Healing yourself with practical prayer

Science has proven that prayer can be an effective self-help tool -- whether or not you're a "religious" person. Here's one way to harness the power of prayer.

By Diana Shepherd
Updated: September 16, 2014
Health and Well Being

The idea of using prayer and ritual to heal both body and soul is an old one. Ancient oral and written histories tell of priests or shamans who were called upon to cure physical ailments by driving "evil spirits" from their patients' bodies. As the scientific body of knowledge about healing grew, "civilized" people began to favor drug and surgical methods over the old spiritual approach.

Today, however, there are more than 1,200 studies documenting the healing power of prayer -- and this was regardless of the individual's religious beliefs or affiliations. These studies suggest that you should at least consider using prayer and/or ritual to help you recover from a life crisis such as divorce. And you don't have to join a church or temple to reap the benefits of prayer: this is something you can practice on your own in the privacy of your home. But how to begin?

Dr. John Rossiter-Thornton -- a psychiatrist based in Toronto, ON -- has developed an interesting self-help prayer technique that he says "frequently brings about rapid therapeutic results." He developed the Prayer Wheel (see illustration, below) because of the "overwhelming research demonstrating the healing power of prayer. Most people have a concept of a Higher Power, or a force outside themselves -- even if they choose to think of it as their own 'Higher Self' or unconscious mind," says Dr. Rossiter-Thornton. So you can address your prayers to whatever force you believe can help you -- whether that's God or your own subconscious.

"You shouldn't get hung up on whom or what you're talking to," he says. "You don't have to believe in physical fitness in order to get fit: you just have to exercise and eat sensibly. Prayer is like a mental fitness exercise: if you pray, you'll increase your mental fitness."

He urges people not to take his word for it, though. "Try it yourself and see what happens. When you use the Prayer Wheel regularly, things will start to happen."

Using the Prayer Wheel

The Prayer Wheel takes 40 minutes to complete (five minutes per segment). If you have less time, you can shorten any segment -- except "Listen" -- or complete the areas you most need. "People get stuck at different segments of the Wheel," says Dr. Rossiter-Thornton. If you're having difficulty with one of these areas, that's often a clue that you need to do more work here. Many people find "Forgiveness" and "Needs" to be the most challenging areas.


Here are some of the most important aspects of the Prayer Wheel.

  • Count your blessings. This allows you to focus on what is going well in your life -- something people experiencing separation or divorce rarely do.
  • Ask for protection and guidance. You are requesting this both against external and internal influences. According to Dr. Rossiter-Thornton, "Your own thoughts and ideas can do far more damage than anything others say to you."
  • Forgive. "It's incredibly important to forgive yourself as well as your ex. Reaching an equitable, amicable agreement will save you money and is much easier on your psyche," he says.
  • Request needs. We all have needs, but some of us have a hard time identifying them -- and an even harder time asking for help.
  • Listen. "This is the most important segment of the Wheel," says Rossiter-Thornton. "The thoughts, words, feelings, or images that come to you here will give you a new perspective on your life." Record your thoughts in a notebook for future reference.

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June 13, 2006
Categories:  Coping with Divorce

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