LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER by Gwen M. White, Psy.D. In 1986 when Bon Jovi had the #1 song, Livin’ on a Prayer, about Tommy and Gina trying to make it by loving each other in desperate economic times, I was learning the profound impact that prayer can have on our well-being. For many Christians in the U.S. prayer is a daily habit according to research from the Pew Research Center. Back in 1986, I began my own journey with Christian contemplative prayer and began to understand that I could live on prayer and needed to. I had done a lot of talking, pleading and searching via my prayers since I became a Christian in 1969, but I had not learned to listen. Get Bon Jovi Livin’ on a prayer You give love a bad name shirt now!
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The impact of this shift in my praying brought profound peace and sparked a continuing interest in helping myself and others understand how ‘livin’ on a prayer’ was a wise way to live when it included contemplative listening in prayer. Although for years research on prayer was disregarded by serious scientists that has slowly changed, too. NIH has funded studies on prayer and its effects when previously they refused to review any study with the word prayer in it. The bottom line here is that prayer can be helpful in many ways. Studies and various reports are consistent in suggesting potential health benefits of prayer and spiritual interventions.
While these studies cannot, of course, prove God’s existence or God’s interest in relationship with human beings, they do point to significant value derived by people who prayer and by people who are prayed for. Particularly contemplative prayer which has a long tradition in both Protestant and Catholic Christian traditions as well as Eastern religious practices, evokes a relaxation response in the brain and throughout the body that lowers stress and promotes healing. For more on this see: Renovare for protestants, and Centering prayer for Catholics – although I have benefited and would recommend both of these sites regardless of your religious background or lack of religious experience.