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Are there studies that show if prayer helps healing?

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Quick Answer

Research shows that prayer causes a series of physiological changes that promote healing, as stated by WebMD. MRI imaging results show that meditation and prayer alter brain activity in such a way as to bring calm to the entire organ.

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As people progress further into the concentration that characterizes meditation, the parietal lobe circuits in the brain experience intense levels of activity. These circuits govern spatial orientation and awareness and give a person a sense of independence from the rest of the world. This activity, though, disengages those circuits, according to WebMD.

At the same time, the limbic system, which attaches emotional signifiers to objects and people that are special, activates. This system also controls relaxation, bringing calm to metabolism, blood pressure, heart rate and the nervous system. The end result is that, during that time of meditation, everything comes across as emotionally important and potentially contributing to the sense of quiet and awe. The whole body relaxes, regulating physical activity more evenly. In many cases, these changes bring healing, reports WebMD.

Approximately 1,200 studies have looked at the influence of prayer on health. They also find that people who pray do not experience illness as often. Heart patients who take part in a religion are 14 times less likely to pass away after surgery, and religiously affiliated people have hospital stays that are, on the average, only a third as long as those who are not affiliated, notes WebMD.

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