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Prayer Strengthens Your Brain

Jul 1, 2014

Is there a way to strengthen your brain, to keep it healthy and sharp as you age? The ‘simple’ answer would be to keep your brain active by doing word puzzles/games, reading, engaging in conversation, and taking a walk. (And, of course, eat healthy foods and get your rest!)

Have you ever considered, however, that prayer could actually increase your brain health?

3 out of 4 Americans value prayer as a religious activity that provides emotional support. Now Andrew Newberg, M.D. shows how prayer provides actual health benefits to the brain. (Dr. Newberg is director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania.)

Dr. Newberg has studied brain scans as people engage in religious activities in order to observe any changes in the brain. He notes:

  • The frontal part of the brain is activated by prayer and focused activities, which helps protect the brain against deterioration
  • When we pray, we often pray for other people. Prayer increases activity in the ‘compassion’ part of the brain.
  • Religious experiences, such as group praying, increase our sense of connectedness to others and to God, as seen by lessening of brain activity in the ‘self’ center of the brain.
  • The ‘primitive’ area of the brain is de-activated by prayer. This means anger and stress are lessened through prayer and thus comfort increases. (“Strengthen Your Brain Through the Power of Prayer.” The Mind Health Report., 1-10-11, accessed 6-16-14.)

In other scientific studies, prayer has shown to have other health benefits to the individual. Research at Dartmouth Medical School found that patients with strong religious beliefs who underwent elective heart surgery were three times more likely to recover than those who were less religious. Other studies show that prayer boosts the immune system and helps to lessen the severity and frequency of a wide range of illnesses.

A recent study reported in the Journal of Gerontology of 4,000 senior citizens in Durham, NC, found that people who prayed or meditated coped better with illness and lived longer than those who did not. (Schiffman, Richard. “Why People Who Pray are Healthier Than Those who Don’t.” Huff Post Religion., 1-18-12, accessed 6-16-14.)

Once again the Bible holds up to human scrutiny. Nearly 2,000 years ago Holy Writ recorded: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

Prayer is not just a good habit, nor just words you must repeat; prayer is the powerful way of communicating with your Maker; a spiritual connection with God occurs when you pray. AND, as studies seem to indicate, prayer provides health benefits to the body and brain!

Written by Sherree Lane, Avinity Chaplain