Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 53  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 64-68

Prayers and healing an interdependent relation

1 Assistant Professor, Yoga Spirituality Division, SVYASA Yoga Deemed to be University, Jigani, Karnataka, India
2 PhD Research Scholar Yoga-Life Science Department SVYASA Yoga Deemed to be University, Jigani, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission15-Jan-2021
Date of Decision12-Feb-2021
Date of Acceptance25-Mar-2021
Date of Web Publication21-Jul-2021

Correspondence Address:
B R Divya
SVYASA Yoga Deemed to be University, Jigani, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ym.ym_3_21

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The human world is realizing and giving importance to prayers and its healing effect throughout the world. In times of natural crisis, public health emergency like COVID 19 pandemic, it has even garnered more attention. There are many evidence based research that proves the benefits of such practices. This paper reviews the effect of prayer and its role in managing, coping and healing during the time of crisis.

Keywords: Anxiety, COVID 19, depression, healing, meditation, prayers

How to cite this article:
Divya B R, Keshavamurthy. Prayers and healing an interdependent relation. Yoga Mimamsa 2021;53:64-8

How to cite this URL:
Divya B R, Keshavamurthy. Prayers and healing an interdependent relation. Yoga Mimamsa [serial online] 2021 [cited 2023 Feb 6];53:64-8. Available from:

  Introduction Top

The end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, has affected life at large due to the outbreak of the novel corona virus disease (COVID 19) across the globe (Li et al., 2020; Zhu, et al., 2020).

Due to its high transmission and mortality rate as compared to severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East respiratory syndrome combined (Spoorthy, Pratapa, & Mahant, 2020), the World Health Organization has considered this situation as public health emergency and declared it as a Pandemic by March 2020 (WHO, 2020), resulting in lockdown affecting the global economy (Ebrahim, Ahmed, Gozzer, Schlagenhauf, & Memish, 2020).

Due to this, infected people, their caregivers and health care workers are affected by its psychological consequences. The rapid infection spread and unpredictability of the situation has led to fear of discrimination and loneliness followed by symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, insecuredness, frustration, helplessness, and coping problems (Cai et al., 2020; Lee, Kang, Cho, Kim, & Park, 2018; Rana, Mukhtar, & Mukhtar, 2020; Styra et al., 2008; Tam, Pang, Lam, & Chiu, 2004). Many Studies have confirmed that even after the post health care and discharge there still exist varying degree of stress disorders in the affected (Cheng, Wong, & Tsang, 2004; Fan, Long, Zhou, Zheng, & Liu, 2015).

In case of the hospitalized Covid-19 patients, as they are to remain in isolations, the crisis has led many affected to turn to religion and spirituality (Jeanet, 2020) for both coping with the illness and also for a hopeful state of mind. The same has been opined by many of the Physicians (Lake, 2012) and it is recently also suggested that prayer can be offered as a therapy for the patients (Taylor, 2020).

Prayer is an active process of communicating with and appealing to a higher spiritual power as defined by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Walker, 2005) in the United States. Spiritual practices such as prayer have been used by individuals for every type of illness and across all age groups, cultures, and religions. For distressing symptoms, anxiety-provoking medical procedures, pain for patients, and family caregivers, prayers are reported to serve as a managing and coping strategy and also support in improving the quality of life (Seyed Fatemi, Rezai, Givari, & Hosseini, 2006).

The purpose of this article is to bring out the significant relationship of Prayer as a healing and coping strategy for both illness and people affected due to the public health emergencies/Natural crisis.

  Methods Top

Many research papers, abstracts have been searched with different keywords: “Effect of Prayers on Healing, Immunity, Anxiety, depressions, during Natural crisis.” Review of the psychological outcomes due to illness on the patients, caregivers have been assessed. Review of the effect of the natural crisis on humankind has also been assessed. With relation to healing, coping and managing strategy the role of prayers has been summarized.

Psychological outcomes due to public health emergencies/natural crisis

There is a definite negative psychological outcome on individuals and society due to any epidemic outbreak. It could result in poor mental crisis, panic, life-threatening circumstances, fear of separation from family, and low household income (Kun, Han, Chen, & Yao, 2009). Symptoms of exhaustion, a feeling of excessive personal responsibility accompanied by stress, anxiety, and depression is observed among people (caregivers-health and social care workers in public health, primary care, emergency services, emergency departments, and intensive or critical care) who do not have preexisting mental health conditions but will be experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder in due course (Duan & Zhu, 2020; WHO, 2020).

