Monday, May. 15, 2006
NGAHUIA Harvey knows her story of faith and healing sounds incredible. She knows many will disbelieve her. She also doesn’t care.
The Coolum mum is convinced her son Matthias is a living, walking miracle after international evangelical healer John Mellor laid hands on the four-year-old last October.
Since then the child, born with hemiparesis (paralysis to the left side of his body) has gone from scuffing about on his bottom to standing by himself for the first time and taking his first steps. He now runs around like any other active boy.
The days of being unable to feed himself are history and from having delayed speech, Matthias has become a chatterbox.
And while his paediatric neurologist Dr Julie Panetta believes Matthias’s case was no miracle, she is not prepared to rule out the possibility faith may have played a part in the dramatic improvement of the young boy.
“He was born with fluid on the brain,” Ms Harvey said.
“I was told Matthias was basically a vegetable and would spend his life in a wheelchair.
“I always hoped for a miracle and never lost faith one would happen and then I heard about John Mellor through my church (Coolum Christian Family Church).
“I took Matthias up for prayer with him and John Mellor stood over him and prayed and placed his hands on Matthias’s head.
“Two weeks later he started to stand by himself and he then took six steps. They were his first ever steps. He had not stood up by himself before. He used to shuffle around on his bottom and I used to have to go and buy shorts all the time because they were wearing through.”
Ms Harvey, who has two other children, Jayden, 10, and Tia, 8, became a Christian three years ago when her uncle took her to a church on the Gold Coast.
And while she is a passionate believer she is not one to go preaching to others.
“Matthias just says ‘mum Jesus fixed my legs, didn’t he?’ I haven’t drummed that in to him. I am not the type of person to do that.
“But I knew we had been given a miracle.”
Matthias is now able to feed himself, particularly his favourites of Nutri-Grain and crackers.
“People may have trouble believing this but I know for myself that I have seen a working miracle in my own eyes,” Ms Harvey said.
“I know a year ago Matthias couldn’t walk and now he can. I continued to believe there would be a miracle.
“I just want people to not give up hope because so many good things can come from hope.”
Dr Panetta confirmed Matthias had been unable to stand unassisted before October 2005, but said a patient’s ability to recover from hemiparesis varied greatly.
“Matthias’s recovery is not unexpected. I knew he had a lot of brain damage when I first saw him and each time I saw him he had made small, new advances.
Thursday, Apr. 6, 2006
Missouri House members overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment Wednesday night intended to ensure students can pray privately and voluntarily at public schools.
Supporters say the amendment generally would uphold court precedents about prayer in school. But they insist a specific, state constitutional protection is needed to safeguard the freedom of religious expression found in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The amendment received first-round House approval by 134-17 vote.
“I think faith is under constant attack,” said House Speaker Pro Tem Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles, the lead sponsor of amendment.
The proposal would go before Missouri voters in November if it clears a final House vote and also passes the Senate before the legislative session ends May 12.
The Missouri Constitution has since 1875 declared people have “a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences.”
The newly proposed amendment would add prohibitions against the establishment of an official religion, similar to what is in the U.S. Constitution, while declaring “a citizen’s right to pray or to express his or her religious beliefs shall not be infringed.”
While prohibiting state-composed or coerced prayer, the amendment says the state “shall ensure public school students their right to free exercise of religious expression without interference, as long as the prayer or other expression is private and voluntary … and in a manner that is not disruptive nor in violation of other policies, rules or standards.”
Prayer at school also would have to abide by the same parameters placed on any other free speech.
Some Democrats questioned the need for the amendment, since courts have upheld private, voluntary prayer at school, as well as the right of religious groups to use school buildings after hours just as other clubs can do.
“I have taught for 22 years. Never in my time in the classroom, being a teacher or observer or a school board member, has anyone prevented Muslims, Jews or Christians from praying,” said Rep. Barbara Fraser, D-St. Louis, who voted against the amendment.
“This is a political issue – not a moral one,” Fraser said. “It is an effort that is clearly intended to get out the vote” of religious conservatives, presumed to be more inclined to vote for Republicans.
Republican House members denied such accusations. They also defeated a Democratic attempt to refer the measure to the August political primary ballot, where voter turnout is typically lower than the November general election. Democrats argued that if the issue was important, it should be settled as soon as possible.
House Speaker Rod Jetton said the constitutional amendment is necessary because “there are people who are trying as hard as they can to keep people from being able to pray voluntarily in public.”
Jetton, R-Marble Hill, said his own daughter had wrongly gotten the impression from a teacher while in third grade that she wasn’t allowed to pray in school – even privately before eating her lunch.
