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What Science Says About Prayer and Meditation

Updated on September 2, 2012

Discoveries in Neurotheology

For the past several years scientists have been attempting to understand spiritual experiences and their effect on individuals. In the field of neurotheology scientists have been able to make some very significant discoveries about the benefits of prayer and meditation, on the body and the brain. Research has shown that the brains of people who spend time in prayer and meditation are different. The practice of prayer produces significant psychological, physiological, and therapeutic effects on individuals. Claims from prominent scientists have also declared that religious and spiritual experiences are biological, observable, and scientifically real.

The Brain and Prayer Connection

Newberg is a neuroscientist and has author several books including How God Changes Your Brain. He has been scanning the brains of religious people to discover the connection between prayer and brain activity. In one particular study it was shown that the frontal lobes lit up on the screen, when the subject was in meditational prayer. What was even more fascinating was that the parietal lobes went dark. “This is an area that normally takes our sensory information, tries to create for us a sense of ourselves and orient that self in the world," Newberg explains. "When people lose their sense of self, feel a sense of oneness, a blurring of the boundary between self and other, we have found decreases in activity in that area." It also means "The more you focus on something — whether that's math or auto racing or football or God — the more that becomes your reality, the more it becomes written into the neural connections of your brain." In another study, the neuroscientist Davidson, scanned the brains of Buddhist monks who have logged many years of meditation. “When it comes to things like attention and compassion, their brains are as finely tuned as a late-model Porsche.”

Studies on Religion and Health

Benefits of Prayer and Meditation

The knowledge that we are wired for the supernatural becomes an exciting reality when studies in neurotheology are presented. Our brains are continually being sculpted and the way we use them will determine their physical connections and activity. "You can sculpt your brain just as you'd sculpt your muscles if you went to the gym," explains Davidson. "Our brains are continuously being sculpted, whether you like it or not, wittingly or unwittingly."

The results of prayer and meditation on the brain are ones that cannot be overlooked, especially when they are shown to be very encouraging. Studies by Shapiro and Walsh reveal a significant increase in positive personality growth as a result of prayer and meditation. Specifically, it was shown that individuals became more confident, relaxed, and conscientious with an increase in practice. Further studies have also shown improved levels of empathy and decreased levels of anxiety and depression in individuals.

In Summary

Scientific studies clearly present a strong connection between prayer and meditation, and its potential to enhance the well-being of individuals at many levels. These findings are exciting and provide important information in the quest for peace and happiness. As the study of neurotheology continues it will be interesting to learn more about the benefits of prayer and meditation, and how they can create positive connections in the brain. It seems these scientific discoveries will help give insight not only into building the human brain, but building the human spirit as well. Prayer is a practice that seeks the love of God for guidance, strength and comfort. It this practice demonstrates scientifically that we are healthier and happier then that is evidence that everyone would benefit from seeking God in prayer.

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    • Quirinus profile image

      Queirdkus Ω Ibidem 4 years ago from Sitting on the Rug

      Interesting hub that resonates with my experience. Thanks, sturgeonl! Hope to see more of these.

    • Sturgeonl profile image
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      Sturgeonl 4 years ago

      I glad you were able to make some connections with this article. It was great to get your feedback Quirinus!

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