Our primary curing mechanism is medicine, while our primary healing mechanism is prayer. We can seek and use both curing and healing with deliberate care, with informed focus, and with considered choice. When we use it liberally and intelligently, medicine, in all its forms, serves us well. Likewise, we are called to prayer; we’re especially called in times of trial when we need to be as open as possible to the healing power of God's grace. Although not its primary purpose, prayer may add to the efficacy of medical treatment in many ways.
- Prayer has the power to transform us – making us more resilient to the barrage of discomfort that sickness brings.
- Prayer is a mighty force for promoting our own health and well-being.
- Prayer, due to its introspective nature, is a sound psychological process as well as a spiritually uplifting one.
- Prayer allows us to come to a fuller realization of our own God-given powers and to focus them more clearly on our current situation.
We see a different view of the power of prayer through the eyes of Dr. Harold G. Koenig, M.D. in his book The Healing Power of Faith. (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1999). Dr. Koenig approaches prayer from a decidedly more scientific perspective. As the Director of the Duke University Center for the Study of Religion/Spirituality and Health, Dr. Koenig uses scientific research methods demanding highly rigorous investigative methods. Dr. Koenig is particularly interested in the role of prayer, church attendance, and other faith practices in bolstering our physical health and well-being.
Dr. Koenig set out to investigate what other value prayer might offer for the health and well-being of maturing adults. He found plenty! Dr. Koenig found that religious activity and prayer contributed mightily to overall happiness (what we call life satisfaction) and good morale. These two factors do much more than simply provide emotional comfort; they are positively correlated to our physical health in general, and contribute to "an optimistic sense of purpose within God's plan." (p. 41). This finding has far reaching implications for health. His research findings indicate that "...a strong personal faith directly shields people from life’s inevitable problems, which in turn increase a sense of well-being." (p. 42).
Dr. Koenig continues in his book citing numerous correlations between religious attendance, prayer and various facets of health that hard-data scientific research has high-lighted the following surprising findings:
- Religiously active people live longer and healthier lives.
- People who regularly pray are 40% less likely to have high blood pressure than those who don’t.
- Adults who are both socially active and who find strength and comfort in their faith are 14 times less likely to die up to six months after major surgery.
- Adults who attend religious services have stronger immune systems that those who do not.
- People who attend church at least once per week are 43% less likely to have been admitted to the hospital in the prior year than the less religious participants.
- Frequent religious service attenders spend fewer days in the hospital; those with no religious affiliation spent an average of 14 more days in the hospital.
His compilation of hard-data research presents persuasive evidence that practicing our faith, through church attendance and prayer has bonefide positive effects on our health and well-being in many facets of life.
Research like Dr. Koenig’s gives our modern intellectually-critical mindset dramatic proof of what we only could intuitively infer previously − that we can indeed influence our overall well-being through prayer.
Book: Prayers for Spiritual Strength
The above comes from the introduction of my book Prayers for Spiritual Strength. There are 90 prayers in this book, all healing prayers. There is one prayer for each of the 30 spiritual strengths, another 30 for each of the shadows of the strength, and 30 for each of the compulsions of the strength. Here’s an example:
The book is really a 30 day self retreat of healing. There is a morning prayer for each of the spiritual strengths, an afternoon prayer for each of the shadows, and an evening prayer for each of the compulsions. Giving yourself this 30 day retreat will change your inner life. The book is only $9.99. Find it here.
Stay light and be bright in Christ,
Richard P. Johnson, PhD