5 Scientifically Supported Benefits of Prayer
What science can tell us about the personal and social value of prayer
According to a 2013 Pew Research Poll, over half of Americans pray every day. A 2012 poll found that over 75 percent of Americans believe that prayer is an important part of daily life. Other polls indicate that even some atheists and religiously unaffiliated individuals admit that they sometimes pray.
Our species has probably been praying for as long as we have been able to contemplate our existence. And though we may never be able to establish evidence that a deity or spiritual force actually hears our prayers, in recent years, scientists have begun to consider the potential tangible (i.e., measurable) effects of prayer. And this research suggests that prayer may be very beneficial.
So here are five scientifically-supported benefits of prayer:
Prayer Improves Self-Control
Studies have demonstrated that self-control is like a muscle. That is, it gets fatigued. You can only do so many push-ups before your muscles give out. Similarly, activities that require self-control are fatiguing, making it more difficult to make good choices the more you have to use your “self-control muscle.” Think about it. You are more likely to lose your cool or engage in mindless eating when you are mentally exhausted.
Recent research indicates that prayer can help you get more out of your “self-control muscle.” Research participants who said a prayer prior to a mentally exhausting task were better able to exercise self-control following that task. In addition, other studies demonstrate the prayer reduces alcohol consumption, which may reflect the exercise of self-control. Findings such as these suggest that prayer has an energizing effect.
Prayer Makes You Nicer
Researchers found that having people pray for those in need reduced the amount of aggression they expressed following an anger-inducing experience. In other words, prayer helps you not lose your cool.
Prayer Makes You More Forgiving
Researchers found that having people pray for a romantic partner or friend made them more willing to forgive those individuals.
Prayer Increases Trust
Recent studies found that having people pray together with a close friend increased feelings of unity and trust. This finding is interesting because it suggests that praying with others can be an experience that brings people closer together. Social prayer may thus help build close relationships.
Prayer Offsets the Negative Health Effects of Stress
Researchers found that people who prayed for others were less vulnerable to the negative physical health effects associated with financial stress. Also, it was the focus on others that seemed to be contributing to the stress-buffering effects of prayer. Praying for material gain did not counter the effects of stress. So thinking about the welfare of others may be a crucial component of receiving personal benefits from prayer.
Scientists and public intellectuals who are critical of religion, focus on what they believe to be the irrationality of religious belief. Why waste time believing in things that have no supporting scientific evidence? These critics typically fail to consider the fact that scientific studies are finding measureable benefits of religious faith. As I have discussed here and here, religion is complicated. It can be both good and bad for your health depending on a number of variables. However, there is a growing body of evidence indicating that prayer, a behavior often associated with religion, can be beneficial for individuals and society.
Original article: Benefits of Prayer
All persons possessing any portion of power ought to be strongly and awfully impressed with an idea that they act in trust: and that they are to account for their conduct in that trust to the one great Master, Author, and Founder of Society . … Power to be legitimate must be according to that eternal, immutable law, in which will and reason are the same.
Is not that glimmer there afar —
That dying exhalation — that pale star —
A tiny taper, which, with trembling blaze
Flickering ‘twixt struggling flames and dying rays,
With ineffectual spark
Makes the dark dwelling place appear more dark?
Yes, for its distant light,
Reflected dimly, brings before my sight
A dungeon’s awful gloom,
Say rather of a living corse, a living tomb;
And to increase my terror and surprise,
Drest in the skins of beasts a man there lies:
A piteous sight,
Chained, and his sole companion this poor light.
Since then we cannot fly,
Let us attentive to his words draw nigh,
Whatever they may be.
Rosaura – Excerpt from Scene I
From Calderon’s Dramas
From Gutenberg: Life Is A Dream
Mrs. SARAH )
Mrs. MARY and) ABNEY,
Mrs. ELIZABETH )
Daughters of Sir THOMAS ABNEY, Kt. and Alderman of London.
My Dear Young Friends,
Whom I am constrained to love and honour by many Obligations. It was the generous and condescending Friendship of your Parents under my weak Circumstances of Health, that brought me to their Country-Seat for the Benefit of the Air; but it was an Instance of most uncommon Kindness, to supply me there so chearfully for two Years of Sickness with the richest Conveniences of Life. Such a Favour requires my most affectionate Returns of Service to themselves, and to all that is dear to them; and meer Gratitude demands some solemn and publick Acknowledgment.
