Many people believe in the power of prayer and believe prayer can make a difference in our lives. But how does prayer work? You might wonder why some prayers go unanswered. Prayer does work, but faith and the manner in which you pray makes all the difference.
People have been praying in one form or another since the dawn of recorded history. Written documents reference the act of prayer going back thousands of years. The study of ancient civilizations has shown that religious ritual played an important part of most cultures in one form or another. One of the earliest forms of prayer was worship. In the Bible, Adam prayed to God not only in worship but also in petition.
Prayer takes many forms. The most common types of prayer are petition, worship, intercessory and thanksgiving. In a petition prayer, the person prays for needs to be provided. Intercessory prayer involves praying on another's behalf, while worship and thanksgiving communicate the praying person's worship of and thanksgiving to God. Prayers can be sung, chanted or spoken aloud or silently. Prayers can be said alone, in private or with others in a place of worship. Common positions during prayer include standing, kneeling, folding of the hands and bowing the head or lifting the head toward heaven. Some may close the eyes while others pray with them open. Standardized prayers may be read from a prayer book or the person praying may speak in her own words while earnestly expressing her petition, intercession, worship or thanksgiving. One common element of prayer in most religions is that prayer is conducted both in private and in public worship. The most common form of prayer used across religions is the use of petition or intercession as a large portion of people around the world pray for their health and the health of others.
Studies have shown that prayer can have a profound effect. A study done on coronary care patients in San Francisco's General Hospital using prayer between August of 1982 to May of 1983 showed surprisingly positive results. The group of patients that had been prayed for had better health results than those who had not been prayed for. They also required less medication during their recovery. A study conducted by Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC involving 4,000 people over age 65 found that people who pray on a regular basis and attend religious services have lower blood pressure than those who do not. In an extensive study by Dr. Dale Matthews it was shown that prayer had a profound effect on people suffering from arthritis. Those prayed for had less pain, swelling and greater mobility. A study conducted by cardiologist Dr. Randolph Byrd in 1988 showed a marked result in patients that were prayed for in that many of them were released from the hospital sooner, required less medication and and suffered less cardiac complications. Studies have also shown that prayers can effect water, mold, bacteria and other substances. It should be mentioned though that several studies have had mixed results leaving the consensus to wonder why prayer has worked in some instances but did not seem to have the same level of effect in others.
When praying it is important to have faith in the ability of prayer to affect your life and the lives of others. Don't let the words just fall routinely from your lips but feel them in your heart. In other words, pray with emotion. Keep your prayers short and simple. Be direct and concise in your prayers. Ask God for what you need with faith and thanksgiving. Pray not only for yourself but for others. Keep in mind that Jesus taught that we should pray for those who hate us and spitefully use us, so remember to pray for those you may not get along with as well as your friends and family members.
What does the Bible say about prayer? Jesus said to ask. Praying is asking. Listed here are a few Bible passages that instruct us in the proper manner of prayer. Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. Matthew 7: 7-8 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. Matthew 21:22 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Matthew 6:6 Jesus said to ask and you will receive. Prayer means to ask. Ask God to heal you or forgive you or give you guidance to make the right decision. Ask God for whatever you need. Jesus said that whatever you ask for in prayer believe that you have it and you will receive it. To believe is to have faith. If you pray yet have doubt in your heart that your prayers will be answered then you are defeating the whole purpose of praying. Jesus said not to use vain repetitions when you pray. If you continue to repeat your request over and over it is like saying that you don't have faith that God will hear you or answer you. Once you have finished praying you should let go and trust God.
The power of prayer extends much further than the petition you have made at the moment. Prayer can have long lasting results and ongoing benefits. The more you pray for yourself and others the stronger your faith becomes. When you pray for the good health and well being of others those blessings are bestowed upon you as well. You become a better person on all levels, physically, emotionally and spiritually, and so do the recipients of your prayers. You may not see immediate miraculous results (then again, you may) but in time you will see positive changes. If you don't believe in the power of prayer try it for yourself. You have nothing to lose but everything to gain.
Why does prayer work? What is the force behind prayer healings? Is it simply a miracle or are there other factors that can be explained by science? For quite some time it was believed that the power of prayer was a psychosomatic effect in the individual's mind, but this cannot explain the effect of prayer on substances such as mold and bacteria. An alternative theory is that the substance is in some way affected by the belief in the mind of the person praying. This theory may not be as far-fetched as it sounds since research in the field of quantum physics has indicated that the electromagnetic energy field that surrounds the body may affect the genetic structure of substances and even people themselves. As the realm of science progresses perhaps someday we will discover the definitive workings behind the power of prayer but as a matter of faith those who believe in God and miracles may not require any further explanation.