How Praying for Others Can Change Your Consciousness

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The benefits apply to believers and atheists alike.

“My sister-in-law came off the ventilator just fine when doctors had lost all hope.”

“My friend recovered in a week when we were expecting it to take at least a couple of months.”

“My family was struck with COVID and my father was admitted to the hospital. I was initially stressed out but when I started intensely meditating and praying for others, it gave me the strength to cope.”

For the past month, I’ve been hearing news like this every day. With the second wave of COVID hitting India, the number of cases and deaths exacerbated the situation. In this situation, people from all over the world in our spiritual community gathered to pray for people who needed healing.

Deaths were now a daily occurrence. But so was the gratitude of people towards our prayer group when their loved ones recovered from diseases.

Some people are agnostic and don’t believe in the power of prayer. But praying for only a short time tells you that it works.

While the results may not manifest in the person you’re praying for, they will manifest in your life instantly. Every prayer is accompanied by a sense of upliftment and joy.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison found that helping others and thinking of their benefit makes us happier. “Help” doesn’t only entail direct assistance in work, it can also mean sending positive thoughts to the person.

Jillian Richardson, a 26-year old producer in New York says, “There’s so much uncertainty right now and so little in my power. When I bust out a quick prayer, especially out loud, I feel a shift inside myself from tension and distrust to a more trusting, hopeful feeling.”

She is not alone. Many people are looking to a higher power for comfort these days. Even the number of Google searches for prayers skyrocketed in March last year.

If you’re an atheist looking for “scientific” evidence, you may not be pleased. For little work has been done largely because of a lack of funding for spiritual research, according to David H. Rosmarin, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School (and director of the Spirituality and Mental Health Program at McLean Hospital, in Belmont, Mass.)

Dr. Rosmarin says that the research that has been done till now shows prayer may have similar benefits to meditation: It can calm your nervous system, shutting down your fight or flight response. It can make you less reactive to negative emotions and less angry.

Even a 2005 study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found spiritual meditation more calming than secular meditation where the focus is only on your breath or a nonspiritual word.

Researchers found that the group that practiced spiritual meditation showed greater decreases in anxiety and stress and more positive mood. They also tolerated pain almost twice as long when asked to put their hand in an ice water bath.

Experience the Power of Prayer

I can go on and on about the science of prayer. But why engage in mere intellectual understanding when you can experience it.

There are things in this world we cannot control. We’re nothing but a bunch of monkeys on a blue planet after all! Belief in a higher power gives us solace in such difficult times.

Imagine carrying a heavy backpack hour after hour. After a while, it seems impossibly hard to carry on. But if you can give it to something else, you will feel lighter when you pick it up again.

That’s what prayer does. It lets you put your mental burdens down for a bit. It doesn’t reduce the load of the burden but it does give you more strength to continue.

People have been praying for millennia before us — because it works. And it only takes a few examples to see it for yourself.

Praying for those suffering

The most common form of prayer is called intercessory prayer. We intercede for another person, praying to God for their particular situation.

You might be praying for the healing of a loved one, or helping your friend give up a bad habit. Whatever the case may be, intercessory prayer benefits everyone.

Praying for those who do you harm

For a long time, I struggled with anger. I couldn’t convert those feelings of intense hatred (though short-lived) into compassion.

Prayer is what helped me. Jesus said on the cross “forgive them for they know not what they do.” This is the ideal I try to embody.

When a person acts out, insults me, or otherwise expresses intense, negative emotion, I try not to react and stay silent. Mentally, I pray for that person to experience peace, calmness, and joy.

At the end of the day, if I like, I pray again for the person with more concentration. Prayer, more than anything, has eradicated the weeds of anger from my heart and will surely help me be rid of them completely.

Anger and hatred can only be overcome by love and compassion, prayer gives you that.

Praying for those who you’ve hurt

No matter how kind you try to be, you will hurt people intentionally or otherwise. If you do so consciously, don’t belittle yourself or feel ashamed of your act.

Yes, you may have lost your cool or said something mean. But you can rewire your behavior by having a strong desire to change.

If you’re aware enough to want to change, you’re halfway there. Praying for that person will help you calm your feelings and make peace with them quicker. A heartfelt apology can solve most issues — and praying for that person makes sure that the apology does come from your heart.

How to do it

Prayers don’t have to be complicated. Just visualize the person with concentration, and pray for him to be well in body, mind, and soul. Take inspiration from prayers of the religion you follow or from a style you’re attracted to.

“I’m so hopeless. How can I pray for others?”

In times, especially like these, it’s natural to find yourself helpless to pray for others. When our own lives are in turmoil, it seems impossible to shine the light on others.

But that’s the power of prayer. Yogananda said — “The instrument is blessed by what flows through it.” So it is, that when you pray, you act as a channel for the Higher Power to do what needs to be done. And when that power flows through you, it blesses you as well.

Praying for others shifts your focus to loftier ideals instead of being endlessly preoccupied with your life. It takes the mental chatter from the broken record about your situation to new territory. You free up tons of mental energy to look at your life from a new lens and have more strength to face it.

Broadening our sympathies through prayer also helps us to feel deep compassion for others. You can finally see others from their point of view — to take part in their pain and joy as well.

Finally, when you pray for yourself or others, you detach from your circumstances. This emotional detachment gives you the headspace to think about your problems in a new light. Instead of giving an emotional knee-jerk reaction to everything that happens in life, you learn to rest in the seat of the observer.

From that point of view, nothing is good or bad. It just is. With that nonjudgemental, life becomes lighter and more joyful.

Pray for those who suffer, pray for the world, and release the burdens you carry. I guarantee you’ll feel free from worries and stress.

The world needs our prayers, now more than any other time. And it’s time for us to actively act as channels of light, and love. The only question is, are you going to let love flow through you?

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Written on May 25, 2021