But great Minds have the true Relish and Pleasure of doing Good, and are content to be unknown.
It is such a silent Satisfaction Sir Thomas Abney enjoys in the unspeakable Blessings of this Year, that brought our present King to the Throne: and he permits the World to forget that happy Turn that was given to the Affairs of the Kingdom by his wise Management in the Highest Office of the City, whereby the Settlement of the Crown was so much strengthen’d in the Illustrious Family which now possesses it. O may the Crown flourish many Years on the Head of our Soveraign, and may his House possess it to the End of Time, to secure all Religious and Civil Liberties to the Posterity of those who have been so zealous to establish this Succession!
The fair and lovely Character your Honoured Father hath acquired by passing thro’ all the chief Offices of the City, and leaving a Lustre upon them, seems imperfect in his own Esteem, without the Addition of this Title, A Succourer and a Friend of the Ministers of Christ. And in this part of his Honour the Lady your Mother is resolved to have an unborrow’d Share, and becomes his daily Rival.
It is to her unwearied Tenderness, and many kind Offices by Night and Day, in the more violent Seasons of my Indisposition, that (under God) I own my Life, and Power to write or think. And while I remember those Hours, I can’t forget the cheerful and ready Attendance of her worthy Sister, her dear Companion and Assistant in every good Work.
Under the Influence of two such Examples I have also enjoy’d the Pleasure and Conveniency of your younger Services, according to the Capacity of your Years; and that with such a Degree of sincere and hearty Zeal for my Welfare, that you are ready to vie with each other in the kind Imployment, and assist all you can toward my Recovery and Usefulness. So that whoever shall reap benefit by any of my Labours, it is but a reasonable Request, that you share with me in their Thanks and their Prayers.
But this is a small Part of your Praise.
If it would not be suspected of Flattery, I could tell the World what an Acquaintance with Scripture, what a Knowledge of Religion, what a Memory of Divine things both in Verse and Prose is found among you; and what a just and regular account is given of Sermons at your Age; to awaken all the Children that shall read these Songs, to furnish their memories and beautify their Souls like yours. The Honour you have done me in learning by heart so large a number of the Hymns I have publish’d, perhaps has been of some use towards these greater Improvements, and gives me rich Encouragement to offer you this little Present.
Since I have ventured to shew a Part of your early Character to the World, I perswade my self you will remember, that it must inlarge and brighten daily. Remember what the World will expect from the Daughters of Sir Thomas Abney’s Family, under such an Education, such Examples, and after such fair and promising Blossoms of Piety and Goodness. Remember what God himself will expect at your hands, from whose Grace you have received plentiful Distributions in the Beginning of your Days. May the Blessings of his Right Hand more enrich you daily, as your Capacities and your Years increase; and may he add bountifully of the Favours of his Left Hand, Riches and Honour. May his Grace make you so large a Return of all the Kindness I have received in your Family, as may prevail above the fondest Hopes of your Parents, and even exceed the warmest Prayers of
Your most Affectionate Monitor and obliged Servant in the daily Views of a future World,
June 18. 1715.
To all that are concerned in the Education of Children.
It is an awful and important charge that is committed to you. The wisdom and welfare of the succeeding generation are intrusted with you beforehand, and depend much on your conduct. The seeds of misery or happiness in this world, and that to come, are oftentimes sown very early, and therefore whatever may conduce to give the minds of children a relish for vertue and religion, ought in the first place to be proposed to you.
Verse was at first design’d for the service of God, tho’ it hath been wretchedly abused since. The ancients among the Jews and the Heathens taught their children and disciples the precepts of morality and worship in verse. The children of Israel were commanded to learn the words of the song of Moses, Deut. 31. 19,30. And we are directed in the New Testament, not only to sing with grace in the heart, but to teach and admonish one another by hymns and songs, Eph. 5. 19. and there are these four advantages in it:
- There is a greater delight in the very learning of truths and duties this way. There is something so amusing and entertaining in rhymes and metre, that will incline children to make this part of their business a diversion. And you may turn their very duty into a reward, by giving them the privilege of learning one of these songs every week, if they fulfil the business of the week well, and promising them the book itself when they have learned ten or twenty songs out of it.
