When you pray, you open your heart to God, your Higher Power, or to your own belief of spirituality. As a means of stress reduction, in prayer you are letting go. You are turning over to your Higher Power your worry, stress, anxiety, fear, and concern. You are acknowledging that you cannot accomplish anything, and your stress and worry are not effective. You are powerless. You acknowledge a Higher Power than yourself who is powerful. In that letting go process, your physical body, emotions, and mind are relieved. They can be calm again. You are no longer in the fight-or-flight mode with stress hormones coursing through your body and potentially damaging effects if they continue. 

Prayer works. Recent research reported by Davis (2001) shows the healing effects of prayer. More government studies have been initiated since the results of previous studies showed significant correlation between prayer and healing. Mitchell Krucoff,  cardiovascular specialist at Duke University School of Medicine, has reported that patients with cancer, pain syndromes, and heart disease have regained health where no alternate explanation was possible. All reports of various studies show measurable health benefits related to prayer.   

Harvard scientist Herbert Benson, author of The Relaxation Response (1990), has studied the effects of prayer for the past 30 years. His focus has been primarily on meditative prayer, and he has shown brain changes occurring in the parietal, frontal, and temporal lobes. Benson describes the dissolution of the mind-body connection. He also reports the activation of the limbic system, the part of the brain involved in emotions, relaxation, heart rate, blood pressure, and metabolism. The body relaxes and physical processes become more regulated.

People get well. If you are not a church-going person and you get hospitalized, you may stay three times longer than a church-goer. Heart patients are 14 times more likely to die if they do not have a religious preference. Elderly people who do not attend church have a stroke rate that is double that of those who attend regularly. In Israel, religious people have a 40% lower death rate from cancer and heart disease. 

Prayer is effective in lessening your stress, lowering your blood pressure, helping you remain calm, and reorienting your perspective on life. Scientists have discovered that religious faith offers a view of the world that helps people cope more successfully with problems. This faith also maintains optimism, reduces depression, and increases hope and a sense of purpose. 

If you have a belief system that incorporates spiritual values and includes prayer, pray. Prayer will help you deal with stressors, remain calm, more effectively manage your thoughts and emotions, and be more focused in problem solving. Prayer will also maintain the function of your immune system and help you stay well. 
Sites that may be useful:
MedWeb: Can Prayer Heal?


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