Although the very subject of prayer has divided people from different political and religious backgrounds, a recent sociological study suggests that prayer can be a very effective tool in bringing together people in diverse organizations.
According to Phys.org, a University of Connecticut sociologist led a study that confirmed the efficacy of prayer when uniting and directing people from different backgrounds towards a single purpose. The conclusions suggest that the “power” of prayer could be used to achieve the goals of an organization regardless of the background of the people it employs.
Professor Ruth Braunstein, who led the study with a few sociologists, said that interfaith group prayer serves as a “bridging cultural practice.” Dr. Braunstein said:
“The prayer practices we observed appear to play a crucial role in binding participants together across significant racial and socioeconomic differences.
“They do this by being inclusive of multiple faith traditions, celebrating the diversity of the group, and encouraging individuals to interact with each other.”
Braunstein and colleagues investigated multi-faith community organizing groups, whose members come from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Fifty percent of the members of these groups involved are non-Caucasians.
In their fieldwork analysis, the sociologists found that although the groups had many reasons to remain divided, prayer tended to direct them towards unity and single-mindedness. Surprisingly, the groups Braunstein investigated consisted of drastically diverse members in terms of religion. In the group Braunstein did her fieldwork in, there were Christian, Jewish, and Muslim members.
The researchers concluded that the more diverse an organization is, the more effective prayer became when promoting unity within the circle.
University of Mexico sociologist Richard Wood, who was one of the co-authors of the study, said:
“American society can learn a lot from organizations that are struggling honestly to embrace diversity—especially as we become a majority-minority society in the coming decades, with high levels of income inequality,”
Not only does prayer have useful societal value, the religious activity has also been found to bring health and psychological benefits. A related study has been done at Harvard, where a scientist found out that people who pray go into a “relaxation response.” This period momentarily decreases the metabolism rate, heart rate, and blood pressure in a person.
A rising field called “neurotheology” — which involves the relation between the brain, mind, and religious activities — is raising some interest among psychologists and neuroscientists and is expected to take off within the decade.
[Image from Sergei Frolov via Wikimedia]