[Work From Home Day 14]
My most favorite memories growing up were my father’s storytelling time. From tales of his mischievous and carefree childhood to his war-time heroics, they were all special. I would just close my eyes and listen and it was like daydreaming in color. To my young self, my father had the look of Omar Sharif in his adventure movies. Many times he would share of his narrow escapes of death during the war, bullets whizzing past him, bayonets thrust at him and one time even a gun to his head in an ambush. But in all this, he said, “God saved me so many times, He kept me alive.” “But why Appa, why did God save you?” My young mind inquired. And to this day, I will never forget his reply: “So that I could be your father and keep you safe always. Whenever you’re afraid, pray Seetha. Just pray.”
In Dale Carnegie’s book ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Mr. Carnegie proposed ways to overcome worry and fear. In place of worry, the mind should be filled with hope and optimism. He expounded on simple techniques to manage worry and recommended various strategies on how to break the habit. His approaches are still very much relevant in today’s contemporary lifestyle. He also stressed on the healing power of prayer. He enumerated how the attitude of prayer can help us experience peace and happiness. So, what better time than now to pray. In the words of Shakespeare in Hamlet, maybe its time to ‘bend those stubborn knees.’
The systems of this world that had been assembled together for our enjoyment and sustenance have all collapsed around us like a house of cards. Financial structures, superpowers, global economies have been reduced to rubble. Scientists race against time, to find a cure. Our lives as we know it has just changed in the blink of an eye. Our basic right of freedom is gone as we are all under lockdown in our homes. Food is on ration and scarce. Life is fragile. Death and destruction encircle us. Fear hangs over us like a heavy dark cloud. All that is left is to Pray. My father’s words resound loudly in my ears: ‘Whenever you’re afraid, Pray Seetha. Just Pray.”
So, what is prayer? According to the most widely available source Wikipedia, “Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication. In the narrow sense, the term refers to an act of supplication or intercession directed towards a deity, or a deified ancestor.” Wikipedia goes to great lengths to avoid using the term ‘God’. Freud in his literary works refers to prayer and God as “an illusion, necessary to help us restrain violent impulses earlier in the development of civilization, can now be set aside in favour of reason and science.”
Illusion or not, much of science has commended the physical, mental and emotional benefits of prayer. According to a study by Centra State Hospital in 2009, the psychological benefits of prayer may help reduce stress and anxiety, promote a more positive outlook, and strengthen the will to live. Their report further postulated that practices such as Yoga, T'ai chi, and Meditation may have a positive impact on physical and psychological health. A study on meditative prayer was recorded in the British Medical Journal in 2001. It reported that by praying and reciting of scriptural verses at specific rates, baroreflex sensitivity increased significantly in cardiovascular patients. In 2001 another study was published in the Journal of Psychology of Religion and Spirituality on the efficacy of meditative prayer. The study strongly suggested a significant correlation between meditative prayer and hope. The Washington Post wrote that prayer is the best compliment to mainstream medicine, even outpacing acupuncture, herbs, and alternative treatments. Freud sets aside prayer in favor of science, but science now is fighting a losing battle against the dreaded Wuhan Virus. Whatever your approach is to live, all we seem to be left now with is prayer. So ‘Bend, stubborn knees; and, heart with strings of steel, Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe! All may be well. To heaven’.
I would like to end with a quote by Dale Carnegie “ Everyday I pray I yield myself to God and the tension and anxiety go out of me and peace and power to come in”
Stay Home-Stay Safe - Break The Chain
SEETHA NESARATNAM PhD
Trainer, Dale Carnegie Malaysia
Jankowski, Peter; Sandage, Steven (May 2011). "Meditative Prayer, Hope, Adult Attachment, and Forgiveness: A Proposed Model". Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. 3 (2): 115–131. doi:10.1037/a0021601.
Bernardi L, Sleight P, Bandinelli G, et al. (2001). "Effect of rosary prayer and yoga mantras on autonomic cardiovascular rhythms: comparative study". BMJ. 323(7327): 1446–9. doi:10.1136/bmj.323.7327.1446. PMC 61046. PMID 11751348.
Researchers Look at Prayer and Healing, Washington Post, March 24, 2006