It looks like more of the leading edge scientists are discovering the positive effects of deep prayer and meditation:
Science of Mind magazine, June 2011
From the Science & Spirituality column by neuroscientists Waldman & Newberg, "Taming the Impatient Brain"
What happens in the brain when we learn patience? We stimulate the insula and striatum. For those of us who do spiritual practice, this is an exciting discovery: Meditation and deep prayer build patience because they stimulate the same reward circuits in the brain. At that moment, we feel satisfied. We don't NEED to have more of anything--food, money, affection--because we're getting it from the states of peacefulness and positive feelings being generated within the brain. Brainscan studies of meditators also show increased activity in the orbitofrontal cortex, an area that regulates impulsive decision making.
From the Science & Spirituality column by neuroscientists Waldman & Newberg, "Taming the Impatient Brain,"