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Study: Prayer reduces alcoholic cravings

Praying in a cathedral in Tuscany, Italy. Photo: ashokboghani/Flickr/Creative Commons

Praying in a cathedral in Tuscany, Italy. Photo: ashokboghani/Flickr/Creative Commons

Researchers with New York University’s Langone Medical Center have discovered that prayer helps a person reduce their cravings for alcohol.

In their study, the group performed MRI brain scans on 20 people who were long-term participants with Alcoholics Anonymous.

The chosen 20 all stated that they did not have any cravings for alcohol during the previous week.

There were two phases to the testing. During both phases the participants viewed alcoholic drinks and across the board all participants said they felt a craving for alcohol.

After viewing alcohol in the first test, the AA group was given a newspaper to read and during the second test they were told to recite AA’s prayer that promotes abstinence.

The AA prayer also called the serenity prayer was developed for the organization by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and goes like this:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can. And wisdom to know the difference.”

The research group discovered that the participants stated there was a significant reduction in their alcoholic cravings after praying compared to when they read a newspaper.

The MRI scans noted similar results.

Viewing the alcoholic images stimulated two areas of the brain — the pre-frontal cortex that controls attention and the area of the brain that controls emotion and how the person responds to that emotion.

This suggests a strong emotional response to alcohol that can be triggered by simply walking by a bar.

After uttering their prayer, these areas of the brain settled down much more quickly than when the participants read a newspaper.

The Daily Mail writes that the report’s senior author, Dr. Marc Galanter, has been studying the the positive impact of spirituality in the AA program for several years. He noted that only when the participants have a “spiritual awakening” are they able to transition to a different stage when dealing with their addiction.

Other studies have shown similar results to the power of prayer. One study found that people who prayed everyday drank half the alcohol of those who didn’t pray.

The first step in dealing with addictions is simply acknowledging that you do not have the strength on your own to control it and that you need God’s help.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

And He [God] has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 2:9 NASV)


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