The Power of Positive Prayer-and of Negative by Mary Montgomery
Column: CyberWeave:Spirituality and the Internet
For many, the recent visit of Pope Francis to the United States marked a high watermark in positive energy and prayer. As I listened to the reporters and commentators covering the story, I was struck by how often I heard them speak about the strong vibration of peace and love that would permeate a room as soon as the pope entered. Because of this, Pope Francis was compared to other world leaders like Nelson Mandela known for their aura of love and peace. Another comparison could certainly be made with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
For me, the most moving part of Pope Francis’s visit was the coming together in positive prayer of so many men and women from many faith traditions including Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu. Indeed, I was so moved by that event that I texted, emailed or Facebooked the following heartfelt message to many of my friends and family:
Pope Francis’s Interfaith Service at Ground Zero was SO moving – especially the moment of silence when we were asked to pray, the children singing, “Let there be peace and let it begin with me,” and when we all were asked to embrace others in a sign of peace.
And so… to you I say:
May Peace Be With You.
And—if you didn’t get this message from me then, I humbly offer it to you now.
Over the years, I have written much about the power of positive thought and prayers. During the recent Institute of Noetic Sciences Conference in Oakbrook, IL, however, a friend stressed the idea that negative prayers are very powerful and, in fact, are a growing threat in today’s society. That friend is Bill Sweet from Spindrift Research (www.spindriftresearch.org), an organization founded in 1969 to study the effects of consciousness and prayer with scientific methods. Recently, Bill followed up by emailing me the text from Question #10 from the FAQ section of their site. According to Bill and the website, Spindrift warned about negative and evil prayers before others noticed and that it is now a matter of national security.
Hmmm… Quite frankly, I found the argument put forth on the Spindrift website hard to resonate with because of its main emphasis on the negative prayer power of Islamic extremists. That being said, one only has to open a history book to see the havoc that negative prayer and negative religion has wrought upon the world throughout the ages. Dr. Larry Dossey (www.dosseydossey.com), one of the most prominent researchers on prayer, addressed this in his 1997 book, Be Careful What You Pray For… You Just Might Get It. Dossey states:
As we venture into the domain of negative prayer, let us bear in mind that religion has always kept close company with the sinister side of things. The briefest glance at the history of any religious tradition shows that the divisions separating spirituality and magic, light and shadow, have always been permeable. Paying attention to history is one of the best safeguards I know of resisting the temptation to reject the evidence for negative prayer without a hearing.
Right now, I suspect that some of my New Age readers are shrugging their shoulders and sighing, “Yes, but that’s all that mainline institutionalized religion stuff! It’s not about us!” So, let me share a story from my personal life—an incident that demonstrates that negative power can be found in many places. During the 1970s, a little store dedicated to all things WICCA opened up in the Belmont/Central area of Chicago. A girlfriend and I decided to visit the shop. At first, it was a delightful experience. The shop was filled with herbs, powders and amulets of every description and the atmosphere was very light and airy. Then, a thin, wiry man walked into the store. Immediately the atmosphere changed. It was like getting hit with a wall of dark, sticky- as-molasses energy. Pleasant chatter ceased. Customers actually stopped what they were doing and turned to stare at the man. The proprietor quickly tended to the man and was visibly relieved when he left. He confided to the rest of us: “He’s into black witchcraft. We don’t like it when he comes into our store.”
So, the negative can come in all kinds of packages.
But that begs two questions: Why is negative prayer so powerful? And what can we do about it?
Why is negative prayer so powerful?
There is a growing body of scientific research that is providing some insights about how this negative prayer (you can substitute thought) works. In a 2012 Psychology Today article entitled “Can Prayer Harm?” (www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199703/can-prayer-harm), Dr. Dossey asks the question, “Can our thoughts affect events and peoples’ actions?” He answers that various experiments suggest that the answer is yes. He gives a number examples including this one: “In several different studies on the effectiveness of vitamin E on angina, the results could be directly correlated with the researchers’ positive or negative expectations. If researchers thought the vitamin would affect the disease positively, it did, and if they thought it wouldn’t have any effect, it didn’t.”
Another example comes from the groundbreaking research of the late Dr. Maseru Emoto (http://masaru-emoto.net.html) whose work was featured in the movie What the Bleep Do We Know!? Emoto’s research indicated that water exposed to positive speech and thoughts would result in visually pleasing crystals being formed when that water was frozen. Negative intention, however, would yield ugly or loosely formed crystal formations. Emoto believed that water is a blueprint for our reality and that emotional energies and vibrations can change the physical structure of water. Why is that important? Consider this: In some organisms, up to 90% of their body weight comes from water. For humans, that percentage is 60%—and according to H. H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water. If Dr. Emoto is right and the structure of water is affected by the intentions directed at it, then those outside intentions, negative or positive, can, indeed, affect the very structure of our watery beings!