The proposed constitutional amendment also requires public schools to conspicuously display the text of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Monday, Apr. 3, 2006
When there is dissension among the flock, sometimes a sheriff’s got to pray.
At least that’s what Sheriff Mike Blakely did Sunday morning to restore peace at a southeastern Limestone County congregation.
Blakely, a member of a Church of Christ, was on his way to worship services when a deputy called for backup at another type of church.
Blakely said someone had called the Sheriff’s Department about a physical altercation that broke out when members arrived for worship.
The sheriff said that out of respect, he did not want to identify the congregation publicly.
When a deputy arrived at the church, Blakely said, part of the membership was in the parking lot and things were “pretty heated.”
“A majority of the church didn’t want the preacher there, but some did,” Blakely said. “Someone made the comment that if the preacher got in the pulpit, he was liable to get shot.”
Blakely said that when he got to the church, he asked the members to meet inside so he could offer a few words. He decided that to help them work out their differences, he should turn to God.
“I didn’t know who to call on to pray,” Blakely said. “I was worried I’d call on someone who would offend the other side.”
No need to pull out the handcuffs. Instead, the sheriff bowed his head.
“I prayed that I didn’t think the Lord would want people to act like this,” Blakely said. “I prayed that the Lord would touch their hearts. I was going to ask for an ‘Amen,’ but didn’t have to. I got some, ‘Amens’ and ‘Hallelujahs’ and some ‘That’s right, Sheriff Blakely.’ ”
Blakely said he simultaneously was offering a silent prayer to God that his words were helping.
“My words were sincere, and it seemed to calm everybody down,” the sheriff said.
It would appear that in Limestone County some days, it takes more than a badge to be sheriff.
Sunday, Apr. 2, 2006
That study finding no evidence to support the effectiveness of intercessory prayer says more about the limitations of science than it does about the efficacy of prayer.
The comprehensive and well-designed study was funded mainly by the John Templeton Foundation. It divided 1,802 heart-bypass patients into three groups. Patients in one group were told that others would be praying for their health and recovery. Patients in the other two groups were not certain that anyone would be praying for them. Those who knew they were in people’s prayers had slightly more medical complications than the others. Those who had no way of knowing whether people were praying for them had comparable medical results, regardless of whether anyone was praying for them.
The Templeton Foundation could have obtained similar results by studying people who buy lottery tickets. The study would find that people who pray for a jackpot are no more likely to pick winning numbers than those who don’t.
Such studies, however scientifically sound they may be, misapprehend the nature of prayer. Saying a prayer is not like asking the boss for a raise, or sending a Christmas list to Santa Claus. When people pray, they attempt to widen the conduit of communication between themselves and God. What is communicated may sometimes resemble a set of demands, but when those demands are not met it doesn’t mean that no communication has occurred.
Many prayers, surely including many of those made on behalf of the heart patients in the Templeton study, do not challenge God to perform certain actions, with the implication that if those actions do not occur the time spent in prayer has been wasted. Rather, many people in prayer seek to reveal to God what is in their hearts, or to place their trust in God, or to quiet their minds so that so that God’s will in their lives and the lives of others can be better understood.
Scientific proof that specific prayers aren’t always answered won’t shake the faith of people who make room for prayer. Indeed, the faithful should be relieved by the results of Templeton study. People of faith are warned against putting God to the test, and proof of a measurable benefit of intercessory prayer would have led in that direction. A positive finding would undoubtedly have led to more refined studies showing that some prayers get better results than others. Reader boards outside churches would soon proclaim their members’ prayers to be 33 percent more effective than the competition’s.
Science – a human undertaking, bound by human limitations – can’t comprehend the divine. It won’t be able to calibrate the benefits of prayer. It can never prove, or disprove, that prayers are being answered every instant.
Wednesday, Mar. 8, 2006
I was raised by a single parent, as my mom didn’t live with us. I went to junior high school, while my sister attended high school. One day when my sister had left the house for school, I realized my dad was very ill, so I asked him if I could stay at home and take care of him. He said no, so I then went to school myself.
About mid-morning, I was changing classrooms and passed the principal’s office on the way. I could hear the principal speaking on the phone and heard him say my father’s name, slamming down the phone as he said it. I stepped into the principal’s office, asking him if my dad was calling for me.
He said, “I think he is drunk, I couldn’t understand a word he was saying.”
I told him my dad did not drink and was very sick. I then left my books on the principal’s desk and ran home, forgetting even my coat.
When I arrived at home and went into my father’s room I found him unconscious. I turned away and went into our pantry to pray. I sat on the counter and closed my eyes and said out loud, “God, my dad needs you and he needs you now!”
