of cells) can be made healthier through prayer. These organisms presumably do not know they are being prayed for, are not religious, and do not “believe” in prayer. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer Is Good Medicine. P 129. NY: HarperCollins, 1996.)

There are different types of meditation, each of which uses a different mental strategy (e.g., concentration, mindfulness, and visualization) and has specific impacts on one's mental state. Visualization activates centers in the spatial visual cortex; concentration involves the attention circuitry in the prefrontal cortex (but not the visual area). A new scientific field, contemplative neuroscience, has begun mapping how different types engage the brain and what benefits are provided. (Goleman, Daniel. The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights. p 37-39. MA:More Than Sound, 2011)

There is a difference between active (focus on some thought) versus passive (clear the mind of thought) meditation. Active (focused contemplation or prayer) triggers a slightly different brain pattern as compared to passive meditation. (Newberg, Andrew, MD, et al. Why God Won’t Go Away. p 117-127. NY:Ballantine Books, 2001.)

Prayer is one of the most powerful methods of mental imagery known to humankind and most people who pray invoke images. Praying against something we fear and hate may involve more powerful imagery than praying for something friendly; images of danger always seem more real than benign ones… Is praying for the defeat of the devil or antichrist part of the problem? (Dossey, Larry, MD. Be Careful What You Pray For. P 97-98. NY: HarperCollins, 1998.)

Prayer can be used for good or harm. Negative prayer is already prevalent in our culture and can cause harm. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Be Careful What You Pray For.p 6-8. CA:HarperSan Francisco, 1998.)

(Newberg, Andrew, MD, and Mark Robert Waldman. How God Changes Your Brain—Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist. p 149-150. NY:Ballantine Books, 2009.)

Intercessory prayers bear a strong resemblance to nonlocal event studies by quantum physicists. Nonlocal events share three common characteristics:

  • Unmediated – distant changes do not depend on the transmission of energy or of an energetic signal
  • Unmitigated – the strength of the changes does not become weaker with increasing distance
  • Immediate – the distant changes take place simultaneously.

(Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer Is Good Medicine. P 29-32. NY: HarperCollins, 1996.)

Intercessory prayer appears not to be limited by distance. It is a nonlocal event using quantum physics. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer is Good Medicine. p 32-33. NY:HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.)

Study by National Institute for Healthcare Research: 43% of American physicians pray for their patients. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer is Good Medicine. p 71. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.)

New studies concluded that distant healing was no more effective than a placebo. However, the placebo effect, which is largely based on a person’s belief system, can profoundly influence the healing process and should not be used as evidence against the power of prayer. Depending on the condition being treated, the effectiveness of placebo treatments can range from 0 percent to 100 percent. In illnesses involving depression and anxiety, the placebo effect may account for a success rate of 25-35 percent. According to drug company statistics, antidepressant drugs have a success rate of 35-45 percent. (Newberg, Andrew, MD, and Mark Robert Waldman. P 253, 269-270. Why We Believe What We Believe. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2006)

As with the placebo effect, religious belief has a dark size (e.g., you are in a church or religious group that espouses hatred and anger toward others). Those typically negative emotions can be detrimental to the person’s brain and body. (Marchant, Jo. Cure. P 223-224. NY: Crown Publishers, 2016.)

Beliefs of the individual play a role (e.g., people expect that the prayer will work). In both petitionary prayer and intercessory prayer, when the recipient of the prayer knows she or he is being prayed for, the very fact that the individual realizes the prayer may work can bring about positive effects. More is going on than a placebo effect, however, because there have been countless instances in which distant or intercessory prayer succeeds without the knowledge of the recipient. When prayer works in these cases, it cannot possibly be due totally to placebo effects. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer Is Good Medicine. P 26-27. NY: HarperCollins, 1996.)

More than 130 controlled laboratory studies have shown that prayer is beneficial to plants, bacteria, and yeast, and not just for humans. (Dossey, Larry, MD.Prayer is Good Medicine. p 103-104, 112-113. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.)

Prayerfulness is an attitude or feeling of unity with another. It differs from prayer, an act that follows instructions laid down by religious traditions. Both directed and non-directed prayer work. (Dossey, Larry. MD. Healing Words. p 31-34, 133. NY:HarperPaperbacks, 1993.)

"When a psychic, faith healer, medium, or charlatan appears to defy the laws of nature, there is always an illusion involved." (Macknik, Stephen L. PhD and Susana Martinez-Conde PhD. Sleights of Mind. p 40-41. NY:Henry Holt and Company, 2010.)

There may be many different purposes for prayer/meditation including: praise, thanksgiving, confession, petition, and intercession. (Matthews, Dale, MD, with Connie Clark. The Faith Factor. p 214-222. NY:Penguin Books, 1998.)

