1. What is Prayer?
The word comes from the Latin precari, "to beg." The broadest
definition is an engagement with the divine. The three common types of prayer
- Intercessory prayer: Asking God or a higher power to
intervene on someone's behalf.
- Supplication: Asking for a specific outcome.
- Nondirected prayer: Asking for the person's highest good or "Thy will be done."
2. What is distant healing?
It's praying for people in a different location who don't know they're
being prayed for. This eliminates the power of suggestion or hope—the placebo
3. How do you pray?
There are innumerable ways: reciting a traditional prayer, sitting in
meditation, having a silent conversation with God, visualizing a result. Mother
Teresa said when she prayed, she listened—and found "God is listening, too." If
you don't know how to pray, Rabbi Zalman Schachter suggests you sit with a
"prayerful person" and pray together. It's contagious.
4. Do you have to believe in prayer for it to work?
The answer is not known, but most spiritual teachers suggest you fake it
until it's real.
5. What's the difference between curing and healing?
According to spiritual leaders, curing restores you to the condition you
previously enjoyed. Healing means becoming more whole, or "moving toward the
light." It's possible to have an emotional or spiritual healing even as one is
6. Are there any negative side effects to prayer?
Researchers say they've observed no harmful side effects, but Mitchell
Krucoff, M.D., at Duke University says we need to consider safety issues. "When
people are fighting for their lives, there's a possibility that prayer, by
calming them, might counteract some physiological survival mechanism. We should
at least think about this."
7. Can prayer be used for harmful results?
Five percent of Americans pray for someone's harm, according to one poll.
There's evidence that people's negative thoughts can slow the growth of bacteria
and plants, but no human trials have been conducted because that would be
unethical. "Our thoughts are a loaded gun," says Larry Dossey, M.D., author of
Healing Words. "This could be a great gift if used properly—to kill cancer cells
or the AIDS virus."
8. Can you pray for yourself?
Absolutely. Elizabeth Targ, M.D., says there's evidence that people who
pray for themselves tend to be happier, more peaceful and healthier than those