Study Finds That Prayer Has Physical Healing Effects on the Brain

A new study conducted by a Christian researcher reveals that physical healing can occur as a result of the power of prayer.

Dr. Andrew Newberg, director of research at Thomas Jefferson Hospital and Medical College in Pennsylvania, led the study in which MRI brain scans proved that there is power in prayer or meditation. The study also found that prayer is much like a physical workout for the brain.

"When we look at how the brain works, it looks like the brain is very easily able to engage in religious and spiritual practices. … It only makes sense if God is up there and we are down here that we would have a brain that is capable of communicating to God, praying to God, doing the things that God needs us to do," Newberg said, according to South Carolina-based WLTX 19.

His MRI studies also found that the result is the same whether nuns pray or monks meditate. In one of his studies, Newberg had older patients with memory problems practice meditation each day for 12 minutes for eight weeks. Their MRI results appeared positive and dramatically different after concluding the experiment. Furthermore, test results revealed that the benefit of praying or meditating can actually shape the brain.

"There are multiple parts of the brain that seem to get involved and it really does look like the brain is easily able to have these experiences," Newberg said. "It has something to do more generally with how we can improve the function of the brain that these kinds of practices can actually help with."

According to WLTX 19, pastor Joel Osteen can also attest to feeling the physical effect of the power of prayer.

"It is hard to explain," Osteen said, referring to a prayer he made over a decade ago. "It was something not in my head, but down here. I call it more in my heart. I don't know that it is something that science is always going to pick up, but it comes from the inside. It gives you confidence. Peace. A strength inside."

Back in 2012, The Huffington Post reported that Newberg conducted another study that found the ways in which prayer and meditation affect the human brain. His research proved that when a person engages in prayer, there is an increase in activity in the frontal lobes and the language area of the brain known for becoming activated during conversation. He found that for the brain, praying to God is similar to talking to people.

To conduct this study, he injected participants with a harmless radioactive dye while they were deep in prayer or meditation. The dye then migrated to the parts of their brain where the blood flow was the strongest.

He concluded that regardless of religion, prayer created a neurological experience among individuals.

"It helps us to understand that at least when they (participants) are describing it to us, they are really having this kind of experience. ... This experience is at least neurologically real," Newberg said.