With that, there was a knock on the door in the kitchen. When I opened it, there stood a doctor with his little black bag. He asked if I could direct him to Colmar Street, which was nearby. I took hold of his arm and pulled him toward my father’s room, telling him that my father was sick. He took one look at my father and asked where the telephone was located. Then he called for an ambulance.
The doctor began to examine Dad and declared that he had double pneumonia. Once the ambulance arrived to take my dad to the hospital, the doctor told me to ride to the hospital with him in his car. When we arrived there, the doctor asked me to furnish the admitting desk with all of our personal information they might need. He also told me that he would take me home after he attended to my father. Most of all, he told me that my father would live. The doctor reassured me of this by telling me that God had gotten me home to answer the door when he knocked.
Before he left me off at home the doctor also told me that he prayed every day that God would send him where the need for his skills was greatest. My dad was in the hospital for a couple of weeks, but he recovered fully from the pneumonia. I believe in the power of prayer and God is that power.
Tuesday, Mar. 7, 2006
Polls show that the majority of Americans believe in the healing power of prayer. But Dr. Gary Elkins isn’t content with leaving the matter to conventional wisdom. He wants hard facts.
Elkins, who works at Scott & White Hospital, plans to launch a study that will attempt to measure the effect of prayer by monitoring the immune systems of cancer survivors. Although other studies have been done on religion’s role in healing, Elkins said he thinks his study can provide better data about the specific power of prayer.
“We feel like prayer should be examined just like anything else,” he said.
Elkins, director of Scott & White’s Mind-Body Cancer Research Program, said the study has been in the development phase for about a year. The topic has long been of interest to him, he said, but part of the reason he decided to do the study is because the National Institutes of Health has recently expressed more interest in examining medical alternatives, such as yoga, hypnosis and prayer.
Elkins hopes he can get a grant from the federal agency after the initial phase of his research. In the meantime, Scott & White has earmarked $40,000 for the project.
For the initial study, Elkins plans to recruit 40 adults who have had cancer and have an interest in prayer, he said. People of all faiths will be eligible.
Selected participants will be divided into two groups, Elkins said. One group will be told to go about their lives as normal. The other will be asked to go to Scott & White for four days in a row to engage in 20-minute prayer sessions.
The sessions will be hosted by a Scott & White chaplain, but participants will pray on their own, Elkins said. They can pray in any manner they want.
After the four days, Elkins will try to draw conclusions using two tools: a psychological survey and blood samples. Participants in both groups will give blood and fill out the survey at the beginning and end of the study period. An additional blood draw will be taken a month later, Elkins said.
Elkins admits that the psychological survey is somewhat subjective. But the blood samples will provide concrete data, Elkins said.
Each will be tested for T-cells and helper cells, which demonstrate the body’s immune response, Elkins said. Using that data, researchers will be able to determine whether prayer had an effect on participants’ health, he said.
“When you look at the hard data of the immune system, that’s pretty convincing,” Elkins said.
That empirical data is the main difference between Elkins’ study and others that have been done, he said. Another key difference is its specificity, he said.
Most other studies have looked generally at the role of spirituality in healing, Elkins said. But prayer is just one component of religious activity, so those studies don’t provide a good basis for proving prayer’s power, he said.
Judy Hoelscher, a hospice chaplain for Scott & White, said she is glad Elkins is attempting to capture hard data. She hears all the time that prayer makes a difference in patients’ lives, she said, but it would be nice to be able to back that belief up with research.
“This will be just one way to see scientifically if we can document how prayer does work,” Hoelscher said. “It’s just going to be exciting to see if it can be proven.”
Sunday, Feb. 26, 2006
Hundreds of women from Rockland County will celebrate World Day of Prayer on Friday, joining millions of Christian women across five continents.
The theme this year will be “Signs of the Times” and will focus on the women of South Africa, said Mimi Bryan of the Christ Episcopal Church in Sparkill, which is participating in the service.
Friday will be the 119th annual celebration of the worldwide event that brings together Christian women from more than 170 countries. It is organized by Church Women United, a New York City-based ecumenical movement of Christian women in the United States whose life centers on prayer, Bible study, advocacy and action. Each year the service is dedicated to women from different countries.
South Africa was picked because the nation has moved forward despite its history of divisions, poverty and suffering.
“If the nation of South Africa could come from its desperate stage into the hopeful aspects of life now, it fills all of us with hope for the world,” said Bryan, who lives in Piermont and is involved in organizing the prayer service at her church.
