Prayer and meditation are two completely different behavior patterns but they are conceptually very similar.
They are usually performed in a quiet and peaceful setting and done with a very positive attitude. The difference between the two becomes apparent when we examine the reason for prayer.
Prayer is typically associated with asking for help from a higher being, while meditation is going within for help. However, even if we look inside ourselves for aid, we are in reality facing our spiritual nature and this aspect of our being is associated with a more direct link to our creator.
So the two have as their ultimate goal truth from a higher source, the divine force, as in prayer, and our own souls, as in meditation.
Let’s speak about prayer because it is typically not part of our modern day approach to life and our knowledge of it is not as complete as it should be.
I want to address issues regarding prayer that may be unfamiliar to you and talk about what happens when we pray and how the result can impact our health and even how we look and how others interact with us. It does not matter to me whether you believe in God or what you call your belief.
What matters is how I can help you become a happier and more joyful person and reach your true potential. Our outward form is a reflection of our inner spirit. If the spirit does better our physical body reacts favorably and it shows on our face and on our body.
I had the great blessing of traveling to the Holy Land some years ago and visiting the many sacred places that Christians and Jews and Muslims and people of other faiths recognize as holy.
It is worth going back in my mind and letting you experience what happened to me even though the words on these pages will not do it justice. How can you describe intense personal feelings? But I will try.
While there were many instances worthy of mention, one in particular stands out. It was the moment the plane touched down in Israel. Judging from their garb, dozens of Christians and Jews and Muslims were on board with me. The split second the plane’s
wheels hit the runway almost everyone starting singing. I wasn’t sure what they were saying but it was as if the pent up spiritual energy they had stored over those 10 plus hours and perhaps many years, were let loose.
When I came down the ramp to the ground and my feet touched the runway I knew what the joyous song was for. They had come home! I too experienced it.
The only way to describe it is to say it felt like my soul had returned to its center, its place of origin, its home. I am not trying to make you believe something you are uncomfortable with, but the feelings were so real and so strong I have to write about them.
Why I use the word “home” I don’t know? It is the only way to describe it. No one else put that word into my head. It was an immediate feeling of being home, not back in the U.S., but in my real home. The home my soul yearned for and I didn’t know it, until that moment of contact. It was as if the thirsty desert wayfarer came to the oasis after years of searching for water.
This feeling and many others that I experienced while traveling helped reinforce my already strong belief system and this includes the power of prayer. Why pray? We know that God or whoever you pray to does not answer all prayers.
If everyone in the world prayed for wealth and it was granted, the entire civilized world would cease to exist. No one would work. The crops would not get planted. If we prayed to live forever the world would become overpopulated.
So what does prayer really do, why use it, and what happens when and after we pray? An easy way to view this topic is to think in terms of a parent and child relationship.
When the child asks for cake and the parent says one piece, is the parent being mean or is the parent helping the child? It is the same with the world that we live in. The answer and what we receive is in our best interest, even though it may only be one piece of cake, not two and certainly not a thousand.
A question that often comes up with respect to prayer concerns the suffering in the world. If there is a higher source to pray to and that source is good, how could that great being let so many people suffer? How can there be a God that lets a child die from illness and starvation and slaughter?
I cannot answer this, but I can say that prayer works, and that the answer or lack of an answer, is for the ultimate good of the world that we live in. How could the light shine if first there was no darkness? And when we suffer and perhaps die prematurely the false assumption that I believe is made, suggests that death is a bad result, and is the final statement for us.
What if death were so joyous that if its truth were revealed to mankind the people of the world would end their life instantly to obtain that glorious station that death bestows upon them?
My trip to the holy land assured me that all would be right with the world but it would take some time. As Dr. King stated, the “ark of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”.
So why should a busy mother of three or a high powered executive take some time each day and excuse themselves from the world and face their creator in the utmost humility and ask for help?
Because everything they do and the very life force that runs through their veins bears witness to its creative source at every instant and second of the day, and because of this gift of life, we must thank the Creator for what we have.
Prayer then taps into that ultimate force that binds the molecules together and it is what I call Love. If we are loved we must acknowledge it and love back. Prayer then is that expression of love and the power it creates renders every cell in our body helpless and at the same time rejuvenated. It is the tuneup we need to keep the engine running smoothly.
