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Spiritual Self-Care and the Use of Prayer

by Jacquelin Deatcher, APRN, BC, CDE

One particular method of using prayer was developed by Dr. John F. Rossiter-Thornton, a psychiatrist in private practice in Toronto, Canada. He developed a tool he called the prayer wheel (not to be confused with the revolving prayer wheels of Tibet) for use with his psychotherapy patients. (See this illustration.) The wheel is based on several distinct components of prayer, including giving thanks, singing of love, requesting protection and guidance, asking forgiveness for oneself and others, asking for needs, asking for inspiration, and surrendering to divine will. The suggested use of the wheel takes 40 minutes to allow at least five minutes for each component, including a “listen” segment in which one is encouraged to be receptive to any thoughts, images, or impressions that come to mind and to record them in a notebook. Use of the prayer wheel produced intriguing results for Dr. Rossiter-Thornton’s patients, including decreased anxiety, improved outlook, and improved family relationships.

One very small, unpublished study has looked at the possibility of enhancing diabetes self-management with the use of the prayer wheel. Nine study participants with Type 2 diabetes used the prayer wheel for three months in addition to their usual self-care. Glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) values were measured both before and after this three-month period and compared with the HbA1c values of a similar group of nine people with Type 2 diabetes who were not involved in the study. Even though most of the participants reported that they used portions of the prayer wheel rather than the whole thing and that they used the prayer wheel anywhere from most days to occasionally but not every day, seven experienced a drop in HbA1c levels during the study period; this drop in HbA1c averaged 0.9%. The other two participants experienced an average increase of 0.4%. In the control group, five people experienced an average drop of 0.5% in HbA1c, and four people experienced an average increase in HbA1c of 0.8%. It should be noted that this study was conducted from October to January, a time of the year when common holiday behaviors often result in an increase in HbA1c values for many people. Although this study was very small, the results suggest that the use of prayer, when combined with other holistic approaches to diabetes self-management, may have beneficial effects on one’s HbA1c.

More research in the field of spirituality is necessary, of course. However, for those comfortable with incorporating prayer into the fabric of their daily lives, the use of prayer may be yet another resource to enhance diabetes self-management and therefore, general wellness.

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