Following the annual tradition, the World Day of Prayer service has been prepared by members of Church Women United. The prayers and reflections will focus on passages from the Gospel of Luke.
“The idea is that all of us throughout the world, although we live in different circumstances, cultures, we all to some extent are having to address our problems in common,” Bryan said.
Naomi Anthony of West Nyack, who has attended the prayer days more than 10 times, said she intended to go again on Friday.
“I think it’s a needed event,” said Anthony, 70, a singer who goes to St. Charles AME Zion Church in Sparkill. “It’s good to have a World Day of Prayer so that we can think about people in the world. There is so much hunger. Sometimes women and children are treated badly. We think of the world.”
Every Wednesday for more than a decade, Mary Grimes, 90, has prayed from noon to 1 p.m. at the Montgomery Area Adoration Chapel at Our Lady Queen of Mercy Catholic Church.
Today, the continuous-prayer chapel celebrates being open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 12 years. There is at least one volunteer, called an adorer, in the chapel 24 hours a day.
“It’s the most wonderful hour of my life,” Grimes said.
There are 254 adorers on the prayer roster. Grimes is one of 105 volunteers who have served since the adoration chapel opened. They come to seek forgiveness for their sins, to ask that someone be healed and to offer thanks for their blessings.
The Rev. James Dean, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Mercy, said the chapel was created in accordance with a Bible verse that advises the faithful to pray without ceasing.
“It’s a ceaseless prayer that we’re always offering,” Dean said.
He volunteers to pray from 2 to 4 a.m. Wednesdays. His house is next to the adoration chapel, so he can wake up five minutes before his time of prayer.
“It’s way worth the time,” Dean said. “The world is so busy. We need some time alone with peace.”
Pricilla Berry, the head coordinator of the Adoration Chapel, said the chapel pretty much runs itself, although she struggles to get people to fill certain hours. She also has to deal with turnover.
If someone does not show up, the adorer is expected to stay an extra hour. Berry has a list of 50 people who are willing to substitute if someone cannot make their hour.
“The system has worked beautifully all 12 years,” Berry said.
Jeanne Barranco has been volunteering at the chapel for three years. She is grateful her husband, David, overcame breast cancer during his 12 years of praying at the chapel.
“It helps to come and be with the Lord when you are facing a health crisis or any crisis,” Barranco said.
Chuck Raysich, who has been praying at the chapel the entire 12 years, said it costs very little to keep the chapel open. He prays at 7 a.m. Saturdays before Mass.
“It becomes a part of your life,” Raysich said. “The hours go so quickly. It’s just a lovely hour of the week.”
Saturday, Feb. 25, 2006
A new Web site now allows Romans to submit their prayers to the Almighty via the information superhighway.
The site, romeprayerline.com, is a nondenominational forum for Christians in Rome, said the site’s creator Jack Swann.
“The Rome Prayer Line is also designed to give believers of all denominations a sense of unity as fellow members of the body of Christ,” he said. “The unity will develop as we participate in one another’s needs through prayer. Occasionally it may bring together those who have needs with those who God has prepared to meet those needs.”
The idea for the site, Swann said, came from other sites designed to allow community members to pray for specific people. He figured everyone with large prayer needs should have a Web site.
Any Christian, he added, can request prayers through the Rome Prayer Line. To subscribe, site visitors would click the “subscribe to RPL” link on the left side of the page. They are then taken to a page about subscribing and posting requests. The only information required is a valid e-mail address, Swann added.
But he said that a feature was recently added to the site that allows non-members to submit prayer requests.
Through the site, members submit their prayer requests to the address email@example.com, and non-members submit their requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Members submit their prayers and pray for one another,” Swann said. “The RPL is as much for those with a desire or ministry to pray as it is for those with needs. Very often these are the same people at different times and circumstances in their lives.”
Participation in the prayer line is free, and Swann stressed that it is completely non-denominational.
Part of the mission of the prayer line, he said, is to bring believers together despite theological or denominational differences.
“We aim to develop a sense of oneness,” he said. “The only real issue is grace salvation.”
Swann said any type of prayer request can be posted. But if prayer requests are of a personal nature, the subject of the request should remain anonymous.
Gossip will not be allowed.
“One cannot post anything that would be harmful to anyone in any way,” Swann said.
Sunday, Feb. 19, 2006
As near as Bill Keller can figure, since 1999 he and his team of 700 retired pastors have responded individually to around 60,000,000 requests for personalized prayers. That’s a lot of requests for divine help from liveprayer.com, the online resource Keller, a successful businessman-turned minister, founded to reach out to those who wouldn’t normally seek spiritual guidance from a conventional source like a church or clergy member.