How then do we pray? Do we read the words holy to us? Do we speak from our soul and heart and ask that way? Do we pray as a group and in so doing derive more benefit? Do we pray out loud or in silence? How long should we pray? I cannot answer these questions.
For me I like to pray as a way to slow down and re center myself. I like to give thanks and ask help for those in need. It could be for a friend or even a group of people facing challenges. There are many great prayers in many holy books. Sometimes it is best to pray from the heart and use your own words. I take comfort in the hold words of my religion.
Modern day science has studied prayer in great detail and the results are irrefutable. Prayer works and has both a measurable positive affect on our mental, spiritual and physical well being. Here are some studies to confirm this: (This information was collected and reported on by Danica Collins – her words)
At Wayne State University in Michigan the research team found that traumatic brain injury victims who feel closer to a higher power actually rehabilitate faster.
“Feeling connected to a higher power positively impacted not only their feelings, but their functional outcomes, what they were able to do,” said head researcher Brigid Waldron-Perrine. “So they didn’t just feel better, there was evidence they functioned better in their ability to do daily tasks.”
Waldron-Perrine’s findings confirm decades of existing proof of prayer’s healing benefits. One of the most frequently cited studies on the subject comes from San Francisco General Hospital’s Coronary Care Unit.
Between August of 1982 and May of 1983, 393 patients in the Coronary Care Unit participated in a double-blind trial assessing the effects of prayer. Through random selection by computer, half the patients were designated to receive prayer and half were not. None of the patients had any way of knowing which group they’d been assigned to, or whether they would receive prayer or not.
At the conclusion of the study, patients who had received prayer were healthier than those who had not. Compared to the control group, the prayed-for patients had less need for…
- CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) • Mechanical ventilators
Most importantly, the patients who were prayed for had fewer occurrences of a serious condition called pulmonary edema (which often leads to heart failure) and fewer deaths. According to the doctors at San Francisco General, the positive outcomes for those patients could only be attributed to the power effects of prayer.
Not only can effects of prayer be an important curative tool in times of crisis, but it can also promote a sustained state of well-being. A fascinating study conducted by researchers from the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond analyzed the lives of 1,902 sets of twins.
It turned out that twins committed to spiritual lives tended to have lower rates of:
The Richmond study indicated that active involvement in a spiritual community is strongly linked to overall stability and health.
Most extraordinary of all is the way prayer has been shown to produce physical changes in the brain.
Barbara Bradley Hagerty put together a 5-part NPR series called, “Is This Your Brain on God?” In the series, Hagerty explores a possible reason that prayer has such restorative and preventative potential.
That is, scientists can see noticeable differences between the brains of those who pray or meditate often and those who don’t.
One scientist in particular had published astonishing findings. His name is Andrew Newberg, and he’s a practicing neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania and author of How God Changes Your Brain.
Newberg has been scanning the brains of people with religious convictions for more than 10 years. He says meditation in particular has a very visible effect on the brain’s frontal lobe. He believes that the neurological effects of prayer and meditation can be long-lasting.
Prayer allows us to attach our ego to a higher force, call it God or nature, it does not matter. When we pray we are letting go of our ego and this act of letting go makes us more aware of the needs of others, makes us more empathetic, more understanding, more humble and more willing to be of assistance to others.
Prayer allows every cell in our body to vibrate at a higher frequency. It makes them healthier and more alive.
Did you ever notice how many of today’s youth seem to lack empathy. You can blame it on the modern age of technology, but it really has to do with where we focus our energy.
If we desire personal gain and self satisfaction and nothing else, then our ability to provide comfort to those in need, even to our relatives and friends, becomes a concept that is alien in nature. Yet when we give aid and time and comfort to others, we are actually helping ourselves to the ultimate degree. Prayer helps us become aware of this blessing. In a later chapter I will show you how to demonstrate this concept to yourself. The results will amaze you.
Remember the Eastern Divine I mentioned in the last chapter, when he spoke about meditation. His father, an even greater spiritual leader, said this: (Please reflect on these words carefully)
“One righteous act is endowed with a potency that can so elevate the dust as to cause it to pass beyond the heaven of heavens. It can tear every bond asunder, and hath the power to restore the force that hath spent itself and vanished.”