Although much help is offered for preventing the future psychiatric morbidity with improved access to psychological interventions delivered through smartphone technologies (Ho, Chee, & Ho, 2020) and offering valuable advice to reduce secondary traumatic stress conditions (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020), still to retain the spiritual health and for the inner reassurance prayers are considered as a supportive mechanism.

Mechanism of prayer in healing

It cannot be denied that spirituality has an impact on health and the well-being of individual needs. Prayer is a contemplation action where contemplation is a prayer process and the action is behavioral outcome. Prayer impacts health in a holistic sense providing relational support and coping with illness (e.g./: worry, fear and isolation) (Bade & Cook, 2008). Prayers are gaining acceptance by health care providers as it is seen as an alternative method for healing. It is seen as a facilitator of promoting well-being (Esperandio & Ladd, 2015). As a therapy, it has a positive effect on reducing the severity of the patients' illness (Karati, Asadzandi, Tadrisi, & Ebadi, 2011) and also is beneficial as a postoperative care (Ai, Tice, Huang, Rodgers, & Bolling, 2008). The benefits of prayers studied has shown its effect as independent of clinical or laboratory providers and clinical variables (Andrade & Radhakrishnan, 2009).

Prayers and subjective well-being

Prayers of different forms (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication, reception, obligatory, petitionary, colloquial, ritual, intercessory) have a direct relationship with psychological well-being. Different prayer types have different effects on psychological well-being. Prayers are distinguished into objective and subjective prayer and it also depends on the motives behind the prayer for its blend in its subjectivity and objectivity. Focusing on one's religious devotion relates to objective prayers while praying for one's need relates to subjective prayer. Intercessory and petitionary prayers relates to subjective prayers while adoration is an objective prayer.

Different investigative studies have been performed on different components and multidimensional characteristic of prayers. Different directional prayers (Foster, 1992) as mentioned in [Table 1], are intertwined in nature and that helps in aligning the cognitive boundaries.
Table 1: Types of Prayer, its nature and its healing mechanism

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Assessment of subjective well-being (self-esteem, optimism, meaning in life, satisfaction with life) has proved to be positive. The thoughts during prayer can act as a secondary control facilitating the strength and coping, with increased self-awareness it precipitates actions to alleviate the negative effect. The process of social comparison arouses an understanding of our “self” and subsequent perceptions of well-being (Ladd & Spilka, 2002).

While petitionary prayers predicts optimism and well-being as well as postoperative coping, prayers of thanksgiving are considered to be the significant predictors of subjective well-being of self-esteem, and of optimism. Prayers of reception as positive predictors of psychological outcome has significant effects on self-esteem, optimism (p = 0.053), and meaning of life. Prayers of adoration have positive effects on both optimism and meaning of life (p = 0.052) (Whittington & Scher, 2010).

Relationship with existential well-being, happiness and religious satisfaction is demonstrated by the Meditative Prayers (p < 0.05). Frequency of prayers and experiences during prayers is positively influenced for general life satisfaction. People reflecting sadness, loneliness, and tenseness tend to engage in ritualistic forms of prayers (Poloma & Pendleton, 1991).

Role of prayers as a coping mechanism for anxiety and depression

Prayer in the form of meditation is a healing intention and a relaxation therapy. The most common application of mediation is to alleviate stress and anxiety. Petitionary prayers and Islamic prayers help in amelioration of stress, interpersonal sensitivity and the emotional management of personal problem (McCulloch & Parks-Stamm, 2018). Encouraging the caregivers of the diseased to pray has helped them to cope and manage with the situation and their anxiety levels (Dehghani et al., 2012).

