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One of the principal components of Christianity is prayer, and it has numerous benefits for its followers. It is a powerful instrument that can change various aspects of people’s lives. Its influence spreads from treating incurable diseases, both mental and physical, to improving communication with others and releasing the stress of the present-day world. In terms of dealing with the issues mentioned above, intercessory prayer is one of the most efficient types of prayer. It allows Christians to help themselves and others to improve their mental and physical health as well as become more active participants in society.
The Impact of Intercessory Prayer on Social Life
The healing power of prayer has become one of the key topics of interest of religious scholars. The divine intervention into the lives of people seems to be beneficial for many aspects of human life. This kind of research seems to be challenging due to a significant number of variables and a lack of previous empirical studies on the subject (de Aguiar et al. 2017). However, it has been proved that the mental efforts of a group of people have an impact on others over long distances (de Aguiar et al. 2017). Thus, their consciousness plays a significant role in the way society functions. Moreover, there are general tendencies in the matter, allowing to define the spheres of intercessory prayer’s influence and develop recommendations for further research.
One of such spheres is the social life of people, and the distant effect of intercessory prayer is crucial for it. The researchers have proved that relationship growth is conditional upon the act of praying for other people (Embree 2017). It is explained by the impact of intercessory prayer not only on the person who is praying but also on the relationship between him and the other people he prays for in the long run (Embree 2017). There are several directions in which the intercessory prayer works, and they refer to familial, romantic, and societal relationships.
This type of prayer fosters relationships in families and Christian romantic couples and improves the way they share experiences. The interaction of people using intercessory prayers in the context of familial and romantic connections is characterized by the increase in satisfaction and commitment and the decrease in negative behaviors (Embree 2017). It thereby allows establishing stronger bonds between people and provides for better results than other types of prayers or church attendance (Embree 2017). Prayers for other people can also serve as a conflict resolution technique, which is more efficient than the act of praying by itself. It contributes to people’s abilities to forgive one another and control their emotions (Embree 2017). Hence, it can be concluded that intercessory prayers have a positive impact on the interpersonal relationships of people within a family.
The work of social mechanisms also positively correlates with the use of intercessory prayers by the members of specific social groups or within a church. According to Embree (2017), local communities can benefit from a greater sense of empathy and relationship satisfaction resulting from the regular use of this type of prayer. In this case, the intention of a group of people defines the quality of their relationships (de Aguiar et al. 2017). They also play a significant role in creating a connection between older and younger generations, which is crucial in terms of the passing of faith (Embree 2017). Even though this effect can be traced easier in the context of families and romantic couples, its impact on societal relationships seems to be even more important in a separate church setting.
Intercessory Prayer and Physical Health
Intercessory prayer is a powerful technique that has an impact on one’s physical health by curing various conditions, especially the ones that could not be adequately managed over the years. Numerous researchers focus on conducting surveys and considering case studies to define the work of this mechanism and its efficiency in terms of different health issues. Some of the patients in these studies had been suffering from various diseases for many years and demonstrated positive results after the use of intercessory prayers (Romez et al. 2020). Such cases are unique, and they imply further examination for identifying the ways they work for the benefit of other people.
The case of the patient with a lifelong disease that was improved not with medical therapy but with intercessory prayer is an excellent example of the efficiency of the latter. The boy was diagnosed with gastroparesis at two weeks of age (Romez et al. 2019). This condition is characterized by “delayed gastric emptying in the absence of mechanical obstruction” and makes the patient dependant on tubes for feeding (Romez et al. 2019, 289). The chosen person grew up in a Christian family practicing prayers and regularly attending church, which made it possible to convince his parents to participate in the experiment (Romez et al. 2019). The researchers decided to complement the standard medical therapy with the use of intercessory prayers to see if it can improve the quality of life of a person with a lifelong disease.
The combined efforts of the family of a patient with gastroparesis and the Christian church resulted in the recovery from the health condition, which was believed to be impossible. The intercessor in the church prayed for the boy to foster the treatment from the disease, and he experienced some kind of shock in the process (Romez et al. 2019). The act of intercessory prayer ultimately resolved the problem and allowed oral feeding to the person who never used it before (Romez et al. 2019). This case demonstrated the efficiency of this type of prayer for the treatment of lifelong health conditions and implied the continuation of the study for other patients.
Another unique example of such a miraculous cure in the case of a blind girl who restored her vision with the help of proximal intercessory prayer. She had been suffering from her condition for over twelve years, as there is no clinical treatment for it in the history of medicine (Romez et al. 2020). However, she was cured with the help of her husband, who used the intercessory prayer, and her vision was restored instantaneously (Romez et al. 2020). Hence, the patient benefited from the non-traditional and little-known method, which contributes to the necessity to continue the study of this phenomenon in the future.
