If you're having difficulty settling into prayer, you may want to try The Relaxation Response method developed by Harvard researcher Herbert Benson, MD.
Here's what you do: Choose a simple prayer or statement reflecting your spiritual roots. For example, you could use the word "shalom" or "om," or the phrase "The Lord is my shepherd" or "Hail Mary, full of grace." After you have chosen your phrase, close your eyes, relax your body and mind and engage in deep breathing, by inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Say your word or phrase silently as you exhale. When stray thoughts come by, gently release them and continue your mantra. To achieve relaxation, use this technique for at least 10 to 15 minutes each day.
Reconnect with Your Religion of Origin
In all her years of study, Joan Borysenko has found that "What people often do is discount their own religion of origin — they may still be angry with it...yet the prayers, the music and ritual are deeply embedded at the cellular level.
"So many people feel they have been personally wounded by religion, or they see the wounds that religion has dealt to other groups — everything from the Inquisition to patriarchy to the kind of opinion that says 'my way is the only way.' Many people, particularly Baby Boomers who are interested in spirituality, have to heal their religious wounds and forgive the churches and synagogues of their childhood before they can be spiritually open.
"Just as forgiveness is such an important part of your peace of mind in your relationship with individuals, your relationship to God and your place of worship also needs to be healed. I've done a lot of helping people to heal their religious wounds so they don't throw the baby out with the bath water."
In this regard, prayer, along with music, candles, incense and other rituals, can be bridges to healing these wounds. Music is "prayers that are sung. You hear a song, and your heart flies open. There is a place no deeper. Your cells can really drink deeply."
Does Anyone Have a Clue Why Prayer Works?
Not yet. Ultimately, the answer may be found in quantum or subatomic mechanics, a theory developed 100 years ago that attempts to describe how matter behaves at its most fundamental level.
Says Larry Dossey, MD, also the author of "Reinventing Medicine": "In quantum physics, which concerns itself with the smallest dimensions of the physical world, several experiments in the last two decades have revealed the existence of what are termed nonlocal events. Briefly: If two subatomic particles that have been in contact are separated, a change in one is correlated with a change in the other, instantly and to the same degree, no matter how far apart they may be. These distant events are said to be nonlocal."
He goes on to speculate that intercessory prayer bears strong resemblance to the nonlocal events studied by physicists. But that's just one possibility...and he concludes that we may never know how prayer works until we understand how consciousness itself works: "Science cannot measure the unmeasurable."
Dossey reminds us that the primary function of prayer is not only to help heal the sick or lengthen our lives, but to simultaneously remind us of our essential nature. Yet imagine what modern health care would be like if we actually routinely applied prayer in the treatment of illness and disease.