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How to Live Healthier and Longer:
You can live healthier, longer, happier, more abundantly, by focusing on Seven Lively Virtues:
Prayer
Attitude
Ritual
Community
Forgiveness
Transcendence
Laughter 

 

LiveAbundantly.com
is a world wide web ministry of
Christ
Presbyterian
Church 

a center of faith 
for living abundantly

3400 State Road
Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania 
USA 19026 

 

Try it out:

Offer Your Prayers for Others

Ask Others to Pray

Focus on Lively Virtues Worthy of Cultivation:
The Power of Prayer   

sermon from the pulpit of 
Christ Presbyterian Church                    
a center of faith for abundant living
The Reverend Clyde E. Griffith, pastor

References:
From the Ancient Texts: 
Habakkuk 3:2,17-19
From the Early Church:
James 5:13-18
 

There you go, James said it: 
The prayer of a good 
person has a powerful affect.

The Apostle Paul said: Pray Unceasingly.

Jesus said: When you pray, do not be ostentatious, like the hypocrites! Do it in private and don't use a lot of meaningless words. (God already knows what you need before you ask.) If you forgive others, you will be forgiven.

Maybe you saw the cartoon in the funny papers: Two little kids were standing there in their pajamas beside their bed with a toy telephone between them. One is instructing the other in the finer arts of saying their bedtime prayers. He says: "Now, remember you don't have to worry about God being too busy when you call, because he has "Call Waiting".

And you don't have to worry about him not being home, because he has "Call Forwarding".

And remember, it's always a Toll Free Call.

And God never puts anyone "On Hold."

Don't hang up, your call will be answered in the order in which it is received.

And Operators are standing by ready for your call." And that's about it, isn't it?

Some time ago, I was intrigued by a report of a study that was done by health-care researchers. They surveyed a lot of people over a long period of time and asked them various questions over the years -- questions relating to their life-style and to their health. One of the life-style questions concerned whether or not they went to church recently, and how often. And you know, one of the completely unexpected conclusions of that study was that people who go to church regularly were healthier, over all, than people who did not. And people who go to church regularly, lived longer, over all, than people who did not. Now, I thought that was really interesting, and it confirmed what I have observed in many churches over the last few years, and I had some hunches why this may be so. And so, for some ten years or so, I have been engaged in a low-impact research project: reading reports, collecting data from studies in several fields of inquiry, cataloging anecdotal evidence from a myriad of sources, and studying what literature may be available on the subject. Because, while it may be that we take a lot of these things for granted, there are a lot of folks who never darken the doorway of this church, who may like to hear what we have to say, and may be seeking what we have to offer.

So for the next few weeks, I want to share with you the results of some of my research -- through a series of sermons I call Focus on Lively Virtues Worthy of Cultivating -- virtues that will ensure a Better Life.

Why are people who go to church regularly healthier, 
and longer-lived, than people who do not? 
Among other factors, I believe it is because of these Seven Lively Virtues:

prayer.

attitude.

forgiveness.

ritual.

community.

transcendence. And,

laughter.

Now, I don't mean to suggest that people who go to church, don't get sick, we do.

And I don't mean to suggest that people who go to church won't die, we do.

Going to church is not a guarantee, it is more like an insurance policy that pays dividends on a daily basis, and promises an ultimate payoff in the end.



Today, I want to talk about the power of prayer.

James proclaims, what most of you know: The prayer of a good person has a powerful affect.

One writer, Dr. Larry Dossey, has turned up 130 scientific studies on the effects of prayer. (Healing Words) Over half of these studies show under laboratory-controlled conditions, prayer does something truly remarkable. While the belief that prayer heals is older than recorded history, you should know about some of this research of the last few years.


One study at the University of Virginia, showed that orthopedic patients in the hospital that were visited by chaplains needed less medical care than

those that weren't visited by chaplains. They made two thirds fewer calls to the nurse for help, and they got out of the hospital an average of two days earlier than those who didn't receive spiritual support. And those same patients needed 66% less pain medication, than those who never saw a chaplain.

Another study was done among more than 700 coronary patients in a VA hospital near Boston. Patients were undergoing care for heart attack and chronic heart disease, and endured bypass operations, valve replacements, and open heart surgery. An experimental group was selected randomly to receive daily visits from a chaplain. The other group received less frequent visits, or non at all. Again, those who received regular care from a pastor, went home one or two days sooner than those who did not. Now, the VA attached some dollars and sense to this study, and concluded that providing a chaplain visit for a patient cost no more than $100 a day, and resulted in savings as much as $4000 a day. Total savings from a robust and prayerful chaplain's program could amount to several million dollars a year for each hospital.