- What is learnt in verse is longer retained in memory, and sooner recollected. The like sounds and the like number of syllables exceedingly assist the remembrance. And it may often happen, that the end of a song running in the mind may be an effectual means to keep off some temptation, or to incline to some duty, when a word of scripture is not upon the thoughts.
- This will be a constant furniture for the minds of children, that they may have something to think upon when alone, and sing over to themselves. This may sometimes give their thoughts a divine turn, and raise a young meditation. Thus, they will not be forced to seek relief for an emptiness of mind out of the loose and dangerous sonnets of the age.
- These Divine Songs may be a pleasant and proper matter for their daily or weekly worship, to sing one in the family at such time as the parents or governors shall appoint; and therefore, I have confin’d the verse to the most usual psalm tunes.
The greatest part of this little book was composed several years ago, at the request of a friend, who has been long engaged in the work of catechising a very great number of children of all kinds, and with abundant skill and success. So that you will find here nothing that savours of a party: the children of high and low degree, of the Church of England or Dissenters, baptized in infancy or not, may all join together in these songs. And as I have endeavoured to sink the language to the level of a child’s understanding, and yet to keep it (if possible) above contempt; so I have designed to profit all (if possible) and offend none. I hope the more general the sense is, these composures may be of the more universal use and service.
I have added at the end an attempt or two of Sonnets on Moral Subjects for children, with an air of pleasantry, to provoke some fitter pen to write a little book of them. My talent doth not lie that way, and a man on the borders of the grave has other work. Besides, if I had health or leisure to lay out this way, it should be employ’d in finishing the Psalms, which I have so long promised the world.
May the Almighty God make you faithful in this important work of education: may he succeed your cares with his abundant graces, that the rising generation of Great Britain may be a glory amongst the nations, a pattern to the Christian world, and a blessing to the earth.
Divine Songs for Children.
Song No. 8 – Praise to God for Learning to Read
The praises of my tongue
I offer to the Lord,
That I was taught, and learnt so young
To read his holy Word.
That I am taught to know
The danger I was in,
By nature and by practice too
A wretched slave to sin.
That I am led to see
I can do nothing well;
And whither shall a sinner flee,
To save himself from hell?
Dear Lord, this book of thine
Informs me where to go
For grace to pardon all my sin,
And make me holy too.
Here I can read and learn
How Christ the Son of God
Did undertake our great concern,
Our ransom cost his blood.
And now he reigns above,
He sends his Spirit down,
To show the wonders of his love,
And make his Gospel known.
O may that Spirit teach,
And make my heart receive
Those truths which all thy servants preach,
And all thy saints believe!
Then shall I praise the Lord
In a more chearful strain,
That I was taught to read his Word,
And have not learnt in vain.
Rev. A. L. Mayhew, M.A.
Of Wadham College, Oxford
Rev. Walter W. Skeat
Litt. D.; LL.D. Edin.; M.A. Oxon.
Erlington & Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon
in the University of Cambridge
“THESE our Ancient Words here set down, I trust will for this time satisfie the Reader.”
R. VERSTEGAN, Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, ch. vii (at the end)
“Authentic words be given, or none!”
WORDSWORTH, Lines on Macpherson’s Ossian
At the Clarendon Press
All rights reserved
The present work is intended to meet, in some measure, the requirements of those who wish to make some study of Middle-English, and who find a difficulty in obtaining such assistance as will enable them to find out the meanings and etymologies of the words most essential to their purpose.
