Healing Words: How to Use Prayer to Improve Your Overall Well-being
Friday, September 04, 2015
Studies abound that show how prayer benefits health and increases happiness. Anne McCaffrey, M.D., of Harvard Medical School, reported that one third of Americans say they use prayer to facilitate healing, while 69 percent of respondents claimed prayer improved their health. Other medical sources have proven positive improvements in high blood pressure, asthma, heart attacks, head-aches, and anxiety when prayer is employed. If this science is so sure, why do we hesitate to practice prayer as a part of caring for our minds and bodies?
If you really think about it, having a conversation with the God of the universe can be a little intimidating. Sometimes I'm sure our prayers sound like begging, pleading, or whining. Some days our prayers might come from hearts so full of gratitude or sorrow that we can't help but cry out. Some of us seem stuck on a few favorites: “God be with us,” “Bless this food,” and “Give us safe travels.” While some of us feel it has just been so long since they bowed their head that they don't remember any prayers at all.
In the end, figuring out what to pray shouldn't cause stress or worry. If you feel a little stuck, one place to start is to scour through the book of Psalms. (Author Max Lucado asserts that Psalms could be renamed “God's Book of Common Prayer.”) So if you are nervous about what to say to God, try these four tried-and-true prayers that come up throughout the book of Psalms:
1. Show me. This simple phrase is helpful in a multitude of situations. It especially comes in handy during those moments when life seems unfair, out of control, or makes no sense at all. Consider the likely possibility that there is more going on than you can see right now. If we could catch even a glimpse of what God sees, then we would have a clearer perspective on people, places, and things. Rather than being silently frustrated, ask God to show you a little more of the story. He may reveal another perspective on the problem or provide patience until the pain has passed.
This is also a go-to prayer when you feel scared or mistreated. Psalm 5:8 offers this as a morning prayer for protection: “Show me the right thing to do. Show me clearly how you want me to live” (NCV). Other variations of this prayer include “teach me” and “guide me.”
2. Praise You. So often in our prayers we plead requests or ask for blessings. While God doesn't mind that, it's also good to turn our attention from ourselves and focus on the One who is the source of all good things. Consider some synonyms for praise: rave, cheer, bravo, hurrah, esteem, give thanks, celebrate, boost, and acclaim. Wow, that should wake you up! It is an excellent exercise to remember the things He's given in the past while thanking Him for what's to come.
According to the Psalms, there are plenty of reasons to praise Him: because of the things He has done, because He is wonderful, because He is worthy, because He protects us. The list goes on and on. Begin your next prayer with this little fill-in-the-blank: I praise You because ___________.
3. Forgive me. These two words are among the most vulnerable to mutter to people or God. This sentiment is a necessary element in building a relationship. This prayer requires honesty beyond reason, accountability for your actions, and a desire to be in integrity with Him. The prayer of Psalm 25 includes asking for forgiveness, and it seems to imply that God's forgiveness is the first step to enjoying a good life. This prayer isn't to shame or berate you: it's to free you. From there, God takes care of the rest.
4. I trust You. This may be the pinnacle of all prayers. It's a stretch for most humans to say that they ultimately trust God, no matter what happens next. So with this prayer your heart may have to follow your head. You may need to rant and rave, then add this prayer at the end by saying “And help me trust You” or “But I do trust You.” Prayers of trust in the Psalms are abundant: declarations of trust in God's protection, trust in His plan, trust in His love. In Psalm 25:5 the prayer is simply “I trust you all day long” (NCV).
Remember that these prayers (or any version of them) are good anytime, anyplace. You need not be in a church pew or on your knees; it doesn't have to be at mealtime or bedtime. These simple prayers are just as meaningful in waiting lines, traffic jams, or business meetings. Open your heart to prayer, and see how it changes your life.
~ Cinnamon Pettijohn, “Healing Words: How to Use Prayer to Improve Your Overall Well-being”, courtesy of Vibrant Life.