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Prayer and meditation 

Prayer and meditation
Chapter:
Prayer and meditation
Author(s):

Marek Jantos

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199571390.003.0049
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date: 12 December 2017

Prayer and meditation are spiritual practices central to the world’s oldest faith traditions and cultures. From earliest human history to the present day these practices have found expression in varied forms, rituals, and arenas of life. Prayer for some conjures images of a bowed head and bended knees, or of arms raised to heaven, but it can also take the form of singing, chanting, ecstatic whirling, or the spinning of a prayer wheel. Prayers may have set times of the day, or be spontaneous expressions of petition and praise. Likewise meditation, with its predominantly Biblical and Eastern origins, can conjure images of thoughtful reflection, meditative postures and contemplative practices focussed on attention regulation, breathing, chanting and movement. Each of these practices, whether in the context of personal growth or as a response to a health crisis, reflects an innate human yearning for the sacred and a relationship with a higher power. Recognizing the continued centrality of prayer and meditation in modern life, peak bodies such as the United States National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and individual researchers continue to examine the efficacy of prayer and meditation in relation to health and wellbeing. The results have generated considerable discussion and controversy, particularly in relation to the metaphysical assumptions underpinning empirical investigation and potential mechanisms by which they impact health.

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