The best Middle-English Dictionary, that by Dr. Mätzner of Berlin, has only reached the end of the letter H; and it is probable that it will not be completed for many years. The only Middle-English Dictionary that has been carried on to the end of the alphabet is that by the late Dr. Stratmann, of Krefeld. This is a valuable work, and is indispensable for the more advanced student. However, the present work will still supply a deficiency, as it differs from Stratmann’s Dictionary in many particulars. We have chosen as our Main Words, where possible, the most typical of the forms or spellings of the period of Chaucer and Piers Plowman; in Stratmann, on the other hand, the form chosen as Main Word is generally the oldest form in which it appears, frequently one of the twelfth century. Moreover, with regard to authorities, we refer in the case of the great majority of our forms to a few, cheap, easily accessible works, whereas Stratmann’s authorities are mainly the numerous and expensive publications of the Early English Text Society. Lastly, we have paid special attention to the French element in Middle-English, whereas Stratmann is somewhat deficient in respect of words of French origin1. The book which has generally been found of most assistance to the learner is probably Halliwell’s Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words; but this is not specially confined to the Middle-English period, and the plan of it differs in several respects from that of the present work.
The scope of this volume will be best understood by an explanation of vithe circumstances that gave rise to it. Some useful and comparatively inexpensive volumes illustrative of the Middle-English period have been issued by the Clarendon Press; all of which are furnished with glossaries, explaining all the important words, with exact references to the passages wherein the words occur. In particular, the three useful hand-books containing Specimens of English (from 1150 down to 1580) together supply no less than sixty-seven characteristic extracts from the most important literary monuments of this period; and the three glossaries to these books together fill more than 370 pages of closely-printed type in double columns. The idea suggested itself that it would be highly desirable to bring the very useful information thus already collected under one alphabet, and this has now been effected. At the same time, a reference has in every case been carefully given to the particular Glossarial Index which registers each form here cited, so that it is perfectly easy for any one who consults our book to refer, not merely to the particular Index thus noted, but to the references given in that Index; and so, by means of such references, to find every passage referred to, with its proper context. Moreover the student only requires, for this purpose, a small array of the text-books in the Clarendon Press Series, instead of a more or less complete set of editions of Middle-English texts, the possession of which necessitates a considerable outlay of money. By this plan, so great a compression of information has been achieved, that a large number of the articles give a summary such as can be readily expanded to a considerable length, by the exercise of a very little trouble; and thus the work is practically as full of material as if it had been three or four times its present size. A couple of examples will shew what this really means.
At p. 26 is the following entry:—
‘Bi-heste, sb. promise, S, S2, C2, P; byheste, S2; beheste, S2; byhest, S2; bihese, S; biheest, W; bihese, pl., S.—AS. be-hǽs.’
By referring to the respective indexes here cited, such as S (= Glossary to Specimens of English, Part I), and the like, we easily expand this article into the following:—
‘Bi-heste, sb. promise, S (9. 19); S2 (1a. 184); C2 (B 37, 41, 42, F 698); P (3. 126); byheste, S2 (18b. 25); beheste, S2 (14a. 3); byhest, S2 (12. 57, 18b. 9, [where it may also be explained by grant]); bihese, S (where it is used as a plural); biheest, W (promise, command, Lk. xxiv. 49, Rom. iv. 13; pl. biheestis, Heb. xi. 13); bihese, S (pl. behests, promises, 4d. 55).—AS. behǽs.’
In order to exhibit the full meaning of this—which requires no further viiexplanation to those who have in hand the books denoted by S, S2, &c.—it would be necessary to print the article at considerable length, as follows:—
‘Biheste, sb. promise; “dusi biheste” a foolish promise, (extract from) Ancren Riwle, l. 19; “and wel lute wule hulde þe biheste þat he nom,” (extract from) Robert of Gloucester, l. 184; “holdeth your biheste,” Chaucer, Introd. to Man of Law’s Prologue, l. 37; “biheste is dette,” same, l. 41; “al my biheste” same, l. 42; “or breken his biheste” Chaucer, sequel to Squieres Tale, l. 698; “þorw fals biheste,” Piers Plowman, Text B, Pass. iii, l. 126; “to vol-vulle (fulfil) þat byheste” Trevisa (extract from), lib. vi. cap. 29, l. 25; “the lond of promyssioun, or of beheste,” Prol. to Mandeville’s Travels, l. 3; “wiþ fair by-hest,” William and the Werwolf, l. 57; “þe byhest (promise, or grant) of oþere menne kyngdom,” Trevisa, lib. vi. cap. 29, l. 9; “y schal sende the biheest of my fadir in-to ȝou,” Wyclif, Luke xxiv. 49; “not bi the lawe is biheest to Abraham,” Wycl. Rom. iv. 13; “whanne the biheestis weren not takun,” Wycl. Heb. xi. 13; “longenge to godes bihese” Old Eng. Homilies, Dominica iv. post Pascha, l. 55.’