“LivePrayer.com is about healing and restoration,” explained Keller. “Our goal at Live Prayer is to change the Internet from a cold, faceless void into a tool to reach millions of hurting souls worldwide. We are not here to preach to the choir.”
With the bold declaration “No One Turned Away,” LivePrayer.com has become a haven for millions of people who, for whatever reason, have rejected main-stream religion or are unable to connect with spiritual help elsewhere.
Headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida, LivePrayer.com is an online resource where people can go 24 hours a day to see and hear, through streaming video, a man or woman pray for their needs.
“Every man and woman, no matter where they live in the world and regardless of their economic standing, has trials and tribulations in life, from health problems, relationship problems, to problems with job and finances,” said Keller. “We believe the only answer to the problems we face is a personal relationship with Christ. While that doesn’t make us immune to life’s problems, it provides a foundation from which we can successfully deal with every crisis and situation we face.”
For countless thousands of hurting people across the nation, LivePrayer.com has meant the difference between life and death. Keller estimates that LivePrayer.com may have intervened in as many as 1,300 suicide calls.
Along with his team of retired pastors, Keller and LivePrayer.com personally respond to an amazing 40,000 daily requests for prayer. Since its launch approximately 110,000 people have made commitments to Christ, and an amazing 1.8 million “praise reports” have come in to LivePrayer.com for prayers answered.
In addition to LivePrayer.com, Keller sends out a daily devotional to 2.1 million e-mail subscribers. And his Live Prayer with Bill Keller television program is seen by an estimated quarter-million viewers each night. The late-night show is slated to go national later this year.
Phil Leigh, a senior analyst for Digital Media in nearby Tampa, Florida, told Eric Snider of the Tampa Weekly Planet that Keller has recognized that “the Internet is going to be the dominant form of electronic media. And he’s identified at an early stage how to make it work, using interactive communications with his audience.”
To Keller, making “it work” means offering an online message of forgiveness and renewal to millions of souls who, without a resource like Liveprayer.com, might otherwise be on a path to destruction – and even death. And it’s not just the “down-and-outers” Keller and Liveprayer.com are reaching with this message. “Whether you are a doctor, or lawyer, or CEO, working in a factory, selling cars, building homes, or whatever you may do for a living, what defines who you is not your job but your relationship with the Lord,” wrote Keller in a recent e-mail devotional. “At the end of the day when the lights are turned out and you are laying in bed, you are who you are because of Jesus and nothing else.”
That plain-spoken gospel message has resonated with millions touched by the outreach of Liveprayer.com over the last seven years. “We think LivePrayer.com may just be the next ‘Big Thing’ in mass media faith-based outreach,” said Susan Zahn, an expert in Christian media and president of the public relations firm WDC Media. “Bill Keller understands that the Internet is framing up to be the dominant form of electronic media in our culture, and he is using it to reach the millions of hurting people who would never darken the door of a church. I really believe this outreach has only touched the ‘tip of the spiritual iceberg’ that exists in America.”
To find out more, visit www.liveprayer.com.
Monday, Feb. 13, 2006
Why pray? Do I really think my little prayer is going to change God Almighty? Can I convince the Creator of the universe to do something just because I ask?
My prayer doesn’t change God. It changes me and my relationship with God. Prayer is practical. It works! [One Nation Under God: The History of Prayer in America]
I don’t get out of bed without hitting my knees. I’m not superstitious. I have just learned from experience that if I begin my day without pausing for a moment to ask God’s direction, I’m in trouble.
I try not to ask for specific things for myself, only for the wisdom and power of his Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts, words and actions. I try not to tell God what should be done for others in troubling situations. I simply ask that they would know his love and compassion, especially in difficult times.
The fact that I pray at all can be seen as a miracle. I grew up believing that prayer was punishment. I recall having to say the rosary with my arms outstretched (often with a bar of soap in my mouth) for using a bad word. The parish priest prescribed prayer as penance in the confessional. How could I know prayer to be an integral part of a peaceful, meaningful and practical way of life? [If God Is Love : Rediscovering Grace in an Ungracious World]
Plea for Help
I began praying because I had run out of options. My life was in a downward spiral, the result of me trying to run it on self-will. I was asked to consider the possibility that a loving God would hear my pleas for help. It was suggested that I replace defiance with reliance and begin to seek a relationship with a power greater than myself. I tried it out of desperation and was amazed with the results.
How does one move from rejecting prayer to embracing it?
Even if you don’t believe, it will work for you. Just be willing to try. Pray for those you resent. Ask God to bless them with all that you want for yourself. You will find that it is practically impossible to go on resenting people while you are sincerely seeking blessings for them.