Role of prayers in improving immunity

There is a connection between Prayer, human biofields, and healths (Laurant & Scheffer, 2004). Prayers are seen as a special form of meditation that is potentially associated with improved psychological and biological changes of health. Spiritual meditation practices has resulted in boosting the immune response, cardiorespiratory synchronization, to decreased levels of reactive oxygen species as measured by ultra-weak photon emission, increased GABAergic tone, and lowers norepinephrine that helps decrease anxiety levels and helps in mood regulation (Krishnakumar, Hamblin, & Lakshmanan, 2015). Mindfulness-based meditation (MBSR) practices has led to reduced trait anxiety (p < 0.01), greater left-sided anterior temporal activation (p < 0.05), that is adaptive in responding to negative/stressful events and greater rise in antibody titers (p < 0.05) significantly affecting the brain and immune functions (Davidson et al., 2003).

Recitation of Yoga mantras, prayers, and repetitions with rosary is shown to be associated with powerful synchronous increase in cardiovascular rhythms, baroreflex sensitivity, and Galvanic Skin Resistance inducing a state of psychological and physiological well-being (Bernardi et al., 2001; Jasiya, 2014). The practice of harmonization induces a deep hormonal impact on nerve and cellular activity of the physical body. Electroencephalogram has reported a change in the occipital regions helping the patients experience a relaxed feeling, free of pain of varying length, and a receptive consciousness with the practice of harmonization. Significant reductions of beta, alpha, theta, and delta activity in temporal lobes, central area, and in the frontal lobe indicates a nourishing and stabilization phases. The synchronization between heart rhythm and respirations indicates a parasympathetic regulation with decreased heart beats per respiration (Meier, Ballinger, Hoi, & Vickland, 2006). The Islamic prayers “Namaz” equally is shown to be beneficial for emotional wellness, immunity, balance, and postural alignment (Sartaj, 2017).

Role of prayer in public health emergencies/natural crisis

Trauma is the first thing one goes through times of crisis. The intensity of the trauma is a subjective experience and clinically diagnosing it is challenging. Prayer is identified as Religion, Spirituality, and Faith (RSF) resource addressing a range of crisis concerns and for trauma recovery. Prayers are seen as source of strength, empowerment, healing, and for coping with high stress situations. Prayers help practitioner deal with situations where people feel out of controlled and overwhelmed. RSF has been linked with social support and positive resilience and well-being and the ability to buffer the stressful life events, prevent emotional disorders and facilitate recovery. Spiritual health is equally important as the other aspects of health. It can be attained through means of prayer, yoga, meditation and positive thinking connectedness, faith in oneself and so on. It is essential to focus on the spiritual dimension of health, especially during the time of crisis to avoid further aggravating the problematic conditions (Mahmood, 2020). A study on September 11, 2001 National crisis revealed that various types of prayers, spiritual support, and positive attitudes were used for coping with the situation (Ai, Tice, Peterson, & Huang, 2005).

During the crisis and COVID-19 pandemic being no such exception prayers becomes a means to end the virus and also for the mental comfort (Bentzen, 2020). Prayers, devotional services performed in person, in family settings, in online and video streaming during the pandemic is seen as a means to God and love of neighbor and to compensate the loss of in person meetings (VanderWeele, 2020).

  Summary Top

[TAG:2]In every culture, prayer is evident with a recorded history. Defined as the spiritual communication with God (Baesler, 2003), it is expressed in the art forms like music (Paul, 2006), dance (Carla, 1986) (Roth, 1997), poetry (Aitken, 1992), chants, songs, talks, meditation, contemplation. Prayer is influenced by a matrix of input variables like age, gender, religious/spiritual affiliation, and culture) and yields a variety of outcomes (e.g., spiritual, psychological, and physical health for the persons praying, and various types of pro-social and religious/spiritual attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors). Similarly, there is a plethora of evidence stating the healing benefits of Prayer and Meditation in clinical studies.[/TAG:2]

In times of Crisis, fear and uncertainty, People of faith turn to God, divine help for Hope, solace of mind and to cope with the situation.

  Conclusion Top

Prayers though are not a complete substitute for a medical treatment, but the receptivity towards the healing procedures is definitely enhanced through it. Spiritual health is equally important as other aspects of health at physical, mental, and emotional level. Medical fraternity definitely always has stood up for the care of our physical health but when it comes out psychological health and retaining the true purpose of life and well-being spiritual health care is equally must. The study concludes stating that different forms of prayers as being an important resource for coping, managing health, and well-being during challenging times.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.[47]

  References Top

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