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Rabbi Jeffery M. Silberman, DMin and Lisa Tremont, MPH, RD

Prayer may be a step towards longevity in that it fosters faith. Prayer is not a technique for curing real and organic diseases, Though it contributes enormously to the enjoyment of abundant health and to the relief of numerous mental, emotional, and nervous ailments. Even in actual bacterial disease, prayer has many times added to the efficacy of other remedial procedures. And much better recognized are the effects of spiritual resources on healing. Clinicians have long observed that patients with a strong personal faith recover better and live longer than those without such resources.

To Pray or Not to Pray
Throughout time, people have been especially apt to pray during times of extreme danger or fear and extreme joy and gratitude. Many pray out of obligation, as a custom. Some pray for things, including a job, a partner, or health. And some pray with a whole-hearted yearning to find God and to do God's will.

Common reasons why people choose not to have religious faith (l) the existence of evil in the world, (2) conflicts between faith and science, and (3) the feeling that life really has no meaning. Nonetheless, it is a fact that most persons, if sufficiently hard pressed, will turn in some way to a divine or transcendent source of help. People are particularly likely to turn to religion, or to find God when confronting bereavement and serious health disabilities.

What Is Effective Prayer?
Prayer is most effective when values, not things, and growth, not gratification, are sought. Perhaps the primary condition for effective praying is to have faith. Effective prayer is quite simply the sincere desire to adjust one's will to the will of God. (In this sense, one is releasing 'control,' which may reduce stress and improve health.)

Prayer can take on numerous forms. It can be individual or take place in a group or congregation. It can involve words or not. Common forms of prayer are traditional prayer (usually with words), movement meditation such as Yoga, Tai Chi, Sufism, and Zen, song, dreamwork, dance, journal writing, and still others.

Certainly, further research is needed to help elucidate the important role of spirituality to overall health and longevity. Until that time, one must take it in good faith (pun definitely intended) that such a relationship exists.

After all, there is really no good reason not to pray:

1. It could help you, and certainly can't hurt.
2. It's free.
3. Giving thanks helps you to appreciate the good things in your life.
4. You can do it alone, or with family and friends.
5. You can do it anywhere.
6. You can do it at any time.
7. Nobody has to know that you're doing it.
8. You'll feel that you're not alone in your decision-making.
9. You might live longer.

Reprinted by permission

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