There was a perfect lying -down spot on the sofa. The beautiful sun of Sydney shone through the glass door into the living room. The piano music from the YouTube album on prayer drifted through the room.
Nudie and Jack were already relaxed and suntanning at their corners. Nudie is my daughter’s hairless Sphinx cat and Jack is her newly-acquired cat. It was a very beautiful picture of peace. Usually they would be chasing each other’s tail, running and plonking up and down the stairs.
I was writing and rewriting a script for an upcoming talk. I was anxiously cancelling and adding notes to the script. The empty space between the two cats called out to me. It was cold where I was; the sofa looked warm and inviting. It looked like a zone of peace.
I laid down. The cats didn’t move; they were transfixed by the peaceful presence of the room. I started to pray. The peace was out of this world; it was beyond words. I entered into a sphere, a special zone of God’s felt presence.
Something happens inside when you pray. One of the ways to exercise spiritual self-care is prayer.
Prayer is attached to your tranquillity system. When you pray, you release a healthy supply of GABA. GABA is a tranquillity neurotransmitter that is distributed in the neurons of the brain and the nervous system. It calms you down, it brings perspectives, it vitalises hope. GABA is the braking system in your brain. Without GABA, your brain will go on an activity overdrive and burnout is the outcome of that kind of brain.
Prayer has the force to change the state of your mind. An anxious state can be changed into a less anxious state or even a calm state. John Ortberg an author said that a prayerful life experiences inner peace and contentment. Dr Catherine Hart another author said that prayer is a critical factor to recovery and well-being.
One of the peace-killers is anxiety. Modern life has many stresses – working for a living, health issues, matters relating to people near to us and dear to us etc. Your brain is designed to cope with stress. One hormone which helps us cope is cortisol. It’s a stress hormone produced in the brain. It’s like an alarm bell in the fire station to tell you that there’s a fire to be put out. It alerts and rallies the body and brain systems to put out that fire. All is well if the fires are put out.
But sometimes you are so harassed by the cares in your lives that you carry them all and find yourselves anxious about anything and everything. There are just too many fires to put out. The mind can be so easily cluttered with toxic thoughts and worries. Anxiety can cause a lack of sleep and a lack of appetite.
Prayer helps you to unload your anxieties and cares to a personal God, whom you believe is interested in you and attends to you when you are in trouble.
In prayer you see possibilities in problems. One day I was asked to give a talk. I was quite anxious about the title of the talk. I prayed before I slept and that prayerful attitude must have been carried into my sleep for me to have a vivid dream that night. In big letters, the title of my talk flashed out – MAX YOUR POTENTIAL formed with puffy clouds in the sky.
Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist, did some research on prayer and the brain. He found that prayer activates the parietal lobe. The parietal lobe processes space, touch, vision and language. When you pray, you enter into the visual space where pictures can be accessed. One phrase or one picture can change circumstances for you. Philip Yancey, an author and a public speaker said, “Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.”
Spiritual self-care is a necessary part of life. When you pray, it’s like making deposits into your spiritual bank account. Your hopes are raised, your anxieties are lowered, your horizons expand, your resources and possibilities multiply. You are the richer for it when you pray!