In this post I want to discuss your brain on prayer. I came across this short, three-minute video that I found very interesting. The main premise is that a brain in deep prayer shows similar activity as conversing with someone. Neurologically, there is no difference to our brain when we talk to God in prayer or physically with someone right in front of us. Now the critic would look at this data and conclude, ‘I knew it! Catholics and other religious are no different from people experiencing hallucinations or having imaginary friends!” But the critic would be wrong as any prayerful person can attest that we don’t hear real voices in our head telling us what to do when we pray. But there is a very real dialogue going on.
This goes to one of my main themes of RosaryMeds and my book, The Rosary for the Rest of Us, about the benefits of rosary prayer. At its root, rosary meditation is a dialogue with God either directly or through the intercession of Mary and the saints. This is what makes the rosary such a powerful prayer. You aren’t just talking into the void. There is someone listening on the other end and He does respond. It’s not a response in that drug-induced, “there are voices in my head” sort of way. It’s something deeper and less tangible (but still observable as the brain scans in the video show). God responds to our prayers when we suddenly have some sort of clarity on a difficult decision. He responds to us when we find that strength to do the right thing even when doing the wrong thing would be easier. He responds when we realize that some of our daily worries are trivial compared to our spiritual health. These are just a few examples of how our brain changes during prayer as a result of having a conversation with God.
The First Sorrowful Mystery, The Agony in the Garden, best shows the nature of prayer as a dialogue. Before the Pharisees arrested Jesus, He prayed to God. Jesus first asked God to find another way to redeem humanity besides Him suffering on the cross. But Jesus also showed humility and just asked for the strength to do God’s Will. But where was the dialogue? After all, there were many instances in the Gospel when God spoke as a thundering voice in the clouds. It may seem that Jesus was just speaking into nothingness in the garden of Gethsemane when he was arrested. But God did respond! He gave Jesus the strength to endure the scourging, the crown of thorns, the cross, and crucifixion. He gave Jesus clarity to forgive those who crucified Him in His final minutes of agony on the cross. And God responded by empowering the apostles, through the Holy Spirit, to spread the teachings and love that Jesus showed in His death and resurrection to the far ends of the world for generations to follow. Jesus asked God for the strength to do His Will. God heard loud and clear and responded. The over one billion Catholics worldwide bare witness to God’s response to Jesus’s prayer.
We should remember this sentence from the Memorare when we pray the rosary: “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession, was left unaided.” Our prayers are heard by God in Heaven, the saints, and our Mother Mary. And they do respond but not always in the way we expect. We should pray for the faith to truly believe this great truth and take advantage of talking to God in prayer. He’s waiting for you to pick up that spiritual phone and call Him!
- Rosary Month is Almost Over (rosarymeds.com)
- Kindle Edition of “The Rosary for the Rest of Us” Released (rosarymeds.com)
- Pope Benedict XVI: Rediscover the Rosary (frstephensmuts.wordpress.com)
- Mary TV Daily Reflection 10/22/2012 (deaconjohnspace.wordpress.com)
- The Rosary, “Luke on a chain” (newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com)
- Firefighters rescue elderly woman, saying Rosary, after tree falls into Watertown apartment and bursts into flames (boston.com)
- Three sets of five tips for the Family Rosary (newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com)
- Welcome to RosaryMeds! (rosarymeds.com)