Studies increasingly affirm the power of mindfulness, prayer

Studies increasingly affirm the power of mindfulness, prayer

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - People who pray every day will tell you there's no doubt the practice makes their lives fuller and better. Now, science backs that up.

Medical research praising the power of prayer has nearly doubled in the past 10 years.

When it's lunch time at The Rebuild Center on Gravier Street, Sister Vera Butler serves up prayer as the first course.

"God is good," the nun said over a loud speaker.

"All the time," said the hundreds of men and women waiting for food.

The majority of the guests are homeless and hungry for prayer.

"Every evening when I pray, I ask God, thank you for waking me up," said Elton Jackson, who has been homeless for almost five years.

Jose Cruz hasn't had a home since Katrina. He says prayer is his shelter.

"It doesn't have to be to any particular God. It doesn't have to be to my God. In order to pray, that means you have faith in something. You just can't walk around and think it's all about you," he said.

Believers have never doubted that prayer can help and heal. Those who simply meditate stand by that practice. Now researchers, including those at the National institutes of Health, are learning that prayer of any kind can make people in the most dire straits feel better.

Tulane philosophy Professor Hans Gruenig says countless studies are being done on the power of mindfulness, the power of gratitude and the power of meditation.

"The physical benefits are reduced stress and greater resilience in the face of difficult times," he said.

It even aids in sleep and reduces inflammation.

Loyola Ministries Director Kurt Bindewald says when it comes to the studies, it's about time.

"I think what's becoming more apparent and what people are seeing, it's a daily connection between our spiritual lives and the world," he said.

In churches, prayer is constant, and now posts on Facebook offer prayers freely to others in various situations.

Carol Weiler says she was desperate for prayer.

"I was in a situation where I couldn't change anything, and I needed serious help and I got on my knees," she said.

Her husband, John, was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1976. They thought he was going to die, and Carol got serious about prayer for the first time.

"I said, God - I don't want this, and I'll accept this. I ask you to do one thing. Don't let John die unless he knows how much you love him," she said.

John had 20 recurrences as he and Carol raised their five children, but they say their faith never wavered. They were moved to start a prayer series called Lord, Teach me to Pray. The date Carol chose for the first meeting is chilling.

"It started September 11, 2001 at 9:34 in the morning," she said. "I picked a date randomly, having no idea."

Thirty women showed up at her home that day to pray.

Carol's husband is still in remission today, and their prayer series focusing on the St. Ignatius prayer is taught in 30 states and several countries. Carol is grateful.

So are the homeless looking for a good meal at the Rebuild Center.

"Prayer made me stronger, it made me more observant and less demanding," said Jose Cruz. "And now, whatever I get I cherish it and thank God for the little things in life."

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