You may download the Leader Guide as a PDF file or use the Leader Guide as listed below.
Prayer and Faith – Mind, Body, Spirit: Are They Connected?
SESSION FOUR LEADER GUIDE
This leader guide is designed to follow each page of the fourth session: “PRAYER AND FAITH – MIND, BODY, SPIRIT: ARE THEY CONNECTED?” with background for the leader and helpful references for expanding the learning. This fourth lesson may be taught as one longer continuous session, such as at a retreat setting, or as separate sessions (approximately one hour) that cover each page of the session. You may wish to have youth view the website, or individual pages, on their own, then gather as a group to discuss and explore the learning. The website is also useful within the classroom as a teaching tool to introduce the material, then youth may revisit it later to reinforce learning at home. While the curriculum offers prompts for guiding conversation and offers direction for teaching the material, it is important to prepare your own answers for questions and notes for discussion. Sharing your personal experience and insight with the group is a valuable resource for these lessons.
At the end of this session, the students will be better able to:
Express the value of both a scientific and religious approach to health and well-being
Explore the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit
THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
The conversation between faith/religion and science can be difficult to navigate with youth who live in a world where they are bombarded by a great amount of information and opinions. It is important to first set a safe learning environment where differing opinions are respected and confidentiality is secured.
You many also want to consult with parents/guardians prior to beginning this session to alert them to the concepts taught in this session, and invite them to preview the website. Many adults are unfamiliar with ways to talk about both science and religion, or may have beliefs that are challenged by this learning.
Within any group of youth you will find a wide range of maturity and development levels. In general, adolescent-aged students (12-14) are able to engage in more complex thinking, reason deductively, and are better able to form concepts about the past, present, and future than their elementary counterparts. As adolescence is achieved, they can synthesize values and beliefs with their own experiences to create meaning and understanding for life. This is also a time when a sense of personal identity is being formed, and this extends to their identity as it relates to the concepts of science and faith.
SUPPLIES FOR SESSION ONE
· Computer and access to Internet
· Three sheets of large newsprint and marker
· Paper and pen/pencil (Session Two)
Gather youth and provide an overview of lesson(s) to be covered in PRAYER AND FAITH – MIND, BODY, SPIRIT: ARE THEY CONNECTED? session(s). If this lesson is held separately from the previous lesson, review the need for a safe and confidential environment (See Lesson 1 - Leader Guide). Ask youth to recall ways for their group to honor one another’s opinions and to keep shared ideas in the group. If possible, review these ideas previously listed on a white board, or a computer document and read the completed list. Ask all present, youth and adults, to agree to follow these guidelines for the duration of the learning time together.
PAGE ONE – PRAYER AND FAITH – MIND, BODY, SPIRIT: ARE THEY CONNECTED?
Prior to the beginning of the lesson, set-up in the gathering space a large piece of newsprint. Use the marker to divide it into two columns. Label one column PRAYER and one column FAITH.
Begin the lesson by asking each person to give a definition of prayer. Using the newsprint list each definition or idea in the column labeled PRAYER.
Once all have responded, ask the following two questions:
Who do you, or others, pray to?
What do you pray for?
Allow all answers and add to the column labeled PRAYER.
Next, ask each person to give a definition of faith. Using the newsprint list each definition or idea in the column labeled FAITH.
Once all have responded, ask the following two questions:
What do you expect from prayer?
Does prayer change things? Why or why not?
Allow all answers and add to the column labeled FAITH.
Review with the class the website information on the area of PAGE ONE prior to the link, and encourage discussion on the information presented.
Next: Have the group watch the video clip in the link: “Tim Hawkins Food Prayer Comedy.” Allow discussion following the video as time allows.
Review with the class the remaining information on the area of PAGE ONE after the link.
Next, discuss with the group why they feel that some Christians and some scientists disagree about the claims of how prayer and faith might or might not affect the physical world or the health of a person. Be attentive to the need for each group member to honor the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of each other. Allow the discussion to continue for as long as interest is maintained. You may continue on with the lesson to PAGE TWO – THE TWO PERSPECTIVES, or bring the session to a close.
If the session will end, encourage students to keep track of any conversations they observe or have experienced with friends or family regarding the claims of prayer and faith. Encourage students to bring this information back to future sessions. Be sure to save the large newsprint used to record definitions and answers to the questions about prayer and faith. This will be used for the remaining sessions.
PAGE TWO – THE TWO PERSPECTIVES
Prior to the beginning of the lesson, set-up in the gathering space the large piece of newsprint from the previous session, which contains responses to questions about prayer and faith. Set-up in the gathering space a second large piece of newsprint. Use the marker to divide it into three columns. Label the columns: BODY, CONNECTED?, SPIRIT. Have a set of paper and pen/pencil for each small group to record responses.
