If you’ve ever said a prayer or sat and meditated, then you have likely experienced the sense of calm and comfort that can come from these kinds of practices. That’s because prayer and meditation actually positively influence the brain and body—helping us to feel more relaxed, centered, and at ease physically and mentally.
Both prayer and meditation are powerful tools to support health and well-being. And when combined, they can become even more powerful!
Let’s learn a little bit more about each of these practices, what they can offer us, and how to experiment with wrapping prayer and meditation into a single practice.
What is prayer?
Prayer includes any set of practices that involve communing with a power greater than oneself.
Prayer is most often tied to specific religious traditions and a belief in God, but it can also be non-denominational. For some people, prayer means talking or listening to God, and for others it may mean speaking specific sacred words, giving thanks, asking for guidance from the universe, or even simply opening one’s heart and mind to a higher power or shared consciousness.1
The benefits of prayer
Prayer can be a tricky thing to study, so researchers are still trying to learn more about its effects on our health and well-being. So far, experts have found that the benefits of prayer may include:
- Calming the nervous system and turning down the fight-or-flight stress response
- Altering brain activity
- Reducing anger and aggression
- Preserving memory as we age
- Increasing mood and emotional well-being
- Enhancing the sense of support and connection in one’s life
- Boosting tolerance to pain1 2 3 4 5 6
What is meditation?
Meditation as a practice has been around for thousands of years.
During meditation, you use various techniques to focus your attention and heighten your awareness. It often involves sitting quietly and tuning your attention to something specific, while bringing an open, non-judgmental awareness to the present-moment experience.
While meditation often brings about a sense of relaxation and calm, it isn’t necessarily always the primary goal. There are many different forms of meditation each with a unique approach, including mindfulness meditation, transcendental meditation, loving-kindness meditation, and more. Different forms of meditation might include things like visualization, tuning into physical sensations in the body, focusing on the breath, repeating certain phrases to yourself, and so on.
The benefits of meditation
Meditation offers a long list of incredible benefits for physical, mental, and emotional health. Some of the research-backed benefits of meditation include:
- Promoting relaxation and increasing a sense of calm in the brain and body
- Reducing blood pressure
- Reducing muscle tension
- Altering brain activity and influencing levels of certain neurotransmitters
- Relieving chronic pain
- Supporting irritable bowel syndrome
- Easing symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Increasing the ability to cope with illness and disease
- Relieving insomnia and improving sleep
- Enhancing self-esteem
- Increasing the ability to cope with illness and disease
- Improving concentration2 3 7 8
How do prayer and meditation relate?
Prayer and meditation can have a lot of overlap, and they are often practiced together. In fact, meditative practices are part of many different religious traditions around the world that have been around for thousands of years, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
Prayer can, in some cases, be meditative. And meditation can, in some cases, be prayerful.
For example, in prayer one may find they are best able to connect with God by getting quiet, sitting still, and clearing their mind, or perhaps by repeating certain sacred words or phrases to focus their attention. Many people find that when they sink into a meditative state, they end up feeling closer to something bigger than themselves, and they are able to access a sense of connection to something like God or the universe.
Both meditation and prayer offer some of the same benefits, too. As deep, reflective practices, they both light up certain areas of the brain while turning down others—with an overall positive effect that helps us to feel better and deal with challenges with greater ease.9
Meditation and prayer are both tools that can help us to get out of the fight-or-flight stress response. This means that we can become less reactive and overwhelmed, and more grounded, clear, and intentional when reacting to events and situations that come our way.9
Why combine prayer with meditation?
Prayer and meditation are both powerful tools for slowing down, getting more centered, and balancing our psychological and emotional well-being. And when they are combined, they can enhance each other’s effects even more.
A meditative practice is great at helping you to center in, clear your mind of distractions, and harness your attention. By adding a spiritual component like prayer, you might find that your meditation practice becomes something even more powerful for you.
And if you already pray but don’t meditate, you might find that meditation can help you to become even more still, present, and open, allowing you to be more receptive and tuned in for your time of communing with a higher power.
