Is Prayer for Real? Response to “Prayer, imagination, and the voice of God—in global perspective”.

I grew up in a strong faith- based family where one learned to have a relationship with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit.   I’ve always believed God and developed a relationship that believed that God given me a lot of freedom to live my life while at the same time, He was guiding me along the way.  Prayer was one of those ways God guides me.  I have this conversation much like  Tanya Marie Luhrmann describes as kataphatic prayer…”God speaks to us through our minds” (Barrie-Anthony).  The conversation takes place in my mind – I don’t need to talk aloud to God, he is just there.

University of Missouri researchers have completed research that indicates spirituality is a difficult phenomenon to explain and multiple areas of our brain are responsible for the many aspects of spiritual experiences.  “We have found a neuropsychological basis for spirituality, but it’s not isolated to one specific area of the brain, we use many parts of the brain. “…Certain parts of the brain play more predominant roles, but they all work together to facilitate individuals’ spiritual experiences” (No God Spot).  Brick Johnstone , the researcher of this study says the right side of the brain is associated with self-orientation, whereas the left side is associated with how individuals relate to others.  Johnstone’s earlier studies of Buddhist meditators and Franciscan nuns have shown that people can learn to minimize the functioning of the right side of their brains to increase their spiritual connections during meditation and prayer.  He says “practice makes perfect” and the more we pray or meditate, the more we train our brains.  Johnstone’s research  explains how  the brain allows for different kinds of spiritual experiences: Christians might name God, Buddhists call it Nirvana, and for atheists it might be the feeling of being connected to the earth.

Prayer changes how we perceive our situation; “… the way people paid attention to their mental events changed their mental events. Giving significance fundamentally changed those experiences; the mental images felt sharper” (Barrie-Anthony).  Kataphatic prayer teaches us to pay attention to our mind and our boy and in doing so, our experience changes.  I think Lurhmann is right on – and the latest research would affirm her hypothesis.

Resources

Barrie-Anthony, Steven.  “Prayer, imagination, and the voice of God—in global perspective”.  The Immanent Frame: Secularism, religion and the public sphere.  5 Mar 2013.  Web.  10 May 2013.

Luhrmann, T.M.  When God Talks Back.   New York : Vintage Books, 2012. Print.

“No ‘God Spot’ In Brain, Spirituality Linked To Right Parietal Lobe”.  Huffington Post.  20 Apr 2012.  Web  10 May 2013.

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