Your Brain on Prayer

Your Brain on Prayer

 “The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him.” Mk 8: 11

Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, has been studying the effects of prayer on the brain for quite some time. He has been a key contributor in developing a new field of research called, neurotheology.

In 2009, news outlets reported on a research project conducted by Dr. Newberg. He studied people who were extremely devote in prayer, ranging from Christians to Tibetan Buddhists. He invited the study group to pray in his research center. At the moment each person reached the epitome of their prayer activity, Dr. Newberg injected their brains with dye to see which areas were active.

As expected, the frontal lobes of the test subjects lit up. This area of the brain is used for higher order functions, such as concentration, reasoning, conversation. However, they also found activity decreased in the parietal lobes. The parietal area is used to take sensory information in order to distinguish ourselves from others. So, people in the midst of intense prayer lost distinction between themselves and others. Essentially, they became one with the universe.

Another researcher involved in the same area of study tested people who were novices when it came to prayer. He asked employees of a high tech firm to spend a few minutes in prayer every day for a few weeks. The results were amazing. These people developed positive changes in their brain activity, as well as, an improved immune system.

Is this a sign of God? One could argue, and Andrew Newberg would be one, a person can train their brain to pray. No matter what proof is ever offered, their will always be a counter argument. Eventually, the reality of God is God’s to prove and ours to trust. God either exists or does not exist. Neither one of these, I think will ever be proved by the human mind, no matter how intelligent. Still, we do know one thing, there is health in daily meditation and prayer.

Click to read: Mark 8: 11-13

Reflection Questions: 

  • How would a sign of God help you in your faith life?
  • When have you experienced positive change as a result of prayer?
  • What doe your prayer life look like?
  • How can you commit to help it grow?

Photo Courtesy of and Jesse Orrico

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