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You may have first learned to pray at your mother's knee. You decided that, in times of trouble, prayer could open up a pathway to enlightenment and peace. You might have said a prayer before a big test, before showing your parents your report card, or before the final football game of the season.

There appears to be a link between prayer and healing. Medical studies have even concluded that patients who have other people to pray for them tend to fare better than those without such prayer support. Whether it's a single prayer or a flood of prayers, it has been said that prayer can move mountains—and that is particularly true when the mountain is debilitating illness.

Because of the connection between prayer and healing, it is no surprise that a number of doctors recommend prayer and meditation as stress relievers. Prayer forces an individual to take time out, to spend some quiet time alone with one's thoughts. Prayer also requires that a person look outward toward a Superior Being for strength and support. Prayer can enable an individual to re-gain focus and concentration so that he or she can better work through problems and therefore experience less stress.

Prayer has been shown to be a positive energy force. It makes an individual feel wanted and loved by a Higher Power. It can help to motivate a person to seek solutions rather than to simply complain about his or her problems. Prayer can enable an individual to see difficulties in a new light, which can contribute to stress reduction.

It is important to point out that prayer for stress relief can come in a variety of forms. For instance, there is spoken prayer, where an individual recites words to his or her Creator. This may be the most basic form of prayer. Whether it's an Our Father, a prayer to the Holy Spirit, or a quick ejaculation such as "Lord, help me," prayer opens a window to communication to the Almighty and therefore leads to feelings of comfort.

Another type of prayer is meditation. This can be a particularly effective stress-reliever. Meditation forces an individual to contemplate something other than his or her own problems, whether it's nature, a verse of Scripture, a scene from the life of God, or some other source. The reflection can lead to quiet contemplation which can slow one's heart beat, lower one's blood pressure, and even lead to feelings of euphoria.

A number of 12-step recovery programs have prayer as their foundation. The appeal to a Higher Power helps an individual to put his or her problems into perspective. Prayer recognizes that the individual is not alone—that there is a greater Being guiding his or her life. Prayer, in essence, can help individuals to cope when other methods—particularly drug or alcohol use—have failed.

Surveys show that the vast majority of Americans believe in God, so prayer is not a foreign concept to them. However, many Americans haven't prayed in years. They may be afraid of condemnation from God or from other people. They may simply not know the words they should use. They may even feel so unworthy that they cannot summon up the courage to pray.

However, one advantage to prayer is that it can be picked up quickly. If you find it difficult to pray, consider picking up a book on prayer from a bookstore or from a religious group. You might even consider joining a prayer group or Bible study group in order to enrich your prayer life. If you're still having trouble, you might consult with a pastor to find some effective prayer strategies.

The stresses of work and home can seem overwhelming at times. As a result, a number of people find that they must take time out to pray in order to better handle the many challenges they face. Prayer is like anything else—the more you do it, the more comfortable you become doing it. Even if you don't have a specific faith tradition, prayer can be a powerful weapon in your arsenal against stress. If you start and end your day with prayer, you may be amazed at how your stress level seems to plummet

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