Another study was done at San Francisco General Hospital of about 400 people who were admitted to the coronary care unit suffering congestive heart failure, heart attack, low blood pressure and other heart problems.

Half of these patients were assigned to a group of regular churchgoers who were asked to pray regularly for the health and recovery of the patients -- whom they never met.

None of the patients, none of the doctors, none of the nurses, knew they were on anyone's prayer list. And what they found out was startling:

the patients that were prayed for were far less likely to require antibiotics, they had fewer infections from their surgery. 
A dozen of the patients who were not prayed for required mechanical breathing support following the surgery, and remarkably, none of those who were being prayed for needed help with breathing. (Fewer of those chosen for prayer died -- but the difference wasn't statistically significant.) The results of this study caused quite a stir when they were published in the Southern Medical Journal. One physician at the time wrote: "Maybe we doctors ought to be writing on our order sheets, 'Pray three times a day.'"

I am sure that if this study went one step further, and told the patients they were being prayed for, the results would have been even more dramatic. As some of you know, from your experience, there is something invigorating knowing that you are being prayed for. Knowing that you are connected to a network of prayers is bouying to your soul -- and it brings peace and confidence.

Prayer works.

The prayer of a good person has a powerful affect.

Measurements show that a hospital visit by a pastor reduces stress hormones, produces a calming effect, and stimulates the production of endorphins in the patient.

Now, understand what is being said here. Bad things happen to good people. Good people get ill. Bodies wear out. Good people die. But, prayer lets you face your illness squarely, actually producing a strength in your body and psyche to face your situation and get through it. Prayer prepares you for what is to come.

The prayer of a good person has a powerful affect.

It may not change the situation we find ourselves in and may not give us the miracle we want, 
but what
happens is, 
prayer changes us. 
As one writer put it
well, "Through prayer, we find inner resources of strength and hope and courage we didn't know we had.

Through prayer we are no longer facing our fears and pains alone; God is there beside us, renewing our spirit, restoring our soul, and helping us carry the burden when it becomes too heavy for us to bear."

Prayer has a powerful affect: on our bodies, on our minds, on our lives. 
To really clue in, to really
experience change, to really know what prayer can do for us, Paul tells us, to "Pray unceasingly."

What does that mean?

Standing at a prayer wall all day from morning to night?

Kneeling at the foot of the cross 24 hours a day? 
Reciting a mantra over and over and over again? 
No. Pray unceasingly means to live in a state of
prayerfulness. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, whatever is going on around you, know that God is with you, and is in conversation with you -- helping you through the events, guiding the way, providing strength and support you know you never had alone.

Do you remember Fiddler on the Roof? In this marvelous story, you remember the old man, the papa, Tevye, was constantly talking to God. There was a comedic effect as he constantly was getting his Bible facts confused, but here he is in constant prayer with the Almighty. He prayed when he delivered his milk, he prayed when his wife got on his nerves, he prayed when he rejoiced with a daughter, he prayed when he met people. Prayer helped him get through the difficulties and tragedies and joys of his life. O, for sure, God didn't "smite him with riches" as he jokingly talked to God about, but Tevye didn't really expect that to happen.

The point is: There was never a moment when Tevye did not know that God was with him.

Tevye was sure and certain of his relationship with God. And gives clues to us as well. There is an ancient parable that speaks to our situation.

There were a bunch of fish swimming in the sea. And this rather young fish swam up to an older and wiser looking fish and asked, "Pardon me, but I have heard of this wonderful place called the Ocean where all manner of living creatures and colorful things live? I have decided to go there where life is much richer. I have been searching everywhere. Can you help me find the way?"

The older fish said, "Son, This is it! You're in the ocean now. It doesn't get any better than this. This is the ocean."

The young fish put his nose up, and said, "Silly old man, what do you know. This is only water.  I'm looking for the ocean." And off he swam to continue his search.

It takes a wise fish indeed to perceive the ocean in which it lives. Not knowing a life outside the ocean, it is hard for it to see the environment in which it lives. Like the fish, whose relationship with the ocean is a given, so is our relationship with God.

God surrounds us with love every moment of our life. There is power in this love. And there is a standing offer of friendship and communication on God's side. All we have to do is risk believing in the offer and open ourselves to God's welcoming Presence. When we do that, we have begun to pray.

As Tevye did.

As James did.

As Paul did.

As Jesus did.

Prayer can take many forms -- sometimes we attempt to communicate in a communal way, like we do here in church;

sometimes we attempt to communicate in a personal way behind closed doors;

sometimes we attempt to communicate in a traditional way by using words that have inspired people through the ages.