Late in the 20th century, experiments confirmed that we’re bathed in an energy that connects us all with the events of our world. Sometimes called the Quantum Hologram, research has shown that through this energy the beliefs and prayers within us are carried into the world around us. Both science and tradition suggest the same thing. We must embody in our lives the very conditions that we wish to experience in the world. Prayer is the language of God and the angels.  It is a universal language. The secret of the lost mode of prayer is to feel your prayer has already been answered and to feel gratitude and appreciation that this is so. (Baden, Gregg.  Secrets of the lost mode of prayer. p xxi. CA: Hay House, 2006)

The relaxation response is the opposite of fight or flight and is orchestrated by the parasympathetic system that calms one down after an emergency. The main component of the parasympathetic system is the vagus nerve. (Marchant, Jo. Cure. P 203-204. NY: Crown Publishers, 2016.)

Dr. Herbert Benson's "Relaxation Response" can be elicited through prayer. Physiological changes include: metabolism slows, blood pressure lowers, breathing becomes slower,  heart rate lowers, and there is a decrease in brain wave activity). (Hafen, Brent Q., et al. Mind/Body Health. p 387-389. MA:Simon & Schuster, 1996.)

Benefits of the Relaxation Response had been elicited through prayer and meditation long before Dr. Benson identified and labeled it. (Matthews, Dale, MD, with Connie Clark. The Faith Factor. p 40-50. NY:Penguin Books, 1998.)

No specific religion has a monopoly on prayer. People from many religious traditions do equally well on prayer experiments. Dr. Herbert Benson studied how the body responded to certain practices (e.g., Christian Prayer, transcendental meditation or TM, biofeedback, hypnosis, autogenic therapy, and progressive relaxation). The body showed a common response to all of them that he called the Relaxation Response. He found that although the human intellect may differentiate between prayer and meditation, the body does not. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer is Good Medicine. p 91-92. NY:HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.)

Study: 25% of those questioned about using Benson’s Relaxation Response reported that they felt "more spiritual" as a result and experienced the presence of an energy, a force/power beyond themselves. (Childre, Doc and Howard Martin. The HeartMath Solution. p 216-217. CA:Harper SF, 1999.)

Study: Individuals from a variety of religions do equally well on tests related to prayer. A prayer/religion confusion exists (e.g., a person can be religious and not pray, a person can pray and not be religious). (Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer is Good Medicine. p 18, 89. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.)

There is no correlation between a person’s religious beliefs and the effectiveness of his/her prayer in a laboratory setting. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer is Good Medicine. p 90.NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.)

Stress can undermine both cognitive and emotional stability. The longer the brain remains stressed, the more perceptions of reality are altered. (Newberg, Andrew, MD, and Mark Robert Waldman. P 266-267. Why We Believe What We Believe. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2006.)

Studies have shown that resilience, the ability to cope with stressors, reflects how well a person is able to adapt to the psychological and physiological responses involved in the stress response. When under stress, the brain and body respond rapidly, pushing normal metabolic processes into high gear. The hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis or HPA triggers changes in hormonal levels that prepare the body either to fight the stressor or to flee from it (the fight-flight response). During this process the HPA works very hard to maintain an appropriate balance of stress hormones and other brain/chemicals. Studies have shown that when alcohol is added to this mix, the body is put at even greater risk for harm, because alcohol triggers the release of higher amounts of cortisol. In turn, this alters the brain’s chemistry and ‘resets’ what the body considers ‘normal.’ Unfortunately, alcohol also prevents the body from returning to its initial balance point, so it must set a new point of physiological functioning known as allostasis. The setting of a new balance point puts wear and tear on the body and increases the risk of serious disease. (http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AA85/AA85.htm. Accessed 7-16)

Meditation can boost the immune system and serve as a stress reducer. (Bricklin, Mark, et al. Positive Living and Health. p 218. PA: Rodale Press, 1990.)

Refer to Stress and the Brain for additional information.

Author Larry Dossey spent 5 years reviewing more than 130 scientific studies (e.g., reported in his book Healing Words). His conclusion: praying for someone’s health can positively impact that person’s recovery. (Howard, Pierce J., PhD. The Owner’s Manual for the Brain. p 741-742. GA:Bard Press, 1994, 2000.)

Study: even when the recipient didn’t know he/she was being prayed for, intercessory prayer was effective. (Dossey, Larry, MD. Prayer is Good Medicine. p 129. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.)

May I find the serenity of mind to accept the things about myself that can’t be changed, the strength to change the things that can be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference. (Newberg, Andrew, MD, and Mark Robert Waldman. How God Changes Your Brain—Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist. p 147. NY: Ballantine Books, 2009.)

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