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As we learned in last week’s newsletter, ‘the Joy & Terror’ of fatherhood, we can experience times as fathers when we are driven to the point of extremity and simply do not know what to do. That is when we must, as MC Hammer once said, “Pray just to make it today”.
From my own experience as a father, prayer has been the key to any success I have had. It can never be the only key to fathering for unless we put feet on our prayers we become a clanging gong or in the Aussie vernacular a ‘bull artist’.
However scientists have proven the power of prayer, especially in the area of health. This is good news.
Here are some excerpts from Richard Schiffman’s article, “Why People Who Pray Are Healthier Than Those Who Don’t”:
“If you want to achieve maximum health, here are a few things that you should do: exercise regularly, eat nutritious and minimally processed foods, drop those extra pounds — and pray. That’s right, regular prayer and meditation has been shown in numerous scientific studies to be an important factor in living longer and staying healthy…
The effects of spiritual practice appear to be more than just the result of enhanced focus and concentration. Ken Pargement of Bowling Green State University instructed one group of people who suffer migraines to meditate 20 minutes each day repeating a spiritual affirmation, such as “God is good. God is peace. God is love.” The other group used a nonspiritual mantra: “Grass is green. Sand is soft.” The spiritual meditators had fewer headaches and more tolerance of pain than those who had focused on the neutral phrases.
But are the calming effects of spiritual practice temporary, or do they last even after we get up from the meditation cushion or leave a prayer service to re-enter our less than serene lives?
In one National Institutes of Health funded study, individuals who prayed daily were shown to be 40 percent less likely to have high blood pressure than those without a regular prayer practice. Research at Dartmouth Medical School found that patients with strong religious beliefs who underwent elective heart surgery were three times more likely to recover than those who were less religious. A 2011 study of inner city youth with asthma by researchers at the University of Cincinnati indicates that those who practiced prayer and meditation experienced fewer and less severe symptoms than those who had not. Other studies show that prayer boosts the immune system and helps to lessen the severity and frequency of a wide range of illnesses.
A recent survey reported in the Journal of Gerontology of 4,000 senior citizens in Durham, NC, found that people who prayed or meditated coped better with illness and lived longer than those who did not.
But the question remains: By what physiological mechanisms does prayer impact our health? Herbert Benson’s most recent research suggests that long term daily spiritual practices help to deactivate genes that trigger inflammation and prompt cell death. That the mind can affect the expression of our genes is exciting evidence for how prayer may influence the functioning of the body at the most fundamental level…
What science can tell us is that people who pray and meditate trend to be statistically more healthy and live longer than those who do not. Whether these boons are merely unintended side effects of still deeper spiritual benefits remains a matter of faith.”
As Schiffman points out – whilst science has proven the benefits of prayer, the reality is, we have to find ways to put prayer into practice, and this still requires faith. Every night I used to sing a song with my children, say a prayer and maybe tell them a story before they went to sleep. My children loved all three, but especially the story. In the mornings, if I was home, when they left for school, I would put my hands on their heads and bless them before they went out the door. Two of my children were Dux of the school, better than I ever did. Such is the power of prayer!
Another story highlights the power of a couple praying together.
Recently a young couple come to visit us with their newborn 4 month old daughter. This little baby girl was incredibly alert and busily taking everything in. You could see, even at 4 months, that she was very advanced for her age, highly intelligent and already had the world at her feet. I commented on my observations; that I had never seen such an amazing baby in my whole life, and enquired what the secret was. The couple said in a united and enthusiastic voice, “Prayer”. “What do you mean?” I asked.
This young couple told me that they had both read two books about praying daily for your baby for the entire period of the pregnancy. One of the books was called ‘Praying through Your Pregnancy’ the other ‘Pure Joy’. They put the advice into practice and their awesome child showed the miracle of answered prayer. It was hard not to agree with them.
You want your children to have the best start in life. Give them a good education, give them a mother and father in love in the good times and the bad times, but most of all, give your children the gift of a praying mother and father.
You will be so glad you did, and so will your children.
Yours for the best start in life
There will be an all day Prayer Service from 10am-4pm in the Great Hall of Parliament House, Canberra and the day will be celebrated in many ways, all over Australia. I am looking forward to being there myself. I need prayer, our nation needs prayer and the world needs prayer. This is an exciting opportunity to be part of a miracle.
Register here if you are interested in giving Australia the best possible start in Life. Australia’s Constitution says, “Humbly relying on the blessings of Almighty God”.
I pray we won’t forget these words, for the sake of our children, our families and our country.