How the Power of Prayer Helps Me Face My Psoriasis
Prayer or meditation can be an important part of any treatment plan.
By Howard Chang
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The summer after I graduated from high school, members of my church gathered to pray for me. They knew about my daily challenges with severe psoriasis, and that I was going to enter a psoriasis day-care clinic for six weeks. I felt cared for and I appreciated their attention.
I hoped beyond hope that something miraculous would happen, but a part of me remained skeptical. The experience also raised several questions for me as a young person of faith. Is it selfish to pray for yourself when the world hasrealproblems? Is it possible to know if such a spiritual practice can be a healing force in the face of a physical condition like psoriasis? Am I wasting my time praying if my health doesn’t improve?
Days passed, and nothing changed. Not only did my psoriasis not improve, but it took longer than expected to respond to the daylong treatments I underwent at the clinic.
I came away wondering if I should just give up on prayer altogether. Today, I’m an ordained minister, but I still suffer from severe, chronic psoriasis. If prayer didn’t heal my psoriasis, I needed to see if something else could come from it.
Prayer Can Be a Strategy to Cope With Illness
I came to realize that, even if prayer didn’t lead to full remission or cure my psoriasis, it did help me cope with the condition. I even found research online, like this study published in February 2015 in the journalEvidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, that supports the idea of personal prayer as a coping strategy for people with a chronic condition.
A couple of my favorite stories from the Bible are about people with physical ailments affecting the skin. In one story, Naaman the leper is healed after bathing in the Jordan River. In another, Paul’s prayers that the Lord remove a “thorn” in his flesh go unanswered.
I have to say, my own experience with psoriasis has been more like Paul’s than Naaman’s. One of the reasons I identify with Paul’s story is that his continued suffering resulted in personal growth through patience and humility. So has my “thorn,” psoriasis, made me a more compassionate and understanding person.
Prayer Can Help Relax the Mind and Body
Besides strengthening a person’s character, prayer can lead to a beneficial state of relaxation. An article titled “Why People Who Pray Are Healthier Than Those Who Don’t,” written by Richard Schiffman for the Huffington Post, helped me understand the physical effects that prayer and meditation can have.
The article cites the cardiovascular specialist Herbert Benson, MD, who “discovered what he calls ‘the relaxation response,’ which occurs during periods of prayer and meditation. At such times, the body’s metabolism decreases, the heart rate slows, blood pressure goes down, and our breath becomes calmer and more regular.”
Personally, I’ve noticed that my Apple Watch often registers time spent in church worship services, prayer, or meditation as sleep. That’s because my heart rate slows, my mind calms, and my body relaxes. It’s not sleep, but it has a restorative effect.
Prayer and meditation can improve and protect your emotional health, as this Everyday Health article describes. They provide a sense of purpose and social support, while lifting your spirits and helping you face life’s difficulties.
Prayer as Part of a Holistic Approach to Wellness
My experiences as a patient and minister have taught me that prayer can be part of a holistic approach to treating a person’s body, mind, and soul.
If someone asks if they can pray for me, the gesture touches my soul both through their offer and the prayer itself. Much of my emotional healing from the bullying and teasing that I faced in childhood came through prayers.
As a minister, I’ve seen the beneficial power of prayer in others. When my friend’s sister-in-law Lucy’s cancer became very advanced, I was asked to visit the family. Lucy was in and out of consciousness, but she accepted my invitation to pray for her. With her loved ones gathered around, Lucy squeezed my hand at the end of the prayer. I truly believe that prayer offered some peace and solace to Lucy, who passed away a couple of days later.
Prayer alone may not cure or heal illness. Still, science, faith, and experience have shown me that it can help treat not only a condition but the whole person. Whatever health matters you may face, try making prayer or meditation part of your treatment plan.
You can read more about my experiences in my blog for Everyday Health and on my website.
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