Science of Prayer
Science of Prayer
We've all had our medical hats on to some degree to try to feel as educated as possible about the Covid-19 crisis. Through the bombardment of daily opinions and news, I have seen articles written to frame prayer as a pointless act when hard times hit.
One headline I personally felt was a bold move--
'The Religious Right's Hostility to Science is Crippling Our Coronavirus Response.'
This got me thinking and with all this quarantine time, why not take a deep dive into the science of prayer?
Is it pointless? What does it do?
In 1952, a Princeton doctoral student asked Albert Einstein a question: "What original dissertation is left?"
Einstein replied, "Find out about prayer."
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful' - Colossians 4:2
Shoutout to Pastor Mark Batterson. Here I will share some of his wise words throughout this explanation from his book 'Draw The Circle'.
Let Us Nerd Out
The word watchful is a throwback to the Old Testament era practice of sitting on a city wall and keeping watch. Watchmen were the first ones to see attacking armies or traveling traders. They had the best vantage point. They saw things no one else saw. They saw things before others saw them. And this is precisely what happens when we pray. We see things no one else sees. We see things before others see them.
Prayer is the difference between seeing with our physical eyes and seeing with our spiritual eyes. Prayer gives us a God's eye-view. It heightens our awareness and gives us a sixth sense that enables us to perceive spiritual realities that are beyond our five senses.
Prayer helps us see what God wants us to notice. The more you pray, the more you notice; the less you pray, the less you notice. It's as simple as that.
From a Neurological Perspective
There is a cluster of nerve cells at the base of our brain stem called the Reticular Activating System that monitors our environment. We are constantly bombarded by countless stimuli vying for our attention, and it is the job of the RAS to determine what gets noticed and what goes unnoticed.
So you download a new ringtone. And you'd swear you've never heard it before, but after downloading it, it seems like everybody else has the same ringtone. Its not that lots of people went out and downloaded it, it created a category in your RAS. The ringtone went unnoticed by you before you downloaded it because it wasn't important to you. Once you downloaded it, the RAS recognized it as relevant.
Okay, so what does that have to do with this?
When you pray for someone or something, it creates a category in your reticular activating system. You start noticing anything related to those prayers. Have you ever noticed that when you pray, coincidences happen? And when you don't, they don't. Its more than coincidence, its providence. Prayer creates divine opportunities, but also sanctifies the reticular activating system and enables you to see the God-Ordained opportunities that are all around you. And once you see them, you have to seize them.
We often think of prayer as nothing more than words spoken to God, but maybe it's more than that. Prayer is not a monologue, its a dialogue. We speak to God with everything from words to groans to thoughts. And God speaks to us through dreams, desires, promptings, impressions and ideas.
Your Sixth Sense-- no it's not 'I see dead people.'
There is an old saying 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. In reality, everything is in the eye of the beholder.
The emotions we experience don't reflect our external reality; they reflect our internal reality. We don't see the world as it is; we see the world as we are. That is why prayer is so critical. It's a way of seeing reality- and more specifically, the reality that is beyond the reality we can perceive with our five senses.
Some things can't be perceived by our five senses, but by the Holy Spirit. Think of it as a sixth sense. He helps us see the invisible and hear the inaudible.
But that 'sixth sense' has to be cultivated, much like our five senses do. Our spiritual vision develops just like our physical vision does.
Are We Spiritual Babies?
Sorry that sounds really creepy, but it's true.
When babies are born, their visual resolution is one-fortieth of that of a normal adult. Our spiritual eyes develop in the same way. And prayer is the key to perception. Before our eyes are opened the world is only 13 inches in diameter. It's like living in a low-dimensional world-- and how boring does that sound?! (shout out to all my fellow enneagram 7's!)
View Life Differently
When we open our spiritual eyes, we start seeing God everywhere we look. We see the image of God in others. We see His fingerprints on His creation. We see God-ordained opportunities around us all the time.
It's something like what happens when we watch a film with 3D glasses, when we pray, God comes at us incredible ways.
*Yes, remember the movies? We'll be back there soon!*
As we all carry through Covid-19 and the days to come, it's important to stay informed from our medical community and follow our leader's instruction. But throughout the remainder of this quarantine and life after-- daily prayer and conversation with God can drastically change your point of view, fears, and anxieties.
For the haters who feel prayer and faith is pointless in a time of crisis-- I am taking a virtual stand to boldly to say,
"I strongly disagree."
Fascinating to hear some of history's most brilliant medical minds recognized today speak about their belief in God.
*mic drop please*