We thus obtain fifteen excellent examples of the use of this word, with the full context and an exact reference (easily verified) in every case. And, in the above instance, all the quotations lie within the compass of the eleven texts in the Clarendon Press Series denoted, respectively, by S, S2, S3, C, C2, C3, W, W2, P, H, and G.
The original design was to make use of these text-books only; but it was so easy to extend it by including examples to be obtained from other Glossaries and Dictionaries, that a considerable selection of interesting words was added from these, mainly for the sake of illustrating the words in the Clarendon text-books. These illustrative words can be fully or partially verified by those who happen to possess all or some of the works cited, or they can safely be taken on trust, as really occurring there, any mistake being due to such authority.
A second example will make this clearer. ‘Brant, adj. steep, high, MD, HD; brent, JD; brentest, superl. S2.—AS. brant (bront); cp. Swed. brant, Icel. brattr.’
Omitting the etymology, the above information is given in two short lines. Those who possess the ‘Specimens of English’ will easily find the example of the superl. brentest. By consulting Mätzner’s, Halliwell’s, and Jamieson’s Dictionaries, further information can be obtained, and the full article will appear as follows:—
‘Brant, adj. steep, high, MD [brant, brent, adj. ags. brand, arduus, viiialtus, altn. brattr, altschw. branter, schw. brant, bratt, dän, brat, sch. brent, nordengl. Diall. brant: cf. “brant, steepe,” Manipulus Vocabulorum, p. 25: steil, hoch.—“Apon the bald Bucifelon brant up he sittes,” King Alexander, ed. Stevenson, p. 124; “Thir mountaynes ware als brant upritȝe as thay had bene walles,” MS. quoted in Halliwell’s Dict., p. 206; “Hyȝe bonkkes & brent,” Gawain and the Grene Knight, l. 2165; “Bowed to þe hyȝ bonk þer brentest hit wern,” Alliterative Poems, ed. Morris, Poem B, l. 379]; HD [brant, steep. North: “Brant against Flodden Hill,” explained by Nares from Ascham, “up the steep side;” cf. Brit. Bibl. i. 132, same as brandly?—“And thane thay com tille wonder heghe mountaynes, and it semed as the toppes had towched the firmament; and thir mountaynes were als brant upriȝte as thay had bene walles, so that ther was na clymbyng upon thame,” Life of Alexander, MS. Lincoln, fol. 38]; JD [brent, adj. high, straight, upright; “My bak, that sumtyme brent hes bene, Now cruikis lyk are camok tre,” Maitland Poems, p. 193; followed by a discussion extending to more than 160 lines of small print, which we forbear to quote]; brentest, superl. S2. 13. 379 [“And bowed to þe hyȝ bonk þer brentest hit were (MS. wern),” Allit. Poems, l. 379; already cited in Mätzner, above].’
The work, in fact, contains a very large collection of words, in many variant forms, appearing in English literature and in Glossaries between A.D. 1150 and A.D. 1580. The glossaries in S2, S3 (Specimens of English, 1298-1393, and 1394-1579) have furnished a considerable number of words belonging to the Scottish dialect, which most dictionaries (excepting of course that of Jamieson) omit.
The words are so arranged that even the beginner will, in general, easily find what he wants. We have included in one article, together with the Main Word, all the variant spellings of the glossaries, as well as the etymological information. We have also given in alphabetical order numerous cross-references to facilitate the finding of most of the variant forms, and to connect them with the Main Word. In this way, the arrangement is at once etymological and alphabetical—adapted to the needs of the student of the language and of the student of the literature.
The meanings of the words are given in modern English, directly after the Main Word. The variant forms, as given in their alphabetical position, are frequently also explained, thus saving (in such cases) the trouble of a cross-reference, if the meaning of the word is alone required.
