Prayer session during church service
In recent times, many people have shown great interest in my articles elucidating the scientific aspects of Christian activities. As a Theologian and Naturopathic Researcher, I am a major proponent of the fact that spirituality is paramount in holistic health. Some people have asked if there is any science behind tongues speaking.
There have also been some enquiries concerning the efficacy of speaking in tongues and its benefit to the human immune system. There is some evidence to suggest that praying in the spirit, also known as speaking in tongues, may enhance immunity by some chemicals released from a part of the brain. In this article, I intend to review the science behind tongues speaking.
I know there are some people who do not believe in tongues-speaking and other Christian activities. But I have, in recent times, proven from scientific perspectives, the benefits of Christian activities. I recently wrote on how Christian worship impacts the human brain.
This is information that may be deduced from what we know about the way the brain functions. We know the part of the brain affected most noticeably by extended prayer represents a significant portion of the brain and its metabolic activity. Therefore, voluntary speech during extended vocal prayer causes a major stimulation in these parts of the brain (mainly the hypothalamus).
Newberg, (2013) agrees that the hypothalamus has direct regulation of four major systems of the body, namely:
- The pituitary gland and all target endocrine glands
- The total immune system
- The entire autonomic system and
- The production of brain hormones called endorphins and enkephalins, which are chemicals the body produces and are 100 to 200 times more powerful than morphine.
In a nutshell, a very significant percentage of the central nervous system is directly and indirectly activated in the process of extended verbal and musical prayer over a period of time. This results in a significant release of brain hormones which, in turn, increase the body’s general immunity. It is further enhanced through joyful laughter with increased respiration and oxygen intake to the brain, diaphragm and other muscles. This same phenomenon is seen in physical activity in general, such as running and walking.
We know from the Word of God that there is true joy that builds and sustains. Nehemiah tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. There is joy in the presence of Jehovah. We, as believers, having entered into that wonderful presence of our Lord, know this to be true. What we must continue to remember is that the joy of the Lord spoken of in the Word is so much more than any manifestation. We can truly have that unspeakable joy in the face of any trials we may encounter, if our joy is grounded in a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
On the impact of scientific understanding on tongue on the human body, I ask that you read this article with an open mind. My intention is to bring praise to God for such a gift and pray that those of you who have received such a gift, use it for His glory. To those who do not think it is relevant, think again. To those who have it but do not use it, use it. To those who abuse it, speak with understanding. Grace and peace to you.
Speaking in Tongue Edifies
Carl Peterson (2011), M.D. a brain specialist, conducted a study examining the relationship between the brain and praying or speaking in tongues. He found that as we pray in the Spirit or worship in the Spirit, the brain releases 2 chemical secretions that are directed into our immune system, giving a 35 to 40 percent boost to the immune system. This promotes healing within our bodies. Interestingly, this secretion is triggered from a part of the brain that has no other apparent activity in humans and is only activated by our Spirit-led prayer and worship.
Speaking Tongues influences on stress response among Apostolic Pentecostals
One study conducted by Lynn et al., (2013) measured stress via salivary cortisol and α-amylase among 52 Apostolic Pentecostals in New York’s mid-Hudson Valley. In this study, saliva samples were collected at four predetermined times on consecutive Sundays and Mondays to establish diurnal profiles and compare days of worship and non-worship. This data was reanalysed using separate analysss of covariance on α-amylase and cortisol levels to control for individual variation in Pentecostal behavior, effects of Sunday biomarkers on Monday, and other covariates.
The data in this study suggests that glossolalia (speaking in tongues) is associated with a reduction in stress in response to normal stressors and significantly associated with positive mood and calmness. Clearly the reduction of stress is very helpful to one’s immune system and entire health.
Another retrospective study by Francis and Robbins, (2003) involved nearly 1,000 clergy members of a British evangelical group. The researchers found that the 80 percent who practiced glossolalia had greater emotional stability and less neuroticism.
Speaking in Tongues Signifies Praying with the Holy Spirit
In one study, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania took brain images of five women while they spoke in tongues and found that their frontal lobes – the thinking, willful part of the brain through which people control what they do, were relatively quiet, as were the language centers.
