The Pastor’s August Message
Since the mid 1990’s the amount of research in the US on the effects of Prayer and meditation on human health has doubled. The results of the research are very interesting. In May 1999 the Demography magazine published the findings of studies about the effects of Prayer. It did not say whether it was a Christian prayer or other religion. The study was carried out on to more than 22,000 people over nine years. Those who attend church weekly live 10% longer than those who do not. People doubted the results of the findings because they said regular church goers live healthier lives but the study had already taken that into account and had already made adjustments for lower rates of the abuse of alcohol and tobacco among church goers. So the researchers stood over their results.
Recently a United Methodist University, Duke University in Dunham North Carolina, released the results of a study on 4,000 people over the age of 65. Those who prayed regularly had significantly lower blood pressure than those who did not. Those who attended religious services had healthier immune systems. More findings from Duke University and from Dartmouth and Yale Universities show that people in hospital who never attend church regularly have an average stay in hospital three times longer than those who do attend church regularly. Elderly people who never or rarely attend church have a stroke rate almost double that of those who do go to church. Also studies in Israel show that religious people have a 40% lower death rate from cardiovascular disease and cancer. So the data is there, the secret is out of the bag, that prayer my friends really works! And it’s the best healthy lifestyle ever!
So why is prayer so good for one’s health? A scientist at Harvard, Dr. Herbert Benson, has conducted MRI brain scans on those who pray and meditate. The scans have shown that physical changes take place in the body when someone prays and meditates. (Intense activity takes place in the human brain’s parietal lobe circuits, and a “quietude” envelops the brain, the frontal and temporal lobe circuits become disengaged, and the limbic system becomes activated.) The result is that the body becomes more relaxed and body activity becomes more evenly regulated and stable. So there you are folks, prayer and meditation is good for you and for me. Particularly meditating upon the precious word of God.
In the gospel of Luke 11:1-13, Jesus taught his disciples to pray what we call now The Lord’s Prayer, or the “Our Father.” You will notice that the Lord’s Prayer in Luke is slightly different to the version we pray. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus teaches a longer version of the prayer and it is Matthew’s version that the Christian Churches use. After the prayer we see Jesus teaching to pray for what we need (Luke 11:5-13). If you go to your friend in the middle of the night for something and he is slow to get up to answer the door, if you persist, your friend will get up to give you what you need. In other words, keep on praying to God for what your hearts’ desire, do not stop praying but continue to pray until your prayers are answered. Have you seen a bumper sticker that says PUSH? It stands for Pray Until Something Happens.
Then Jesus continued and said,
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives, the one who seeks always find, the one who knocks will always have the door opened” (Luke 11:9-10)
Have you wondered why did Jesus say to keep on praying? Jesus knew that prayer is good for us, we had to wait more than 2000 years for the scientists to discover the results of a healthy life of prayer, but Jesus knew it, because he lived a life of prayer, and so he emphasized the importance of a prayerful life.
There are many other reasons why Jesus said to keep on praying. However there are times when we pray for something and our intentions are not always good. There are times our intentions in prayer are selfish and self-centered and need to be purified, and by praying for some request over a long time our intention is purified. Often you would hear sick people who are living a prayerful life say that although they did not receive physical healing, but they felt they received the grace of acceptance from God in Christ Jesus.
There are also those occasions when there seems to be no answer of any kind to prayer, at least for now. There are times that we feel that God is absent and gives a deaf ear to our supplications. Friends, this is a real test of faith to us and some people have crosses and burdens to carry, often silently and unknown, and that makes them real heroes. Suffering is always a mystery and we do not know all the answers to these, we only see bits and pieces of the answer in this life. But as Jesus said, we should keep on praying no matter what.
Not only is prayer good for your health but it’s the best lifestyle of a Christian, not only did Jesus ask us to pray, but we actually need to pray for our happiness and joy. Because the joy of the Lord is our strength. If we don’t practice a life of prayer, our lives are dull and unhappy because the deepest part of our being will be starving and thirsting for God. A beautiful Psalm, Ps 63 describes our longing for God like this,
“O God, you are my God, for you I long. For you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you. Like a dry weary land without water. So just as a desert is thirsty for water we are thirsty for God and we satisfy that thirst in prayer.”
So friends, how is it with your soul? How is your life of prayer? Friends, the challenge for us is, let us strengthen our life of prayer as individuals, it is good for our faith and our health, for our own individual health and the health of the household of faith the body of Christ. Because prayer is the power house of every congregation that believes in the power of prayer. The apostle St. Paul induced us to pray without ceasing! Jesus himself taught his disciples and us as well how to pray. If our thirst for God satisfies our prayer, then prayer satisfies our thirst for God.
To God be the Glory for Great Things God Has Done!!
Yours because of Jesus,
Rev. Dr. Noah R. Panlilio