Both studies given above represent the cases of lifelong conditions that were managed with the help of intervention in the form of intercessory prayer. This fact allows concluding that further examination of such a technique would allow patients with other lifelong diseases to benefit from it and completely recover. However, to make it a regular practice complementing the traditional methods, extensive information on the required conditions is needed.
Intercessory Prayer and Mental Health
The impact of intercessory prayer on various health conditions is not limited by physical diseases and spreads to existing mental issues. Most of them are somehow connected to depression, which is especially common for adolescents. The researchers proved that the use of healing prayer provides for positive results in such cases, and its therapeutic effect can be used for the treatment of other mental issues (Baldwin et al. 2016). The results of the study expand the impact of such a concept as distant healing (de Aguiar et al. 2017). This conclusion can be used for further research on the effect that intercessory prayer has on people with depression.
The studies examining the effect of different types of prayers on a person’s mental health conditions refer to their connection with brain activity. Thus, for example, the scholars revealed the changes in it resulting from the use of prayers and affecting the traumatic experience of people in a positive way (Baldwin et al. 2016). The outcome of such a technique is further explained by the increase in the activity of the medial prefrontal cortex resulting from the focus on the problem (Baldwin et al. 2016). Hence, people with mental issues can improve their condition by using prayers in the process of consideration. Intercessory prayer, in turn, would double the effect by adding more energy from other people to ensure the positive result of the treatment.
The use of intercessory prayers, which are crucial in terms of curing mental health issues, is conditional upon the social norms, and this dependence has a negative impact on the outcome. This type of prayer is commonly used during church sermons, but the number of topics is limited for reasons of the sensitivity of people (Van Ommen 2019).
Therefore, the treatment of mental diseases with the help of intercessory prayers is complicated, whereas the use of private prayers has been proved to be less efficient in comparison with group efforts (de Aguiar 2017). This situation results in the necessity to adjust the policies of churches regarding the use of such topics for the benefit of people with mental conditions.
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The prayers for mental health should become an essential part of the activities of various churches across the country. However, this problem is of an international nature and required the combined efforts of all religious institutions lacking the orientation on this issue (Van Ommen 2019). The support of intercessory prayers would contribute to the recovery of numerous patients as their attempts to overcome their conditions are insufficient. These measures would allow improving the situation for people with anxiety, phobias, somatizations, paranoia, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms (de Aguiar 2017). Thus, their inclusion in church sermons is a vital but challenging task.
The use of intercessory prayers has a number of advantages for spiritual people. They positively influence their social life regarding family and romantic relationships as well as in the context of various religious groups and churches. Moreover, intercessory prayer is an efficient instrument for the treatment of both mental and physical diseases. However, it is more widely implemented and studied in cases of physical issues rather than mental ones. This situation results in the lack of assistance for people with mental health conditions due to the observance of social norms. All in all, the search for a compromise between the needs of people and common church practices, as well as further research on the topic, would allow a greater amount of people to benefit from intercessory prayers.
Baldwin, Philip R., Kenia Velasquez, Harold G. Koenig, Ramiro Salas, and Peter A. Boelens. 2016. “Neural Correlates of Healing Prayers, Depression and Traumatic Memories: A Preliminary Study.” Complementary Therapies in Medicine 27: 123-129. Web.
de Aguiar, Paulo Rogério Dalla Colletta, Tiago Pires Tatton-Ramos, and Letícia Oliveira Alminhana. 2017. “Research on Intercessory Prayer: Theoretical and Methodological Considerations.” Journal of Religion and Health 56 (6): 1930-1936. Web.
Embree, Christina. 2017. “Intercessory Prayer Across Generations: A Case Study.” Christian Education Journal 14 (1): 128-143. Web.
Romez, Clarissa, David Zaritzky, and Joshua W. Brown. 2019. “Case Report of Gastroparesis Healing: 16 Years of a Chronic Syndrome Resolved After Proximal Intercessory Prayer.” Complementary Therapies in Medicine 43: 289-294. Web.
Romez, Clarissa, Kenn Freedman, David Zaritzky, and Joshua W. Brown. 2020. “Case Report of Instantaneous Resolution of Juvenile Macular Degeneration Blindness After Proximal Intercessory Prayer.” EXPLORE: 1-5. Web.
Van Ommen, Armand Leon. 2019. “Taboo and Stigma in Praying for Mental Health: An Empirical-Theological Investigation into the Practice of Public Intercession.” Ecclesial Practices 6 (1): 83-101. Web.