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
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.
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
Roberts L, et al. (2009). Intercessory prayer for the alleviation of ill health. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3).
Primary Medical Reviewer
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
June 29, 2011
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
June 29, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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