Prayers of thanksgiving also bring immediate, positive results. A grateful person is a happy person. It’s difficult to be grumpy when you’re counting your blessings.
Prayer takes the pressure off. I have made a habit of asking guidance from the Holy Spirit before I go on television or speak before a group of people. Trusting that the right words and attitude will come, I can relax, be calm and think clearly under pressure.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m no St. Francis of Assisi. Prayer still doesn’t come naturally to me, but I have learned to practice it and I know it works. I don’t pray because I’m a saint or even aspire to become one. I pray because it makes life easier to bear. I do believe we are sanctified through prayer, but that is a lifelong process and I’ve only made a start.
Monday, Jan. 9, 2006
Natalia Kraft has a pretty good reason to believe in prayers: This past year, she survived breast cancer.
Now, she is part of a study to see if, in fact, prayers are answered.
“I definitely believe, still believe, that prayer and intention matters a lot,” she said.
Kraft is one of 120 breast cancer survivors being studied. All are healing from reconstructive surgery.
For eight days, strangers around the world pray, or concentrate on positive thoughts for some of the participants. But not every participant is prayed for.
The rates of healing for the different groups will be gauged by measuring collagen levels in each patient. Collagen is produced as scars heal.
“Any help I can get in healing from this disease, I’ll take — especially one that’s non-invasive,” Kraft said. “It’s cost effective. I don’t really see any downside to it.”
The study is funded by the federal government’s National Institutes of Health, and being led by Marilyn Schlitz, who calls the subject she is examining “distant healing.”
“I’ve been looking at claims made by healers from different traditions throughout history that they can use their minds to influence someone at a distance,” Schlitz said.
Catherine Karas, a self-proclaimed healer from New Jersey, was one of the people praying. She had only a picture and a short description of her patient.
“When you do a study, what you’re looking for is the truth,” Karas said. “So what I hope is that [what] the study does is show us what the truth is.”
‘We Can’t Know’
However, Dr. Richard Sloan of the Columbia University Medical Center, who studies how non-physical ailments like depression contribute to physical problems like heart disease, says the current study is flawed at its core — that it’s not possible to study prayer.
“We know that there are religious orders out there that pray for all the sick all the time,” he said. “We also know that family friends, members of religious congregations and others are praying for these people all the time, and that prayer is out of the control of the researchers.
“We can’t test it,” he added. “It’s impossible to test. We can’t know.”
But the study’s director says it is precisely because so many people believe in it that prayer must be studied.
“It’s an obligation for science to begin to look, and look critically but open mindedly, at the possibility that our minds are more powerful than we previously understood,” Schlitz said.
The study’s results are due in 2006.
Kraft, who has no idea if she was prayed for during the study, says prayers, thoughts and good intentions have already eased her recovery.
Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2005
Lisa Wenger and her family will never forget the morning of Dec. 9.
Prior to that day, Wenger’s 21-month-old daughter, Prayer — who was diagnosed in July with anoxic brain damage and cerebral hypoxia after she accidentally fell into the family’s swimming pool and nearly drowned — was motionless for more than four months.
“After the accident, she was very stiff. Her arms were always straight out and she didn’t move. She never blinked, moved her mouth to talk or anything. She couldn’t move her legs,” Wenger said, adding doctors have determined that Prayer’s mental state since her accident on July 18 is equivalent to that of a baby still in the womb.
Following her release in August from Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Prayer was unable to show signs of emotion or move her limbs.
That all changed on Dec. 9, when Wenger and her husband, Michael, along with their 5-year-old daughter, Faith, received an early Christmas present they will cherish forever.
That morning, Prayer greeted her parents with a smile for the first time since before the accident. She began to wiggle her fingers and toes. Prayer even laughed when her mother tickled her chin. On that day, a small amount of normality was restored. Wenger said Prayer has remained responsive since that morning.
“It was the smile of an angel. When her eyes looked at me, it was wonderful. It was as if God had told her today is the day for you to see your family. It was magical,” Wenger said. “A piece of heaven was on earth that day.”
Prayer’s nurse, Roseann Cutler, said the family is even relieved to see the baby cry.
“Before she was doing nothing. We had no idea how she felt. When I saw her smile that morning, I’d already gotten my Christmas present,” Cutler said. “Prayer is very expressive now.”
Wenger expects Christmas to be a lot smoother than Thanksgiving, when Prayer survived yet another frantic scare. On Nov. 10, Prayer suffered from respiratory distress and was taken back to Hershey Medical Center for eight days. Within eight hours of her return home on Nov. 18, she had again undergone breathing complications and was rushed to Chambersburg Hospital. From Nov. 19 to 26, Prayer stayed at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“It was like she was dying before our very eyes. Her EEG had shown that she has not had any seizures, which was a relief. God is truly amazing. We are blessed,” Wenger said.
