Dan Brown bowled us all over with his detailed fictional representation of “noetic science” in his novels- the science behind spirituality. Not only did he give detailed explanations through his female protagonist as to how prayers and the mind and its wishes can exert an actual force on the universe, he also went on to describe an experiment that could calculate the weight of the human soul.

However, do prayers really work?

In a world where questions on religion and spirituality are highly dicey, with full-scale wars being fought due to the same, it’s never possible to draw a definite conclusion. However, while people are busy fighting over which god is the “true” god, it must be asked if so much faith has ever come to fruition.

In my personal experience, it has. I obviously haven’t got EVERYTHING I prayed for in life, but to misquote Anuja Chauhan (author of The Zoya Factor), the “Great Batsman in the Sky” (note the absolute religious neutrality) has answered quite a substantial number of my prayers, and given me what has been, in retrospect, good for me.

Atheists will shun this as mere coincidence, and I’m fine with that- each to their own opinion. However, as I would like to call myself, a “rational” believer, I wanted to know if there was any scientific backing as to whether prayers worked or not.

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Here’s What I found:

According to the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, most people tend to view prayer as a social interaction with God. It was found that the positivity created in a social interaction, even an interaction in one’s mind with God, buoyed the spirits, and acted as a guard against failure.

This theory was tested on a group of runners- those who prayed as they ran lasted longer under the same running conditions as those who didn’t- their prayers provided them with some sort of inner resolve and made them feel like they could keep going.

According to a 2002 study reported by the BBC, patients who are prayed for- even if they don’t KNOW they are being prayed for- have a higher chance of recovery than those who aren’t.

A cancer patient named Mary Ligertwood had cancer in her breast, kidney and lymph gland, and was given a year to live. However, she six months later, she recovered completely- she credits her recovery to the joint impact of medical care and her loved ones’ prayers.

The Science Behind Prayers:

According to Psychology Today,

“Prayer, like meditation, influences our state of mind, which, in turn, influences our “state of body.” It reduces the experience of anxiety, elevates a depressed mood, lowers blood pressure, stabilizes sleep patterns and impacts autonomic functions like digestion and breathing. Further, in influencing our state of body-mind, prayer and meditation also influence our thinking. This prompts a shift in the habits of the mind, and subsequently, patterns of behaviour. These changes, in turn and over time, induce changes in the brain, further influencing our subjective and objective experience of the world and how we participate in it.”

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to keep changing over one’s lifetime. According to neuroscientist Richard Davidson, it is possible to “sculpt the brain” as one would sculpt muscles, and a series of experiments have proved that intense prayer can play a big role in this process.

Basically, while these studies do not touch on whether God exists or not, they show that the ACT of praying has several benefits that have positive effects on both the person who is praying and the recipient of the prayers.

Image Credits: Google Images

Sources: BBC News, Scientific American, Psychology Today

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