While speaking in tongues, there was a decrease of activity in the frontal lobes and an increased activity in the thalamus (i.e., the “third brain”, where it is believed by some that spiritual experiences take place). Language areas are in the frontal lobes. The language that emerged during the state of glossolalia was highly structured, filled with clearly articulated phrases.
This research finding is very interesting as it suggests that the language was being generated in a different way, or possibly from some place other than the normal processing centres of speech. For Christian believers, this experience could be taken as proof that another “entity” has actually spoken through them. Newberg, (2013) summarised this position in his book “Born to Believe” (Pages 200 and 201).
The Medical Doctor, Newberg notes: “The amazing thing was how the images supported people’s interpretation of what was happening, the way they describe it, and what they believe is that, God is talking through them,” he said.
What Does God Do to Your Brain?
Newberg(2021) agrees that the moment we encounter God, or the idea of God, our brain begins to change. Going to church might involve confession, communion, singing, chanting, praying, tithing, talking with other members, reading sacred scriptures or volunteering in charitable work. Newberg discover that each one can change the way one think and feel about God. He notes: “Praying silently affects one part of the brain, while praying out loud affects another part. And if you repeat the same prayer over and over, one part of the brain may be activated in the first few minutes, another part might quiet down ten minutes later, while other brain functions will change after forty or fifty minutes of intense prayer.”
Newberg further agrees, that many people reported that their spiritual experiences altered their beliefs. He was however surprised that as spiritual interests increase, church attendance declines.
The Future of God
God is a noun, and nouns stimulate the “where” and “what” part of the brain, specifically regions in the parietal lobe (Newberg, 2021).
The Newberg (2021) study asserts that mainstream churches are liberalising their theologies. Evangelicals are moving away from the rhetoric of fundamentalism and New Age churches are growing throughout the country. Even in Muslim countries, support for extremist politics and beliefs is beginning to decline.
He notes: “New ideas challenge us to think more deeply about personal values and survival, and the more you think about the mysteries of human nature, the more likely it is that you’ll have an epiphany that can improve the inner quality of your life”.
Does God Have a Heart?
What defines God’s personality? A team of sociologists at Baylor University (https://www2.baylor.edu/) answered this question in a nationally representative sample of Americans to describe which qualities symbolised their impression of God. They discovered that four distinct personalities emerged. Newberg (2021) agrees that these personalities not only tell us a great deal about our religious landscape, they also illuminate the inner neurological landscape of the American soul.
In the Baylor study, which was co-facilitated by the Gallup organisation, 34 percent of the participants were evangelical Protestants, 22 percent were mainline Protestants, 21 percent were Catholics, 5 percent were associated with black Protestant congregations and 2.5 percent identified themselves as Jews.
Approximately 5 percent associated themselves with other religions such as Buddhist, Christian Science, Mormon, Hindu, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslim, Christian Orthodox, and Unitarian. Another 10 percent considered themselves unaffiliated with a specific denomination or creed. Responders were spread over all ages, from eighteen on up, and represented a variety of levels of education, socioeconomic status, and locations throughout the United States.
According to the Baylor research, some see God as kindly and loving, but twice as many Americans see God as punitive and stern. Some see God as distant and unconcerned, but many experience God as being actively involved in their lives. In fact, 20 percent even believe that God favors a specific political party.
For example, during the 2004 presidential campaign, 30 percent were convinced that God looked favorably on George W. Bush. When they put the data together, the Baylor researchers concluded that the Americans sampled tended to embrace one of four different personalities of God: authoritarian, critical, distant or benevolent. But these four categories could not be easily assigned to any specific denomination or sect. For example, some evangelicals embraced a benevolent God, most saw God primarily as an authoritarian, and a few saw God as a distant entity who does not involve himself in human affairs
Scientifically conducted studies have demonstrated the positive effects of speaking in tongues. Interestingly, these studies were conducted by renowned Medical Doctors in the field of neuroscience. Thus, it is increasingly evident that tongues speaking improves the immune system, as declared by Lynn, (2013) and many others. I conclude with Michael Gerson’s quote in The Washington Post: ‘A fresh perspective offers plenty to challenge skeptics and believers alike.” There is science in tongue speaking.
The author is the President of the Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT) and the African Naturopathic Foundation. E-mail: [email protected]