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Health & Balance

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Topic Overview

What is prayer?

Many people believe prayer is a way to communicate directly with a spiritual energy or higher being. Prayer can be silent, as in meditation, or spoken aloud in a group, as in a religious setting. Prayer may help people find an inner sense of meaning, or it may strengthen their belief in a higher being. Prayer may feel very supportive to people faced with life-changing problems, such as cancer.

What is prayer used for?

Many established religions view prayer as a powerful tool in helping a wide range of physical or mental problems.

Prayer can be an expression of gratitude or a sincere request for help. You can use prayer for a positive outcome in a situation or for inner strength during difficult times in life.

Health benefits, such as lower blood pressure, increased longevity, and reduced risk for depression, may occur in people who regularly practice their spiritual faith or who are part of a religious community.

Is prayer safe?

Some people believe prayer has the power to heal physical and mental illness. Some claims of medical "miracles" have been attributed to the use of prayer. Some people, depending on their belief in prayer, may experience a feeling of inner strength or power when they engage in prayer.

Some studies that measured the effect of prayer have shown positive health effects. Other studies are inconclusive.1

When combined with conventional medical treatment, prayer is not thought to have any negative side effects or complications. Prayer can be used alongside conventional treatment, but not in place of it.

Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an alternative therapy with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative therapy.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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