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Spirituality and the Heart

May 8, 2022

File:Rubens Praying Hands.jpg“Praying Hands” by Peter Paul Rubens (1600), Source COREL photo CD, Masters I (PD)

“Several studies suggest that religious involvement or spiritual well-being may affect health outcomes…The spirituality scores were significantly correlated with the degree of progression or regression of coronary artery obstruction over a 4-year time period…This study suggests that the degree of spiritual well-being may be an important factor in the development of coronary artery disease.”

-Abstract:  “The relationship of spirituality to coronary heart disease” by EL Morris, September/October 2001 [1]

A number of studies have demonstrated that spirituality – loosely defined as a relationship to the Divine – can have a positive impact on heart health.

These studies attempt to measure and parse spirituality without actually evaluating the quality of the relationship from which human beings draw their life and strength.

Christians, of course, know that a relationship with God is at the very heart of spirituality.  Organized religion reflects and captures only a small portion of this.  But the target of our devotion (and the degree of that devotion) matter.

“They pray the best who have something to pray for.”

-Wright & Forrest musical Kismet (1955)

Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Wiccans may be entirely sincere in their beliefs and their prayers.  However, their understanding of the true nature of God is limited, and their prayers are heard by the one true God of the Bible [2].

This is not to say that God will not heal non-Christians.  He can and does.  Nor can we say that Christians will never develop heart disease.

Our relationship with God cannot though focus on medical issues alone.

“The present study aimed to explore religious coping from the perspective of patients with heart failure…Patients learn to use religious beliefs and faith to accept the reality of the disease and its stages and to manage their condition with patience, tolerance, and hope calmly and confidently for a bright future.”

-Abstract: “Spirituality:  A Panacea for Patients Coping with Heart Failure” by Parvin Shahrbabaki PhD et al [3]

We may certainly cry out to Him in pain.  But do we share our joys with Him, our quiet moments?  Do we credit Him with our triumphs?  Do we thank Him for our many blessings?  Do we seek His direction for our lives, and strive to live by His commandments?

The heart issues those questions raise are more complex and tenacious.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?  ‘I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds’ ” (Jer. 17: 9-10 ESV).


[1]  National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, “The relationship of spirituality to coronary heart disease” by EL Morris, September/October 2001, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11565405/.

[2]  This is not a popular sentiment.  It runs counter to the concept of “tolerance” now widely adopted, i.e. the position that all belief systems must be viewed as equivalent.  But Molech, Baal, Zeus, and the rest were never the equals of Yahweh (Deut. 4: 28-29).

[3]  National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, “Spirituality:  A Panacea for Patients Coping with Heart Failure” by Parvin Shahrbabaki PhD et al, January 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5219564/.

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  https://avoicereclaimed.com

15 Comments
  1. This article is absolutely timeous for me and my family, Anna, as I face some health challenges in the next months. Greetings across the seas.

  2. Ein sehr interessanter und gut recherchierter Bericht darüber, wie sehr religiöses Engagement oder spirituelles Wohlbefinden in vielerlei Hinsicht die gesundheitlichen Ergebnisse beeinflussen können, egal welcher religiösen Richtung man angehört. Vielen Dank dafür, liebe Anna.
    Ich wünsche Dir einen schönen und friedlichen Sonntag, ganz liebe Grüße von Deiner Freundin Marie

  3. I observed with keen interest our own response in our household as all 3 of us navigated through our favorite viral disease this past week. We are not done yet. But, there is no sense of panic but rather a peace with God and each other enduring another of life’s troubles with some risk as all troubles have. We know who holds the our future and that kind of peace experienced in pain is pure Gold. No wonder those who have a direct relationship with God fare better in matters of the heart.

    • Well said, Gary. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4: 6).

      • I think I memorized that verse as a teenager and it has been a bedrock of stability in my life on most occasions of life, big or small, where change was happening. Thanks Anna

  4. One of my favorite verses of Scripture because it captures my heart.
    We are so short-sighted and only able to focus on our own belly buttons, like infants in cribs.
    Oh, to see as He sees and to know as we are known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
    ❤️&🙏, c.a.

  5. Allan Halton permalink

    I knew nothing of these studies but this certainly has to be true, Anna. A heart garrisoned by the peace of God (the verse you quoted in your response to Gary) has to be good for the heart.

  6. “Nor can we say that Christians will never develop heart disease”. Well said Anna, as I am among those Christians with heart disease. According to my heart surgeon from nearly 22 years ago, my heart attack and subsequent by-pass surgery was “80% heredity and 20% sedentary”.

    I can still remember those who questioned how God could allow me to have a heart attack, and I still remember my answer to those individuals. “Why not me”, I asked? “Why should I be exempted from this just because I’m a Christian”? Of course, many believe that sickness of any kind is a result in either sin or a lack of faith. To which I say “Hogwash”!

    Nearly every male in my family including my father and older brother succumbed to heart disease. Am I supposed to believe that because I am a Christian this hereditary disease would skip a generation just for me? C’mon!

    We live in a fallen world that reeks of disease and all of its complications. None of that will change until we enter the one place where there will never be another loved one die because of illness. That is Heaven my friends! Until then, the best we can do is humbly submit our lives to God and do our best for Him in whatever allotted time we have been given.

  7. True, Anna. Just as stress drains us, the peace of God gives health to our bodies – and minds.(Philippians 4:7)

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