Nearly half of all Americans turn to prayer when it comes to health, according to a 2004 survey by the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. In fact, prayer is the most popular form of complementary medicine, ahead of yoga, meditation, tai chi, and qi gong, all of which have a spiritual component.
Praying for good health is nothing new, and for people with a chronic illness like fibromyalgia, it can provide relief. Placing your fate in the hands of a divine power undoubtedly provides comfort for your most difficult moments.
Sometimes, soliciting the prayers of others can enhance your relief. You may solicit prayers through your church or synagogue or from family members. There are even prayer ministries, such as Silent Unity, where associates receive 2 million calls a year from people asking for prayers, most often for health reasons. Callers who report back say they take great comfort in knowing that others are praying with them.
But prayer, like meditation, also has a physiologic effect. It slows our heart rate, calms our pulse, and lowers blood pressure. It also relieves stress and anxiety, and can promote a sense of well-being.
Science can't prove it, but some studies suggest that praying for others — also called distant healing — can positively impact those who are sick. And to avoid the placebo effect, or the power of positive thinking, scientists have even demonstrated that prayer can affect the growth of bacteria and seeds.
Everyone prays in his own unique way and connects to his own higher power. But certain practices can help enhance your prayer experience:
Seek out a quiet space alone. The setting should be comfortable and one reserved just for praying.
Sit down and slowly get yourself in a relaxed state by focusing on your breath.
Begin by expressing gratitude. Acknowledging your blessings can bring you greater joy and help you become more aware of the workings of God or a higher authority.
Speak — silently or aloud — words that have meaning to you. That may be a mantra such as “Thy will be done” or a favorite passage from a religious text.
Incorporate different types of prayer into your practice. Ask forgiveness, beseech for pain relief, or express adoration. Different forms of prayer will heighten your awareness of a divine power.
Consider praying for others. Turning to a higher power on behalf of other people has perks, too. Praying for others, after all, is an act of charity and kindness. “It can bring comfort to you to pray for others,” says Harold Koenig, M.D., author of
The Healing Power of Faith. “It puts your focus on others and off yourself.”
Make it social. If you prefer the camaraderie of praying with others, consider creating a prayer group or joining one. Praying with others can strengthen your faith and make the experience more powerful.
Commit to a daily practice of five to ten minutes a day and work up to a little longer, if you can.
Try to avoid imposing your will on God. Praying for the elimination of your fibromyalgia might make you angry and resentful if it doesn't happen. If, on the other hand, you ask for the strength and willpower to take care of your health, you are much more likely to see results.