It’s Women’s Health Week - can we talk about prayer?
This is Women's Health Week. We are being encouraged to talk about our health, including becoming well informed about evidence based health information and its effectiveness.
However, there's an additional approach to health gaining ground in Australia which some might find surprising.
An Australian study published in the British Medical Journal this June found that a significant proportion of Australian women are using prayer or spiritual healing as part of their healthcare management.
Admittedly, the latest high-tech measuring instrumentation available may not be able to pin-point how and when prayer brings about a change, mentally or physically. But the fact is many find that it often does lead to healing.
I learned about the beneficial impact prayer can have on health from my mother. Throughout her teens, twenties and thirties mum had been searching for a clearer understanding of God. Yes, she had felt the divine presence but both reason and intuition said that there must be more to God than she had discovered thus far.
At that point her sister introduced her to a book explaining the nature of God as pure love and goodness. Through prayer Auntie Grace had just been healed of monthly migraines that had kept her incapacitated for days at a time.
That immediately sparked mum's interest. She read the book day and night, and it helped her gradually exchange the generally accepted matter-based viewpoint of life for a spiritual one. And she learned the practicality of doing so when she was suffering from a headache herself. As she attempted to put into practice her newfound understanding, she found herself rapidly freed from the pain.
These ideas from the book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, uncovered the nature of sickness as rooted in material beliefs and explained how she could hold her thought firmly to the realisation of the presence of absolute goodness and harmony.
"If we look to the body for pleasure, we find pain; for Life, we find death; for Truth, we find error; for Spirit, we find its opposite, matter. Now reverse this action. Look away from the body into Truth and Love, the Principle of all happiness, harmony, and immortality. Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts." [Capitalisation denotes a term for God.]
She was not only healed of that instance of a headache, but she never suffered from such headaches again. The enduring, the good, and the true, had become her experience.
And so why wouldn't Australian women pray, if they'd found it similarly beneficial to their health?
Although still not generally evidenced in doctor's offices or in hospitals, there is growing respect for prayer or spiritual healing practices in the medical community due to the findings from research. The BMJ study mentioned earlier reported "that prayer or spiritual healing are significantly associated with health, management of chronic illnesses and positive health seeking behaviours."
It is wonderful to have a week in which to discuss women's health. So let's talk about how it makes sense to many women today, as it did to their mothers and grandmothers before them, not to divert responsibility for their all-round health to others. They intuitively feel it's right to take responsibility for their own health and so are open to any health-based practice that works for them, including recognition of the value of spirituality to their wellbeing.
Whatever the preconceptions, prejudices or reservations about it, there's reason to believe that there are many women who want to talk about what prayer can do and has done for them.
So, yes, during Women's Health Week 2015, let's talk about prayer!
Kay Stroud writes about the connection between consciousness, spirituality and health. Because her own spiritual practice of Christian Science healing has helped her so much she's curious to see how the elements involved are being recognised and implemented in society. Follow her on Twitter @KayJStroud