This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
Like many aspects of spirituality, exactly how prayer works is a mystery. Several theories exist. The easiest physiologic explanation is that prayer helps people handle stress more effectively. During any tense or anxiety-producing situation, the body's adrenal glands release chemicals that raise the heart rate and blood pressure and lower immunity. Praying helps people maintain lower stress levels, thus enhancing immunity and promoting health in general. In addition, people who pray tend to have a sense of purpose and to find meaning in life. Such a positive outlook also may promote health and well-being.
In recent years, many studies have appeared about the efficacy of distant healing for various medical conditions. However, just how prayer can help people across vast distances continues to evade conventional or physical explanation.