There are, indeed, evangelical organizations that teach people (often young people) how to identify and destroy demons. I met one young woman after she came back from one of those summer camps. She returned to college with a sense of purpose, and would pray intensely for hours. She would walk into a restaurant and sense an immaterial, sulfurous evil and feel that she had to pray powerfully against it. It was as though the world were drenched in darkness that no one else could see.
Soon, she found herself crying while praying; she felt God’s love so deeply that she wept with the grief of being human. But this intense need to pray also began to frighten her. “It is so crazy,” she told me. “It’s like we’re addicted.”
Eventually, she stopped. It was just too exhausting. Some weeks later, she remarked: “It’s so strange. You get into that zone, and you know that the students around you think about things completely differently, and you really do wonder whether you are crazy.”
Read the whole article. Much of the article is actually attempting to show that people believe prayer is beneficial, even an atheist she profiles. Very interesting.
That nugget alone is hardly a scientific analysis of “prayer addiction”, but it does open the door to a good conversation about how to draw the line between healthy and unhealthy prayer. And it does raise the question: How many of the saints, sages, and mystics of the past may have suffered from “prayer addiction”? William James is not alone among psychiatrists identifying a connection between the “sick soul” and deep religious experience. By no means does this disqualify religious experience, it deepens our understanding of its varieties, calling us to wonder what is so wrong or unhealthy with feeling God’s love so deeply that one “weeps with the grief of being human”?
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