One of the most important, and meaningful aspects of our online winter retreat is our Prayer Requests page, which will remain pinned to the homepage for the duration of our nine day retreat (beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, February 10th and running through Friday, February 19th).
This is a place for everyone to send in photos, names and specific intentions of those for whom special positive, loving and healing intentions are requested. Even if you do not have a specific ritual around praying for others, consider taking just a few moments every day to check the Prayer Requests page, breathe into your heart-space, and read each request slowly, imagining a warm, bright light radiating toward that individual, or group of individuals, healing them, bringing them joy and peace. Offer the energy of your spiritual practice toward the benefit of others and notice whether you find yourself becoming more patient, more compassionate, more aware in your daily life.
Perhaps you are already well acquainted with the power of sending positive intention to others, but it may bolster your inspiration to read what modern, rigorous, scientific research has discovered.
Dr. Harold G. Koenig of Duke University has found “Studies have shown prayer can prevent people from getting sick — and when they do get sick, prayer can help them get better faster.” (as quoted from Newsmax Health, Studies Prove the Healing Power of Prayer) Other noted benefits include increased coping ability, and longer life-spans.
“The benefits of devout religious practice, particularly involvement in a faith community and religious commitment, are that people cope better. In general, they cope with stress better, they experience greater well-being because they have more hope, they’re more optimistic, they experience less depression, less anxiety, and they commit suicide less often. They have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and probably better cardiovascular functioning.” – Dr. Koenig, Duke University as quoted on Studies Prove the Healing Power of Prayer
These benefits go both ways: for the practitioner, we are motivated by a higher purpose, the ability to help others simply by the strength and sincerity of our heart-felt intention; for those who request prayers, the request is an act of faith in and of itself, and opens that individual to the possibility of greater health and wellbeing.
The Devil’s Advocate
Of course, there is plenty of research that concludes the very opposite – that long-distance prayers, especially for those who are unaware of the fact that they are being prayed for, seems to have little or no effect on the ultimate outcome of a severe illness or complicated surgery.
Dr. Richard Sloan, professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia, told the New York Times, “The problem with studying religion scientifically is that you do violence to the phenomenon by reducing it to basic elements that can be quantified, and that makes for bad science and bad religion.”
This is an interesting perspective – how do we measure something that is ultimately immeasurable? is studying the phenomena of religion merely satisfying an egoistic impulse to control, manipulate, and prove? Tough questions, yes. And, I would ask my readers to continue to keep open minds and hearts around this topic.
Ultimately, neither faith nor medicine can save us from the inevitable – death. For the living, in the meantime, as we coexist in this world, and search for meaning, and strive for purpose together, may we meet each other in a spirit of LOVE, may our hearts be open to the needs of others, may we bear hardship with LOVE, and may all creatures, beings, conscious entities know a deeper peace, and joy, from the great, infinite LOVE that keeps the universe in motion, that inspires every breath, that brings everything into being, and cycles back again.