What can we do about it?
There is scientific research that can help us answer this question. One of those who have focused on answering this question is Rick Hanson, Ph.D. (www.rickhanson.net), a psychologist, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley and author of several books including Hardwiring Happiness and Buddha’s Brain. Dr. Hanson’s oft-quoted statement puts the situation in a very succinct package: “The mind is like Velcro for negative experiences, and Teflon for positive ones.”
Dr. Hanson points out that most of the moments of our lives are either neutral or positive. The problem is that these moments get remembered with standard memory systems—here one moment and gone the next! Negative experiences on the other hand are instantly registered and intensely focused on, based on an underlying negative bias of the brain. These negative moments get stored in what’s called “implicit memory” which is feeling-oriented and which directly feeds our underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies and mood.
Wow! If this is happening to us as we experience our everyday life, then think of how this must be multiplied if we are soaking up the vibrations of negative prayer and intention! What can we do? Dr. Hanson has a plan and here’s the thumbnail:
Step #1: Turn positive events or moments into positive experiences by adding attention and feeling. For example, if you receive a compliment, pay attention to that instead of deflecting it.
Step #2: Now that you’re paying attention, really savor that positive experience for 10 – 30 seconds. Research shows that it takes this time range to make those positive experiences stick and implant them into your “implicit memory.”
Step #3: Sense and intend that this positive experience is becoming woven into the fabric of your brain and yourself.
Step #4: This is a bonus step. It can be hard to do, but is very powerful, according to Dr. Hanson. Let your old painful material be in the background of your awareness. At the same time, position your current positive experience in the foreground of you awareness. Hold both the background pain and the foreground positive experience in your awareness for 10-30 seconds straight. Dr. Hanson states that this will help fill the hole in your heart.
Of course, there are other strategies that help protect us from the effects of negative prayer and negative intention. One of them is using positive prayer to counteract negative prayer. One of these is one that many of us in the Christian tradition learned as children. This prayer was highlighted in that Psychology Today article by Dr. Dossey. He tells this story:
When I began to explore negative prayer, I asked Native American shamans in northern New Mexico, where I live, whether they thought this phenomenon was real. They all said yes. I inquired about their favorite methods of protection. One shaman asked me jokingly if I’d every heard of the Lord’s Prayer. He urged me to read it again, focusing on the phrase, “Deliver us from evil.” “You white people have one of the most powerful forms of protection, and you don’t even know it,” he smiled.
Now isn’t that a great observation and also great advice? I do believe in exploring a wide range of techniques that can help us perfect the task at hand, which is doing something so that these world-wide increases in negative prayer do not negatively affect us. But like the Native American shaman pointed out, we also already have resources like the Lord’s Prayer that we should be using.
Hmmm… But what about protecting not only ourselves as individuals, but also our family, our friends, our community, our country, the world? Now, there is some food for thought—and the subject of a future column.
My Advice: Get your feeling of AWE on by visiting the water crystal section of Dr. Maseru Emoto’s website (http://masaru-emoto.net/english/water-crystal.html) and viewing the photos from his research. Don’t forget to check out more of those stay-positive strategies at (www.rickhanson.net) and explore the wonderful insights and research of Dr. Larry Dossey (www.dosseydossey.com).
P.S.: One of my regular readers, Debbie Hillman, emailed me to say that she particularly enjoyed my October column about Mothers Trust (www.motherstrust.org) in Ganges, Michigan and the Chicago Wisdom Project (http://chicagowisdomproject.org). She wanted me to share the fact that there is a large network of food-and-farm projects in the Chicago area—everything from urban farms and community gardens to food scrap compost projects and food co-ops. These attract people of all ages, ethnic groups and spiritual traditions. The umbrella organization that connects all this is Advocates for Urban Agriculture (http://auachicago.org). AUA has a list-serv that presents monthly events and public policy projects (http://groups.google.com/group/advocates-for-urban-agriculture). All who are interested in this topic are invited to join and participate.
Mary Montgomery’s company, Montgomery Media Enterprises, specializes in public relations, writing projects and social media development, especially in the non-profit sector. Ms. Montgomery has a Master’s Degree in Religious Studies from Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS). She has completed the coursework in doctoral studies with a focus on Altruism and Unconditional Love. Contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please use Cyberweave in the subject line. You can also visit her at her new blog, SpiritualTravelerGuides.com.