by Don Ingwerson
Millions of Americans attend church each week – many more than once. Yet it seems the focus tends to be about those who forgo church. But why isn’t more attention given to how church services enrich lives rather than reasons for not attending? Is it because church is personal and benefits are hard to quantify? The interesting thing is that some of the reasons for not attending include having a higher priority for being with friends (companionship), and having the only time to work out at the gym or participate in a yoga class (exercise). These are healthy motives.
But it turns out that attending church, where you find a bolstering effect from shared prayers, is also healthy. According to author T.M. Luhrmann, “one of the most striking scientific discoveries about religion in recent years is that going to church weekly is good for you. Religious attendance — at least, religiosity — boosts the immune system and decreases blood pressure. It may add as much as two to three years to your life.”
Relying on prayer and the collaborative effort of church members’ shared reverence for God affect health. Mary Baker Eddy, an early health researcher who wrote Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, presents a clear guideline for prayer to influence health – which leads to a life that is more flexible, centered, and balanced. She states, “To reduce inflammation, dissolve a tumor, or cure organic disease, I have found divine Truth [God] more potent than all lower remedies.”
As an example, my wife and I experienced the beneficial effects of church attendance and supportive prayers from church members when she was playing the leading role as a gun moll at the Pasadena Playhouse. She was to fall down a flight of stairs each night, but the night before the final evening she injured her back and couldn’t move freely without pain. She called a church friend to pray with her. While talking with this friend, my wife realized that it may not have been the fall that caused the back problem, but that she felt like she had been stabbed in the back in a business deal.
My wife started feeling relief from the pain as both she and her church friend prayed to know, as stated in the Bible, that “…God created man in his own image…” and that this businessperson had to actually be honest. The full healing came the next day – the final day of her performance – when this person offered a full refund of the funds he had collected. To make that day even more special, an usher came down the center aisle during the final curtain call with a dozen red roses. My wife thought they were from me but instead they were from members of the church she had attended as a child.
Understanding that God is all, that God is all good, and that every person reflects this goodness – all integral prayer components in Christian Science – brought about healing. And that healing experience was the direct result of the prayers from a church friend and enriched by members from her childhood church. Finding healing through prayer and reliance on church should never be considered anything but a powerful influence for good health.