But, praying unceasingly means doing it right in the midst of our daily activities. Whether we are writing a letter, playing golf, talking with someone on the telephone, bandaging a a bruised knee, or challenging an unjust policy, we make it all prayerful by recognizing the presence of God with us in what we do, when we do it, where we do it.

Our prayer can start from our work, 
the important
relationships of our lives, 
the things we wonder at,

the restlessness and loneliness of our hearts, 
our
experiences of success and satisfaction, 
a painful
conversation, a recent gift of love.

We meet God daily in all we do and all we see. Our prayer rises spontaneously in the presence of mountains or sea, in park or woods, at sunrise or sunset, of fishing and camping trips, at the sight of beautiful flowers, birds, animals, or persons. Enjoying something fully -- even something as basic as food, drink, a bath or shower, a hug, a nap -- if it is done with an awareness of God, can be prayer.

If you feel at a loss as to where to start a prayer, ask yourself what you enjoy, what you marvel at, what you struggle with, what you suffer from. God is in the depth of things. Whenever movement and energy is in our lives is where engagement with God is taking place. Pray unceasingly.

Sometimes prayer is spending time with a friend.

We are made for a relationship with God, and the hunger for this relationship lurks in our souls as a yearning.

If we take this yearning seriously, we turn to prayer     as naturally as a flower turns toward the sun or reaches it roots for water.

The heart of prayer is the awareness that the Source of our lives supports us right where we are. We are loved. And the gift of life, moment to moment, is a lover's gift -- and an invitation to friendship.

Now, in case you haven't gotten it yet, write this down and take it with you: Prayer is simply being together with God.

Acknowledging that you are always in God's presence.

Prayer is mutual awareness and the quiet exchange, as when two friends sit before a fire.

Prayer involves exchange. Just knowing that the power of the infinite surrounds us in all we do, we offer an effort to live a good life.

We give to God our human loves and our daily chores.

We give to God our small efforts to create a better world. We share with God all our concerns, for that is what friends do, isn't it?

Most of us live busy lives, and when we pray unceasingly, much of our prayer takes place on the run. Whether we operate machinery, change diapers and wash dishes, or grapple with problems at a desk or on a phone, we too can have those moments of heightened awareness and greater exchange with the Mystery that is always right where we are. We have people, concerns, and appreciations to hold up to God as we bathe and dress, as we drive from place to place, as we stand in the line at the bank or grocery store, as we wrestle with our responsibilities, and as we relax with our friends.

Friends, the prayer of a good person has a powerful affect. In God we live and have our being, and prayer is as natural as breathing. We come as you are. God is already present. As soon as we tune in, the exchange begins. It is usually quiet and low-key, but something profound is happening.

Many of you in this room can attest to the veracity of the words of James: The prayer of a good person has a powerful affect. Prayer has an affect on others, and prayer changes you. Pray unceasingly. And experience for yourself, the healing power of prayer. Amen.

How to Live Healthier and Longer:
Focus on Lively Virtues Worthy of Cultivation:
Find Out About The Power of Prayer
Find Out About The Power of Attitude
Find Out About The Power of Ritual
Find Out About The Power of Community
Find Out About The Power of Forgiveness

Find Out About The Power of Transcendence
Find Out About The Power of Laughter

 


References:

Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine
by Larry Dossey, MD

Prayer Is Good Medicine: How to Reap the Hidden Benefits of Prayer
by Larry Dossey, MD

Be Careful What You Pray For: You Just Might Get It
by Larry Dossey, MD

The Faith Factor: Proof of the Healing Power of Prayer
by Dale Matthews, Connie Clark, etc.

Healing Prayer: God's Divine Intervention in Medicine, Faith and Prayer
by Reginald B. Cherry

Medicine, Meaning and Prayer
audio cassette with Larry Dossey & 
Michael Toms

Scientific and Pastoral Perspectives on Intercessory Prayer: An Exchange Between Larry Dossey MD and Health Care Chaplain

Search Here for Books on prayer

Research Study:
Prayer Helps Heart Patients

 

Caveat::
This sermon was prepared for oral delivery from the pulpit of Christ Presbyterian Church to the congregation gathered.  For the most part, sources have not been cited.  The thoughts and ideas put forth here are my own, but I have borrowed liberally from a wide variety of sources -- and, of course, they may or may not approve of the way I have adapted their material.   
  

 

 
 


In our sacred text, the one we call Emmanuel (which means God Is With Us) said,
"I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly!"

LiveAbundantly.com  
is a world wide web ministry of 
Christ Presbyterian Church
a center of faith for living abundantly

3400 State Road
Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, 19026 USA

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