An attempt is made in most cases to give the etymology, so far at least as to shew the immediate source of the Middle-English word. Especial pains have been taken with the words of French origin, which ixform so large a portion of the vocabulary of the Middle-English period. In many cases the AF (Anglo-French) forms are cited, from my list of English Words found in Anglo-French, as published for the Philological Society in 1882.
The student of English who wishes to trace back the history of a word still in use can, in general, find the Middle-English form in Skeat’s Etymological Dictionary, and will then be able to consult the present work in order to obtain further instances of its early use.
The relative share of the authors in the preparation of this work is easily explained. The whole of it in its present form (with the exception of the letter N) was compiled, prepared, and written out for press by Mr. Mayhew. The original plan was, however, my own; and I began by writing out the letter N (since augmented) by way of experiment and model. It will thus be seen that Mr. Mayhew’s share of the work has been incomparably the larger, involving all that is most laborious. On the other hand, I may claim that much of the labour was mine also, at a much earlier stage, as having originally compiled or revised the glossaries marked S2, S3, C2, C3, W, W2, P, and G, as well as the very full glossarial indexes cited as B, PP, and WA, and the dictionary cited as SkD. The important glossary marked S was, however, originally the work of Dr. Morris (since re-written by Mr. Mayhew), and may, in a sense, be said to be the back-bone of the whole, from its supplying a very large number of the most curious and important early forms.
The material used has been carefully revised by both authors, so that they must be held to be jointly responsible for the final form in which the whole is now offered to the public.
1. A new and thoroughly revised edition of Stratmann’s Dictionary is being prepared by Mr. Henry Bradley, for the Delegates of the Clarendon Press.
One great difficulty in finding a Middle-English word in this, or any other, Dictionary is due to the frequent variation of the symbols denoting the vowel-sounds. Throughout the whole of the period to which the work relates the symbols iand y, in particular, are constantly interchanged, whether they stand alone, or form parts of diphthongs. Consequently, words which are spelt with one of these symbols in a given text must frequently be looked for as if spelt with the other; i.e. the pairs of symbols i and y, ai and ay, ei and ey, oi and oy, ui and uy, must be looked upon as likely to be used indifferently, one for the other. For further information, the student should consult the remarks upon Phonology in the Specimens of English (1150 to 1300), 2nd ed., p. xxv. For those who xhave not time or opportunity to do this, a few brief notes may perhaps suffice.
The following symbols are frequently confused, or are employed as equivalent to each other because they result from the same sound in the Oldest English or in Anglo-French:—
i, y;—ai, ay;—ei, ey;—oi, oy;—ui, uy.
a, o;—a, æ, e, ea;—e, eo, ie;—o, u, ou;—(all originally short).
a, æ, ea, e, ee;—e, ee, eo, ie;—o, oo, oa;—u, ou, ui;—(all long).
These are the most usual interchanges of symbols, and will commonly suffice for practical purposes, in cases where the cross-references fail. If the word be not found after such substitutions have been allowed for, it may be taken for granted that the Dictionary does not contain it. As a fact, the Dictionary only contains a considerable number of such words as are most common, or (for some special reason) deserve notice; and it is at once conceded that it is but a small hand-book, which does not pretend to exhibit in all its fulness the extraordinarily copious vocabulary of our language at an important period of its history. The student wishing for complete information will find (in course of time) that the New English Dictionary which is being brought out by the Clarendon Press will contain all words found in our literature since the year 1100.
Of course variations in the vowel-sounds are also introduced, in the case of strong verbs, by the usual ‘gradation’ due to their method of conjugation. To meet this difficulty in some measure, numerous (but not exhaustive) cross-references have been introduced, as when, e.g. ‘Bar, bare’ is given, with a cross-reference to Beren. Further help in this respect is to be had from the table of 183 strong verbs given at pp. lxix-lxxxi of the Preface to Part I of the Specimens of English (2nd edition); see, in particular, the alphabetical index to the same, at pp. lxxxi, lxxxii. The same Preface further contains some account of the three principal Middle-English dialects (p. xl), and Outlines of the Grammar (p. xlv). It also explains the meaning of the symbols þ, ð (both used for th), ȝ (used for y initially, gh medially, and gh or z finally), with other necessary information.
From Gutenberg: Concise Dictionary of Middle English
I find this completely fascinating.
I should have been a linguist.