Some of the benefits of combining prayer and meditation might include giving yourself opportunities to:
- Connect even more deeply to something bigger than yourself.
- Feel a sense of support in knowing you are not alone and do not have to hold your challenges or suffering all on your own.
- Open yourself up to new ideas, creative solutions, and guidance from God or the universe.
- Have unexpected and powerful experiences that might not be available to you or accessible in your normal consciousness or regular day-to-day routine.
- Become more grounded, centered, and balanced so that you can cope with challenges and move about your day with greater intention and ease.
Prayer and meditation combined can take one or both of these practices to the next level for you, amplifying each of their effects and creating something even more impactful.
Research suggests combining prayer and meditation leads to even greater benefits
What is interesting is that research has actually found that adding a spiritual component to meditation enhances its benefits.
For example, one study found that when people practiced spiritual meditation, they experienced greater decreases in anxiety and greater increases in positive mood than those who practiced meditation alone (without any religious or prayerful element). The spiritual meditators also were able to tolerate pain twice as long as the non-spiritual meditators when asked to hold their hand in ice water.6
How to combine prayer with meditation
There are many ways to combine prayer and meditation.
Some people like to start their time with meditative techniques like focusing on the breath. And then once they feel centered and have cleared away their distractions, they may shift their intention to listening to or receiving guidance from whatever power they believe in.
Others like to say a prayer first, and then sit quietly and allow whatever arises to arise. And yet others might choose to use words of prayer, gratitude, or praise to anchor their attention while sitting in a meditative practice.
It really is up to you, your faith, and your goals with the practice. Notice what soothes you most, what helps you feel the most balanced and connected, and what supports your body, mind, and soul in the deepest way possible.
It may take some time for you to find what works for you and how you like to best practice prayer and meditation together. And you might also find that each time you choose to sit down for this sacred type of practice, that it looks a little different depending on what you need most on that day.
Just remember—meditation and prayer can be wonderful tools for health and well-being, and they can be even more wonderful when coupled together! So give it a try, do some experimentation, and see what it might open up for you.
Prayer and Meditation balancer Virtual Item
Prayer & Meditation is a service Virtual Item that can be scanned in the Balance, Select, or Elite software. You can see how the body responded to this digital signature in the Advanced Report. A positive number means that the body showed a preference, or biological coherence, for that item. Furthermore, the number indicates how coherent the response was. If Prayer and Meditation was one of the body’s top 5 services, it will also appear in the main report.
About Chelsea Clark
Chelsea Clark is a writer and certified health and wellness coach who is passionate about supporting others along their own health journeys. She enjoys helping people make positive, lasting changes so that they can live the happiest, healthiest life possible.
1. “Prayer.” Regents of the University of Minnesota. Takingcharge.csh.umn.edu.
2. “Meditation: In Depth.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Nccih.nih.gov
3. Dobrakowski, P., M. Blaszkiewicz, & S. Skalski. “Changes in the Electrical Activity of the Brain in the Alpha and Theta Bands during Prayer and Meditation.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 17, no. 24 (2020): 9567.
4. Wachholtz, A.B., & K.I. Pargament. “Is Spirituality a Critical Ingredient of Meditation? Comparing the Effects of Spiritual Meditation, Secular Meditation, and Relaxation on Spiritual, Psychological, Cardiac, and Pain Outcomes.” Journal of Behavioral Medicine 28, no. 4 (2005): 369–384.
5. Rogers, Kristin. “The psychological benefits of prayer: What science says about the mind-soul connection.” Cable News Network. CNN.com.
6. Bernstein, E. “The Science of Prayer.” Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Wsj.com.
7. Andrade, C., & R. Radhakrishnan. “Prayer and healing: A medical and scientific perspective on randomized controlled trials.” Indian Journal of Psychiatry 51, no. 4 (2009): 247–253.
8. “Meditation.” Cleveland Clinic. My.clevelandclinic.org.
9. Spector, Nicole. “This is your brain on prayer and meditation.” NBC News. Nbcnews.com.