The family maintains high spirits through Prayer’s illness with the support of Waynesboro and other communities throughout Franklin County. Wenger said her family has received anonymous donations every day
since Prayer’s accident this summer. In fact, the Wengers have 40 presents nestled under their Christmas tree from people they have never met.
“We’ve received a 28-pound turkey for our Christmas dinner. An anonymous family at Faith’s school (St. Andrew School) is paying her monthly $200 fee for her to go to school. People have held all sorts of donations for Prayer,” Wenger said. “It’s truly amazing how this community has rallied around Prayer. And it’s not just during the holidays, it’s all year long. God has been answering our prayers.”
The Wengers also receive daily food donations. Waynesboro community members have spearheaded efforts to establish a “Prayer for Prayer” wristband fund-raising program. Last week, members of the fund-raising committee presented the family with a check for $8,650. The money will be used toward Prayer’s medical expenses.
“The bracelets were sold in communities including Hagerstown (Md.) and Greencastle. People everywhere have been so kind and giving,” Wenger said.
Prayer receives bi-weekly medical treatment from a physical therapist, visionary specialist, speech therapist, developmental specialist and occupational therapist. She also takes 12 different medicines each day and is fed through a feeding tube in her stomach. Wenger said doctors expect Prayer to swallow food on her own when she turns 4.
Prayer’s most recent EEG has shown no signs of dead brain cells, which Wenger says is a good indication she will have a chance at a normal life.
“Slowly, she’s coming back to the way she was,” Cutler said. “Is she walking or playing or moving consistently? Not yet. But, she’s still making huge improvements.”
Prayer is hooked up to a monitor when she sleeps that tracks her oxygen level and heart rate.
“She still can’t breathe on her own. Her oxygen level should be at 90 or above,” Cutler said.
Because Prayer has shown a fascination with the family’s Christmas tree, Wenger said the tree will remain in the living room for the entire year.
“She loves the lights on the tree. Her eyes just light up when she sees it. We’ll decorate the tree for holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day,” Wenger said.
The Wengers will spend Christmas morning in church and will open gifts as a family during the afternoon. They plan to have a big feast on Christmas Eve, and will eat soups and sandwiches on Christmas Day in honor of disadvantaged families throughout the nation. Wenger said the family will spend Christmas night donating food to eight disadvantaged families in Franklin County.
“We know of eight families who are in need. We know two boys who lost their mother a few months ago. We want to give back just like people have so generously given to us,” Wenger said.
Wenger hopes Prayer will brighten Christmas Day with yet another “gorgeous smile.”
“We’re all hoping she will smile on that day,” Wenger said. “But even if she doesn’t, it’s OK. We’re just glad to have her here because she wasn’t here on Thanksgiving.”
Monday, Dec. 12, 2005
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Rev. Lance Eden and his immediate family prayed for help.
After losing three homes, having relatives dispersed as far as Seattle and getting little help from the federal government, Eden was looking for angels.
Then Laura Kenig and Annie DesLauriers of Ely contacted him.
Kenig and DesLauriers, both 45, leave Duluth today in a 36-foot motor home the two women will drive 1,400 miles and deliver to the Eden family in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans.
“It’s desperately needed,” said Eden, 27, who before the hurricane lived with his 82-year-old grandmother, father, uncle, and a niece and nephew. “It’s been almost three months, and other people have trailers and are back in their property, but we haven’t received any word from FEMA. They (Kenig and DesLauriers) are like angels. That’s the only way I can describe it.”
Eden’s family, who lived in a New Orleans neighborhood known as the The Village, lost three homes in the hurricane. As a result of the storm, his father injured a shoulder and underwent surgery. Eden’s brother is in the military in Iraq. And in the wake of the storm, several family members were relocated.
But Eden, who before the hurricane led a congregation of about 200, was instead looking for housing and relief for members of his church.
He said it took him a while to realize that his own family also had needs.
“I’ve been doing a lot of things to help the community and other persons,” Eden said. “I had a need of my own, but with what’s gone on here, you don’t always have time to think about your own needs. All my family has been displaced and are in need.”
Kenig, a community activist since relocating to Ely in 1991 from her native Maine, heard about the Eden family from Pat and Josie Milan of Ely, who this fall participated in a relief mission to New Orleans.
