Many folks feel uncomfortable with the idea of prayer.
But it makes no difference if you pray to God or Buddha or Jesus or Vishnu or Shiva or the mountains or the sea.
We can pray without dogma.
We can still be spiritual in the absence of religion.
It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are—Prayer is like a weighted wish.
So what is the difference between wishing and praying? Prayer is a special kind of hope. Prayer brings solace to the soul. Prayer is setting intentions out in to the universe. Praying keeps us knowing that we can do better, be bigger, heal and come out stronger.
Wishing can be fluffy. As children we are taught to “wish upon a shooting star” or to make a wish on a dandelion and blow all the pollen away.
But prayer is usually taken more seriously. It is a yearning that doesn’t just float off to the cosmos. We are brought up to believe that wishes are fleeting and come true when miracles occur. We get our wish when planets align and there’s an element of magic involved.
Prayer is fundamentally different.
We put more power in prayer than we do in wishing. When we pray we whole-heartedly believe that the outcome we desire is possible. And guess what? That ignites a spark to make it so. Yogis might call it manifestation. Romantics might liken it to serendipity. Physicists refer to laws of attraction.
The semantics don’t matter—when we truly believe something could happen, we’ve already set in motion series of connections that might make it so.
How can this be?
Think about prayer like a pre-curser to the placebo effect. In recent studies, Harvard researcher Dr. Ted Kaptchuk proved that the placebo effect can actually be stronger than allopathic remedies in some cases.
In his study published in Science Translational Medicine, Kaptchuk and colleagues found that the placebo effect greatly enhanced pain relief in migraine sufferers who had the expectation they were getting an effective drug. In fact, when they took the active drug falsely labeled “placebo” they didn’t report as much respite.
In another incredible study done by the Baylor College of Medicine, it was found that pretending to give someone knee surgery produced the same results as actually doing a meniscus repair!
When they ran a similar trial to test a procedure for treating chest pain associated with angina, fictitiously treated patients showed an 80% improvement. Those whom were actually operated upon only showed 40% improvement.
In other words, placebo acted better than surgery!
What does this have to do with prayer? The element of faith.
Prayer indicates a belief that the outcome we seek really could happen. Wishing has a much stronger incidence of maybe associated with it. When we invoke a sense of spirituality and feel assured that we can work together with something greater than ourselves to make something big happen, it is far more likely to than if we just leave it up to chance or fate, once we believe in the possibility of a result.
So even if it is unconscious, we start working toward that result, increasing its chance of happening.
Another example comes from a friend of mine whose mother was delivered a very short and serious cancer prognosis. The doctors were sure that she would not pull through.
As a religious woman, she spent much of her off-treatment time praying. On weekends she would make a pilgrimage hundreds of kilometers away to a church where she could pray to the patron saint of healing. Guess what? In time, she made a full recovery!
Was she blessed? Was it God that saved her life? Maybe. But more likely, in praying and being whole-heartedly convinced that she could be cured, she fought harder. Her prayers kept her spirits high and her body more resilient to her treatments.
So maybe, it isn’t faith that causes miracles. It is the person behind the faith that does.
Prayer can change our lives. It doesn’t matter how or to whom we pray. Connect with something bigger than yourself. Believe that your desired ending can come true, and it just might.
“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard
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Apprentice Editor: Emily Bartran / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s Own
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