Sunday Reflections: The Relationship Between Faith and Health, Part II

Does prayer and active church participation have a positive effect on physical health and well being?

By Rev. Susan Schwartz

In last week’s article I shared that research suggests some kind of positive relationship between faith/religion/spirituality and health. A solid spirituality tends to go hand-in-hand with longer, healthier, life. How that works exactly is not so clear, but that something is there, yes, that is demonstrable.

So we finally have proof that God is real! No, not so fast. 

This is about faith, not the object of faith. This does not prove anything about the reality of God. It does not prove that Judaism or Islam or Christianity or Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, Baha’i, Zoroastrianism, or any religious tradition is “right” or “wrong.” 

At this point in time we don’t know how, using a scientific framework, to prove religious tradition. That does not mean that none of these traditions is “right,” it just means that we can’t prove it. That is where faith comes in. 

So the research says that the power of one’s faith, whether it is any of the major world traditions, or a newer form of contemplation, one’s own amalgamation of religious beliefs, in Mother Nature, the Universe or the big rock out back, whatever it is, supports one’s health. In the past few years some of the major Protestant Christian denominations have been looking seriously at the relationship between faith and health. 

Does your spirituality positively support your health?

For some the answer will be “Yes”, for others it will be “I don’t know” and for others it will be, “What is spirituality?” 

For those who say “yes” good for you. Keep on keeping on. For those who are not sure, may I suggest that you think about this a bit, because this is important stuff. May I also suggest that you talk to some trusted others about faith and spirituality. Who are the people in your life whom you just sense are solid people, make good decisions, are compassionate and caring, and well rounded? Some of them may have already been open about their faith/ spirituality. Talk to them a bit.

Now for me. To be honest with you, my faith is rooted in what I feel deep inside. In the crevices of my being I feel loved by God, and that sense gives me an anchor for my life. For me, I feel that love because I have heard the story of his son and his compassion for us, and for me, and that love shapes my life. That is where God has hooked onto me and God is never going to let go. And I believe that God’s love is for all of us. That is my faith and I believe that it is true, and I know that each one of us have to make our own decision. So how do we go about it?  Think about it, yes, talk to others, yes, and as part of that….

Explore your roots. Did you grow up in a religious tradition? What positive memories do you have of that tradition? What about that tradition was nurturing for you? What unhappy memories do you carry with you? Do you need to resolve some things and move on? What values do you want to keep? 

Examine your involvement in the community. If you're already involved in a group that specifically supports your spirituality, however you define it, great, maybe you will want to take on a larger role.

If you haven't joined a group, consider investigating those in your area or starting one of your own.

Take time for silence. Take a few minutes for silent meditation by yourself or invite someone to share it with you. Focus on your life as an individual and your place in the larger scheme of things. Spend time discussing these thoughts with others close to you.

Take a nature walk. Nature has long been an inspiration. A walk will relax you and allow you to contemplate the wonders of the world around you.

Read books that express faith/religious/spiritual ideas.  Talk with others about what you are reading.

Let me just add to this before closing, Taize Prayer is a marvelous opportunity to be open to the Spirit.

East Liberty Presbyterian Church offers Taize every Wednesday night at 7. East Liberty’s phone number is 412-441-3800. Hope Lutheran, Forest Hills offers Taize, 7 p.m., the first Friday of every month. Hope’s number is 412-241-6668.

The Rev. Susan Schwartz is pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Swissvale and Hope Lutheran Church in Forest Hills.


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