We have already talked a little about the associations between active, healthy spirituality and psychological and physical well-being.
Yet another study has highlighted the connection, showing that breast cancer patients who pray in online support groups can obtain mental health benefits.
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center of Excellence in Cancer Communications Research did the study that was that was funded by the National Cancer Institute.
The research looked at message transcripts from 97 breast cancer patients participating in an online support group that was integrated with the Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (CHESS) "Living with Breast Cancer" program, a computer-based health education and support system. The patients were recruited from Wisconsin and Michigan.
Surveys were administered before group access and then again four months later. Text messages within the computer-mediated support groups were analyzed using a text analysis program that measured the percentage of words that were suggestive of religious belief and practice (e.g., pray, worship, faith, holy, God). Writing a higher percentage of these religious words within the online support groups was associated with lower levels of negative emotions and higher levels of self-efficacy and functional well-being, even after controlling for patients' pre-test levels of religious beliefs.
One of the researchers had this to say:
"From a psychological standpoint, there are a variety of reasons why cancer patients may benefit from prayer - whether on the Internet or elsewhere. In reviewing the messages, some of the most common ways study participants used religion to cope with their illness included putting trust in God about the course of their illness and consequently feeling less stressed, believing in an afterlife and therefore being less afraid of death, finding blessings in their lives and appraising their cancer experience in a more constructive religious light."
And that is, of course, one set of explanations for the findings.
Or perhaps, as we have seen before, there is a growing body of research to indicate that prayer is effective.
We just have to expect it to be effective. And isn’t that faith?
“Prayer, like radium, is a luminous and self-generating form of energy.”
--Alexis Carrel (French-born American Surgeon, Experimental Biologist and, in 1912, Winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology, 1873-1944)
"Too often we see prayer as a last resort rather than as our first thought. People will say, “I guess all we can do now is pray!” like that's the last thing, horrible thing to do. And your friend says, “Has it come to that?! Is it so hopeless that all we can do is pray?”
--Rick Warren (American Evangelist and Author, 1954-)
“Though God knows all our needs, prayer is necessary for the cleansing and enlightenment of the soul.”
-- John Sergieff of Kronstadt (Russian Priest who, in 1882, Established the House of Industriousness, 1829-1909)
“Man often thinks that, as God is the knower of the heart, there can be no need of any recital or gesture in prayer: but that it would surely be sufficient if he were to sit in the silence and think of God. But this is not so; it is according to the extent of a man’s consciousness of prayer that his prayer reaches God.”
--Hazrat Inayat Khan (Founder of the Sufi Order of the West, 1882-1927)
“Through prayer, the love of God grows and assumes a form which is called supreme devotion. Forms vanish, rituals fly away, books are superseded, images, temples, churches, religions and sects, countries and nationalities - all these little limitations and bondages fall off by their own nature from him who knows this love of God.”
--Swami Vivekananda (Indian Hindu Mystic and Spiritual Teacher, 1863-1902)
“Prayer is part of man's original nature. He can never be satisfied with merely meditative religion, and naturally and involuntarily inclines to move on to the religion of prayer.”
--Toyohiko Kagawa (Japanese Christian Anti-War Campaigner, 1888-1960)
“All true prayer somehow confesses our absolute dependence on the Lord of life and death.”
Thomas Merton (French-born American Trappist Monk and Writer, 1915-1968)
“There is a relationship between prayer and action. Receptive prayer results in an inner receiving, which motivates to right action.”
-- “Peace Pilgrim” (a.k.a. Mildred Norman, American Peace Activist, 1908-1981)