With $8,000 from two anonymous donors, Kenig and DesLauriers bought the motor home from a local dealer. The women also have been raising money to transport food and household supplies to the Eden family and to cover the costs of delivering the motorhome.
So far, about $5,000 has been raised.
“It’s been a huge project,” Kenig said. “And the community has really rallied behind this. It feels like an important part of life to help out.”
DesLauriers, a native of Eagan, Minn., said a phone conversation with Eden helped direct the women’s efforts.
“After calling him, we found out that he and his extended family had lost everything,” DesLauriers said. “At first, he was hesitant to talk about his needs, but it became clear to us that he was our family. Neither one of us belongs to any organized religion, but to give this good will to someone who has needs feels so great. I still get choked up when people ask me about him.”
Kenig and DesLauriers expect to arrive in Duluth about 10 a.m. today to pick up the motor home before leaving on a four-day drive to New Orleans.
“That motor home is bigger than some of the cabins I’ve lived in,” DesLauriers said with a laugh. “It may be a little tough to parallel park, but I grew up on a farm, and I can drive anything.”
The motor home, which sleeps six, will become home to Eden, his grandmother, father, uncle, niece and nephew, said Eden, who since the hurricane has rotated between sleeping in his church and an uncle’s home. By Dec. 20, the entire family will be reunited and have a motor home to call their own.
Eden said the motor home will give his father a place to heal from surgery and allow the family to take their grandmother a short distance to visit other relatives.
“I know they’re excited about it, but they just don’t realize what a blessing this is going to be,” Eden said of Kenig and DesLauriers. “I cannot wait to meet them. I do know that we prayed that God would send somebody, and God sent them.”
Monday, Nov. 14, 2005
Last month the final hurricane shelter closed in East Texas. For almost two months, relief resources were put to the test across the area. For the most part, it was the church that responded to the need of thousands. KLTV 7’s Clint Yeatts went back to one of the first churches to open its doors to hurricane evacuees to find out how the church passed the test.
For years, the Tyler First Christian Church has been a first responder for people seeking shelter in times of crisis, but they had never experienced anything like what happened August 28th.
As the first shelter to open in Tyler, a few people arrived that day ahead of a storm called Katrina. In just a few days, a church that averages around 400 on Sundays had twice that many in its parking lot.
“God puts in us the gifts, the skills, the potential and then we have the choice to use that, to access that and most important, use that for his benefit and his glory. And I saw people doing that all over the place. Not only in our congregation but from within the community,” said Dr. Jeffrey Wilson, a senior minister at the church.
The days were long and hard. Confusion, frustration, despair came here. But in the midst of it all, the people who spent so many hours here remember how God worked in their lives and the lives of the people whose lives had been turned upside down.
“I personally felt like that I really been touched. And that God put me here because I felt I could contribute, but I was the one that really benefited,” said Pam Sartain, one of the volunteers. “Yes, it was a lot of work, a lot of long, long, long hours. I would drag in at 10:00 or 10:30 at night and be exhausted but I couldn’t wait to get back up here, to be around the people, to see what I could do to help them.” [The purpose driven life: What on Earth Am I Here For?]
“Over and over they would say, ‘Well yeah, but my family is okay.’ Or, ‘I finally located my kids,’ you know, things like that. So they sort of kept us going instead of the other way around,” said volunteer Jackie Littleton.
“Were they ready? Evidently they were,” said Wilson. “A tremendous amount of ministry took place. A tremendous amount of compassion was offered. So, whether they realized they were ready… I mean that’s my understanding of how God works. He grows us and he grows us then give us the opportunity. In a sense it is a test. In a sense it is an opportunity to utilize that.”
Over five weeks, hundreds of people would find shelter here. Even more would arrive for meals, assistance and counseling. It was a scene played over and over again in churches and places of faith across East Texas. The church standing in the gap, providing in a time of crisis. A test of resolve that many feel was passed with flying colors.
“I think the church should always be the first line of help. And we’ve sort of gotten away from that in this country. Until we have something major like this to come and remind us that’s our job,” said Littleton.
“So when you look at what was done by faith-based groups, all the volunteers, all the millions of meals, all the shelter that was given, it was heroic and historic. I think when the story is written about Katrina, Chapter One will be about what the faith-based groups did,” said Jim Towey.
“It’s absolutely what the church is supposed to do. The church is supposed to be the expression of God,” said Wilson.
“Am I glad for the opportunity. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Let me put it this way, we haven’t taken ourselves off the list and we haven’t said go somewhere else first next time,” said Wilson.
Recovery costs at First Christian Church will top around $100,000. Dr. Wilson says his church and the community has already come forward to cover some of the costs. He expects God will provide the rest.