Also make several copies of the article “Researchers Look at Prayer and Healing” from the link: http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/23/AR2006032302177.html
You will also need adults to facilitate small group discussion. (One adult for every 3-4 youth)
Note: If you are starting with a new session, remind the group of the agreement to honor one another’s opinions and to keep shared ideas in the group. Check in with group members to relate any conversations that they might have observed or experienced with others regarding the claims of how powers and forces work in the world.
Begin the lesson by reviewing the information from the first paragraph on PAGE TWO. If necessary, return to PAGE ONE to view the Tim Hawkins video again. Ask the group to respond to the following questions:
Is what happens in the mind through a prayerful, spiritual, or religious experience capable of affecting the body and physical world?
Record responses under the column labeled SPIRIT.
Or are these experiences simply the result of the workings of the brain and the perspective of the individual?
Record responses under the column labeled BODY.
Allow discussion to continue for as long as time allows.
Next, tell the group they will listen to an interview about how these experiences affect the brain. Click on the link: “The Physical Effects of Religious Experience - Interview w/Carol Albright” and watch the video.
Read, from PAGE TWO the following:
In this video, neuroscience research has discovered that a certain part of the brain known as the “God part of the brain” is associated with religious experiences, especially in meditative states and during a temporal lobe epileptic attack. However, As Albright states, these tests can “record an aspect of religiously oriented experiences” but don’t include those everyday religious experiences of someone who is neither skilled in meditation nor afflicted with temporal lobe epilepsy.
Ask the group:
So do everyday religious experiences have measurable effects?
Allow discussion for as long as time allows.
Next, divide the large group into several smaller groups that have at least three youth and one adult. Give each smaller group a printed copy of the article: “Researchers Look at Prayer and Healing.”
Have the adult, with the youth read through the article and record responses and reactions to the information presented.
When small groups are finished, gather all youth and adults and ask each group to report on their responses and reactions to the article. Remind the group to be respectful of each other’s responses. Allow discussion to continue for as long as time allows.
Read, from PAGE TWO the following:
In this article, the effect of prayer on personal health is considered as well as the effects of prayer on others who are distant or even unknown. As the article states, “The quiet meditation and incantations of praying, or the comfort of being prayed for, appears to lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, slow the heart rate and have other potentially beneficial effects.” While this does not automatically prove that prayer heals, it does point to changes in the physical body as a result of prayer. But how prayer could work for another person, especially in a distant location, is more difficult to evaluate. Some believe that there are no scientific or rational ways to understand how this might work. This article shows how both the religious and scientific perspectives are considered.
Ask the group to think about the information presented in this session and consider how the body and spirit might or might not be connected through prayer and faith. Record responses in the center column of the newsprint labeled CONNECTED?
Ask: What is the most difficult thing for you to understand or believe about how the body and spirit might be connected through prayer and faith? Allow all answers and encourage youth to think about how there might be many ways of thinking about this subject.
To close this portion of the lesson, ask the group if they can tell one way that they might talk to others about the reported effects of prayer and faith.
If the session will end, encourage students to ask family and friends about their understanding of how prayer and faith might affect the physical world and body. Be sure to save the large newsprint used to record definitions and answers from the first and second sessions. These will be used for the remaining sessions.
PAGE THREE – WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
Note: If you are starting with a new session, remind the group of the agreement to honor one another’s opinions and to keep shared ideas in the group. Check in with group members regarding any conversations they might have had with family or friends regarding their understanding of prayer and faith, as well as the possible connections between mind, body, and spirit are understood both scientifically and theologically.
Prior to gathering the group to review this third page, preview the slide show at the top of the page and become familiar with the following information:
The slideshow displayed at the top of this page contains a number of images that represent the subject of prayer and faith, as well as the possible connections between mind, body, and spirit. These are images that are among the many available in the media and on the Internet and are only a small representation of what youth might encounter. The group will view these images during this portion of the lesson. From the start of the slide show they appear as follows:
A bandaged or broken leg,
A group of people meditating,
An electrocardiogram (EKG) monitor showing heart rhythms,
A drawing of a human brain,
A person praying by a body of water
To begin this portion of the lesson, have page three visible to the group and ask:
How do doctors diagnose illness? What are some experiences you have had with visiting the doctor?
Next, read aloud the first section of PAGE THREE – WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? and click on the link for the Mayo Clinic. In the “search” box type in a term for a typical illness such as “strep throat” or “heartburn.” Look at the links and information associated with the term.
Next, click on the tab at the top of the page “Research” and from the drop-down menu select “Explore Research Areas.” Look through the alphabetical listing of all the areas of research being pursued by the Mayo Clinic.
Discuss with the group possible benefits of medical research. Encourage students to think about and share any stories of how medical treatments or research may have provided treatment or cure for someone they know.
Ask: Are there other ways to treat illness that don’t include traditional medicine. Allow all answers, which might include ideas such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, etc.
