Of course, our health and that of our family members’ is deep on the minds of all of us in the Age of COVID. Research has shown time and again that more people are praying and showing greater interest in asking for God’s comfort, guidance, and reassurance over the last few months due to the virus’ impact on our physical, domestic and economic lives. Beyond the research data, this has been evidenced by the experiences of the licensed counselors at Focus on the Family. Geremy Keeton, a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Director of the Counseling Department at Focus on the Family, observes,
“Our front-line ministry phone staff, answering nearly 1000 calls per day from around our nation, are finding a marked increase during the pandemic for the sole and specific desire to pray with someone.
Keeton says his team has been finding something that is new and encouraging in their experience,
“What’s even more interesting, and a blessing – people are not just wanting prayer, but also sharing prayer with our staff. Our counselors who offer free phone consultations report that more individuals are ending their consultations by are asking if they can pray for us as counselors.”
But there is another encouraging angle regarding interest in the importance of prayer. The Wall Street Journal published a major article this past Sunday explaining how prayer has a noted positive impact on both psychological and physical health. They interviewed Dr. David H. Rosmarin, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. He explained the research on prayer shows it may have benefits for patients right alongside of meditation itself.
Amy Wachholtz, associate professor for psychology and health at University of Colorado Denver, explains from her research and the larger, comprehensive body, “This is what prayer can do, it lets you put down your burden mentally for a bit and rest.”
David Davis, the Medical Research Analyst at Focus on the Family, reports that,
“Compared to people who don’t pray, research indicates that, on average, people who pray regularly enjoy many health benefits – from lower blood pressure to stronger immune systems to greater longevity.”
Apart from God’s healing intervention, he adds,
”Some of these benefits come from the fact that prayer shifts our focus away our problems and onto God, reducing stress and lowering many of its associated health risks.”
Keeton finds the same thing regarding the research,
“Something indicated by studies and widely understood in the mental health field – even among non-evangelical or secular professionals – is that prayer, meditation and practices which ground the whole person in a sense of calm, comfort and hope – these are amazingly helpful to the neurochemistry of the brain.”
What is more,
“This is no surprise to those of us who know the Creator and Savior in a personal way – by praying, not only are we enacting what is good for the body and brain, we are interacting with the very powerful persons of the Trinity who give truth, wisdom, perspective and love.”
These findings are not new news. Scholars have been studying the relationship between prayer and physical and psychological well-being for decades. Their findings are strong and consistent. A systematic review of 12 published studies on the topic appeared in the journal Religions in 2016. These scholars concluded that “Prayer is a non-pharmacological intervention and resource,” so effective, it “should be included in the nursing holistic care aimed at patients’ well-being.” These authors explain that both intercessory and petitioning prayer have significant health benefits, resulting in shorter hospital stays, even for coronary episodes, more frequent and successful pregnancies as well as protection from severe depression and anxiety just to name a few.
Prayer is also found to be a significant benefit to your marriage. Research conducted at Florida State University found that couples who pray for each other regularly report greater relationship satisfaction compared with those who do not. “Prayer gives couples a chance to calm down,” says Frank Fincham, an FSU professor and leading scholar on the subject. He adds, “And it reinforces the idea that you are on the same team.”
So, research tells us that prayer not only makes a spiritual difference but a physical one as well. It is not only spiritually, but scientifically, wise that people are turning to prayer more and more in these trying times. That is good news.
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