How powerful is prayer?

June 10, 2024

credit: Ben White

There’s a fairly visible pastor in my social media feeds. Someone I met almost 20 years ago in the course of my job. I was a bit…judgmental…about him and I might’ve had reason to.

But I kept noticing him on social media, and somehow, over time, his life shifted. Ok, “somehow” probably makes you laugh, right? Because he’s a pastor, after all.

However it happened, he started living a more rational life. Making more sense, at least to me. Not that I am religious in any way. But I noticed.

These days, though, stuff’s going on in his life and he’s asking for prayer. Intercessory prayer.

But is it the right thing to do?

One of my exes didn’t believe in intercessory prayer. He believed may God’s will be done was prayer enough.  Raised Catholic, this was a different way of thinking for me, because in our church, asking God or Mother Mary or Archangel Michael or any number of saints to intervene was pretty routine stuff.

I don’t go to church. I don’t believe in organized religion. But when things turn out really well or not so good, I am looking to talk to God, either to ay thanks or to ask for help.  You can take the girl out of Catholic, but you can’t take the Catholic out of the girl. And I have asked my Mormon friends to put me or loved ones in their powerful prayer chains.

So how powerful is prayer, really?

Researchers say that prayer is a form of meditation and as such can be associated with the same health benefits: lowered blood pressure, more immunity, better cardiopulmonary function, decreased anxiety and more tolerance for pain. These are documentable health benefits.

There have also been clinically significant treatment gains in conditions ranging from OCD to Parksinson’s to cancer or even schizophrenia. There have even been fairly significant benefits from distant intercessory prayer. But so much more research is needed.

So how powerful is prayer? Not sure we can quantify it, but it definitely has power.

How does it work? We don’t know. Does it benefit us to pray? Yes, as prayer is a form of meditation which calms, soothes and can even help heal the body.

The idea that having others pray for us has some impact on actual medical treatment, as well as on self esteem, anxiety and depression is intriguing.

It’s hard to interpret these findings, but we know two things:

It has benefits.

It can’t hurt.

What are your own thoughts on intercessory prayer?

And speaking of impact on health, some studies have shown the benefits of writing about their conditions on cancer patients. That’s the premise of our Guided Journal Through Healing, which you can see HERE.


6 comments on “How powerful is prayer?
  1. I also don’t identify as religious, and my church practices are with a creed-free liberal church. But we make space for prayer. It’s not unlike meditation. And I have journal practices that are types of prayers (my gratitudes, my asks, my reflections). Any practice that can help you center, quiet the noise in your head, and open up for connection is beneficial. For some people, the practice is traditional (sometimes intercessory) prayer.

  2. Laurie Stone says:

    I pray a lot and always feel “heard,” whatever that means. Maybe that’s what matters.

  3. Alana says:

    In my religious tradition, many of our prayers are to express gratitude. That is such a powerful reason, too. I am not a religious person, but call it meditation or call it prayer, I think it can lead to amazing things that may or may not be due to the existence of a deity as we imagine there being one. Alana ramblinwitham

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