Read the following statement from PAGE THREE:
“As this (Mayo Clinic) site shows us, there are many successful scientific discoveries that lead to cures and treatments for disease. But many become concerned when people who have only a faithful perspective deny the important discoveries of science. There are many examples of faith communities with rigid belief systems whose members refuse medical treatment that result in death.”
Next, click on the link to the New York Times article and read through the article as a group. Discuss the choice made by the parents of Kara Neumann who believed that prayer would be the most effective treatment for her illness.
Ask: What happens when people decide to have only one rigid way of looking at things, or decide that their viewpoint is the best one for everyone? Allow all answers, then, click on the link to the definition of ideology and review the information. Help the group stay focused on the choice made by the parents, rather on the legal issues surrounding the choice. Allow the discussion to continue as time allows, and ensure that all participants maintain respect for one another’s views.
Continue to read the information on PAGE THREE and click on the link to the Maryland Medical Center. Review the article, particularly the five ways that spirituality influences health. These include Faith, Hope, Forgiveness, Love and Social Support, Prayer. Allow participants to offer their views on which of these five ways might or might not be the most influential on health. Read the information after the link, ending before the last paragraph.
Next, have the group look at the slideshow at the top of the page, and ask that everyone wait until all pictures are viewed before making comments.
Invite the group to respond to the images and allow time for each member to add to the conversation.
Using the information provided at the beginning of this session, talk about each of the images. (Remind the group to be respectful of each other’s response.) The white dots that appear at the lower right of the slideshow can be used to select and navigate through the ten images.
Ask the group to share what each image might mean to them, or how the image might cause them to respond to the understandings of how prayer and faith might affect the physical body and how the mind, body, and spirit might be connected. Use the following as prompts for discussion:
A bandaged or broken leg might an image of what only a physician can treat, or might remind participants of a time when they were injured and had prayers offered for their healing. Does healing only come from one way of treatment for illness or injury?
A group of people meditating might suggest dedication to a way of life that is narrowly focused on spirituality. Would a person with this type of dedication seek traditional medicine the treatment of illness?
Consider researching this on the Internet by entering a search entitled: “Do Buddhists use traditional medicine?”
An EKG machine can be a symbol of measuring the function of the heart. How might, or might not, a strong religious and spiritual belief affect the function of the heart?
A picture of the brain might show how areas of the brain can be mapped for specific functions. Are the neurological workings of the brain responsible for how we experience the world or are there also ways that spirituality affect us?
How do you respond to people who claim to use prayer as a way of improving health or the quality of life?
Discuss with the group their experiences in talking to others about how prayer and faith might or might not influence healing or health. What is most difficult, or easiest to talk about?
To close the session, talk about what these images might promote that is challenging or helpful to the conversation about scientific and religious views of how the mind, body, and spirit might be connected. Ask that they spend time at home looking at the website and researching other information about ideas covered in the lesson. Ask each member to bring a copy of any images that represent their understanding of the material.
PAGE FOUR – MORE THAN ONE ANGLE
Note: If you are starting with a new session, remind the group of the agreement to honor one another’s opinions and to keep shared ideas in the group. Check in with group members regarding any research they might have completed that tells about the ideas covered in the previous lesson. Ask the group to share any images that they might have brought to this session. Prior to the session, display the large sheets of newsprint from discussions with the sessions from PAGE ONE, and PAGE TWO. Display an additional blank sheet of newsprint next to these two.
This final page of PRAYER AND FAITH – MIND, BODY, SPIRIT: ARE THEY CONNECTED? is designed to help youth focus on both the scientific and religious views of how the mind, body, and spirit might be connected.
To begin the session, open the website and review the first three pages of PRAYER AND FAITH – MIND, BODY, SPIRIT: ARE THEY CONNECTED?.
Next, review the responses on the two large sheets of newsprint from discussions with the sessions from PAGE ONE, and PAGE TWO. Ask the group members to share one significant thing they may have learned or discovered about the scientific and religious views of how prayer and faith might or might not be connected and affect physical health and healing. Discuss how they might have engaged other youth or family members in this learning and any conversations that might have occurred, either in person or in a social media setting.
Next, look at page four, MORE THAN ONE ANGLE, and review the information listed on the page. View the links showing both the optical illusions created by the artist and the article on optical illusions and how they work.
Reinforce the concept that it is important to see things from different perspectives and refrain from taking a rigid perspective that limits input from other sources. Help the group understand that this learning is a basic way of looking at this issue, and that just like science and religion, their ideas will change and become more complex.
Next, ask the group to consider how they might respond to others about the effects of prayer and spirituality as a result of the learning in this lesson. Encourage the group to consider ways to respond from both a scientific and religious viewpoint. Write the responses on the large blank sheet of newsprint and display it next to the others from previous sessions. Ask the group to reflect on how their understanding of this issue may or may not have changed.
For additional learning, ask a member of the congregation or other source who has a career in medicine to come and share how they integrate their faith and scientific beliefs.