Today we’re going to talk about: How Our Brains and Faith Work Together

If you spend any time at our house you might hear my husband say something like, “My brain is broken.” What else do you say when something isn’t working properly? It’s been about 12 since his diagnosis with Bipolar 2 disorder and we still find ourselves on the roller coaster of mental illness. Don’t get me wrong, it’s much less traumatic with medication and counseling, but it is still a roller coaster—just one with a seat belt.

A couple of years ago after Rick and Kay Warren tragically lost their son to suicide and they said this:

“Any other organ in my body can get broken and there’s no shame, no stigma to it. My liver stops working, my heart stops working, my lungs stop working. Well, I’ll just say, ‘Hey, I’ve got diabetes, or a defective pancreas or whatever,’ but if my brain is broken, I’m supposed to feel shame. And so a lot of people who should get help don’t.”

It is clear that it’s time to start looking at our brains in much the same way that we do our other organs.

As my mother in-law, Karen Howard, recently said to me: “Mental illness knows no boundaries.” You can be rich, or poor. Educated, or uneducated. From any country or background, mental illness does not discriminate.

With the stigma, it’s often common to either make mental illness a spiritual problem or to say that faith should play no role at all in the treatment. But isn’t there room for healthy integration?

Dr. Andrew Newberg, director of research at the Jefferson Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital, in Philadelphia, has done extensive empirical studies on the brain while people engage in all forms of concentrated prayer.

His conclusion was that if you practice prayer a lot, you can actually change your brain, confirming that we are “hardwired for faith.” (for more information on this story: )

This isn’t to say that we don’t treat the mental illness with counseling and medication, it’s only to highlight the power of prayer on our brains themselves.


Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Eph. 6:18 (NLT)

Question and Action Steps:

How do you see our brains and faith working together?  Comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

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