New Harvard study links belief in God with less anxiety and depression
The Vatican is creating a multi million-dollar project it calls The Courtyard of the Gentiles, teaching non-believers about God. Could it be that turning to God is becoming a legitimate replacement for psychiatric drugs and the psychiatrist's couch?
Recently, a study by Harvard's Dr. David Hillel Rosmarin has indicated a significant reduction in depression and anxiety through spiritually-integrated cognitive-behavioral therapy (SI-CBT), in other words – prayer. A new website called WailingWallPrayer.org is demonstrating this newfound trend to seek God's help in solving our troubles; and is doing it in an interesting way.
According to Jewish tradition, a person who prays at the Wailing Wall for 40 straight days will have their prayers answered; tradition also allows them to send someone else to pray on their behalf – intercessory prayer. But this is not limited to Jews alone. Considered by the Kabbala to be the focal point of all creation, the Wailing Wall attracts visitors, ranging from popes to presidents, from the Dalai Lama to pop singers. The prophet Isaiah prophesized that the Holy Temple would become "a house of prayer for all peoples" (56:7); and, indeed we see, today, non-Jewish tourists at the Wailing Wall, often outnumbering Jews on any given day.
Six months ago, Lisa and Gregori Burd established WailingWallPrayer.org – a website that pairs up those who cannot make the journey personally with prayer agents, who pray at the wall on their behalf. "We want them to know there is a place for them here," Lisa says. "A place beyond the Courtyard, where gentiles can derive that same feeling of comfort that, until now, mainly Jews experienced at the Wailing Wall."
Ellen's 8-year old daughter, had been diagnosed with severe Crohn's disease; Tom was convinced that a job interview would be antagonistic; Karina was certain that she was going to lose her daughter in a custody case; Steve feared his son would not return from Iraq alive.
The positive outcomes of these stories have little in common, save faith in God and the intervention of someone praying on their behalf in a distant land. According to Jewish teachings, Lisa says, pain is sent for a reason, and it is taken away at the right time. The messenger who prays for the supplicant is just a vehicle to help arouse God's mercy.
"We help them to stay positive and encourage them to take on a good deed for the 40 days," Lisa explains. "We remind them that they must pray for themselves, along with their prayer agent: they're in it together, like a handshake that spans the world. It becomes a transformative experience that we hope ends in a brighter future."
Lisa and Gregori know that they can't play God, nor do they offer themselves as a one-stop shop for solving all of life's problems. "We offer no guarantees. But, with heart-felt prayers, and good intentions and commitment, we can do our best!"
Lisa, a former lawyer from Toronto and California and Gregori, who left his family's insurance business in Chicago, came to Israel in 1999 and 2001, respectively. After 5 years of countless dates, Gregori decided to try praying at the Wall for a 40-day period – as prescribed by Jerusalem tradition. Two weeks later, a mutual friend introduced the two and, two months later, they were married.
"We soon found ourselves living in the Old City, surrounded by people of all cultures and faiths from Europe, Canada and America; they all seemed to feel an inner need to go to the Wailing Wall and write a note," recounts Lisa. "Obviously, the power of the Wall was mystical. But clearly, the real power here is not in the note but in the power of the prayer itself."