The experience of cancer can have a transformational impact-causing us to become more truly ourselves, more connected to our own values and life purpose and more in touch with a sense of the spiritual. A diagnosis of cancer, however skeptical or disinclined we may have been in the past, can spur us on to investigating or re-engaging with the spiritual aspect of our nature.
Are we aware of what prayer is and how it works?
What is prayer? There are two types of prayer-personal prayer and prayer that another does on our behalf. Science shows there are significant benefits to both. Numerous studies show that those who pray contemplatively or meditate can positively influence their health.
Praying for ourselves
According to research conducted by Professor Luciano Bernardi of the University of Padua, the act of prayer (from reciting the Rosary to chanting yoga mantras) requires an individual to become quiet, release tension and let go of stress. This process automatically stimulates the relaxation response, slows the heart rate, boosts oxygen in the blood and improves circulation to the brain. These are positive physiological effects.
Scientists have demonstrated that when we have a thought or feeling our brain produces neuropeptides, substances that allow our brain cells to communicate with each other. For example, tranquillity produces the natural equivalent of valium in our systems, calming our body, mind and emotions. Nervousness produces adrenalin which causes us to experience stress. Deepak Chopra, a medical doctor and international speaker on the mind/body connection, says, “Your immune system is continually eavesdropping on your internal dialogue.” We can learn to support our immune system – and all systems of the body – to have healthy dialogues.
This understanding of how prayer affects us positively brings together the findings of science with what the mystical traditions have been teaching for centuries, all based on sound physiological principles. And yet there is still the ineffable, the mystery surrounding how prayer works between people, sometimes over great distances.
Being Prayed For
There have now been numerous studies on the affects of being prayed for, including a 1998 study by Dr. Elisabeth Targ. This double-blind experiment was conducted with patients with advanced AIDS. Those patients receiving prayer had six times fewer hospitalisations, which were also of a shorter duration than those people who received no prayer.
A study by Dr. Mitchell Krucoff at Duke University Medical Centre in North Carolina showed that cardiac patients receiving prayer had up to 100% fewer side effects from procedures such as catheterisation and angioplasty than people not prayed for.
Dr. Larry Dossey, who has researched and written extensively about the power of prayer, cites examples from the plant and animal world: when bacteria are prayed for they grow faster; when seeds are prayed for, they germinate quicker; when wounded mice are prayed for they heal faster. He says: I like these studies because they eliminate all effects of suggestion and positive thinking, since we can be sure that the effects are not due to the placebo effect.
What about long distance prayer – how does it work?
An explanation gaining more scientific veracity is the idea that rather than being separate individuals, each one of us is connected energetically-as suggested throughout the ages by mystics of many traditions. According to Dr. Larry Dossey, prayer works because ‘Consciousness is everywhere; it’s omnipresent.” “Consciousness is not confined to one’s individual body. An individual’s mind may affect not just his or her body, but that of another person at a distance, even when that distant individual is unaware of the effort.”
Deepak Chopra describes us individually as waves that are part of an ocean of consciousness. Chopra says “What physicists are saying to us right now is that there is a realm of reality which goes beyond the physical….when in fact we can influence each other from a distance.”
Prayer also activates hope. Research by Greer on coping styles shows that those who react to a cancer diagnosis with hopelessness and helplessness have a much lower chance of survival than similar patients with a fighting spirit.
How do we pray?
Anyone can pray. Praying or being prayed for does not require a belief in a particular religion. Nor does it require special language or knowledge. We don’t have to talk to someone or something outside of ourselves. We can simply put our awareness on what is in our heart-of-hearts and fully feel and/or express what’s there, whether we are praying to God, a Higher Power, the Universe or our own Inner Wisdom. Prayer can be as structured as a well-reasoned argument or be as spontaneous as an infant’s instinctive cry. And although it can change things, it doesn’t have to be about change. Where gratitude springs from the heart, a simple prayer of thanksgiving can be the most meaningful and rewarding.
Bill Horie, InspireHealth friend and supporter Carol Thatcher, Director of Healing Environment Janice Wright, MD, Director of Clinical Services
Prayer Sessions at InspireHealth InspireHealth friends and supporters, Bill and Gayle Horie, have offered non-denominational prayer sessions to the public for manyyears. They’ve witnessed the power of prayer and want to share its benefits with InspireHealth members. If you would like to participate in a free half hour non-denominational prayer session for you and/or your loved ones at InspireHealth, call us to register at 604-734-7125 ext221.