Monday, May. 15, 2006

Did the power of prayer help this little boy walk?

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 backs constitutional amendment on school prayer

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

Sheriff’s prayer calms church

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

The efficacy of prayer

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

A child’s prayer answered

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

Doctor to measure prayer’s healing effects

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

Rockland women to join millions worldwide for day of prayer

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.”

Chapel marks 12 years of 24-hour prayer

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

The power of prayer – online

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 prayer@romeprayerline.org, and non-members submit their requests to nonmember@romeprayerline.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

Online Resource Has Responded to 60 Million Prayer Requests

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

Practically Speaking, Prayer Works

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?

Try 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

Study Seeks to Test Power of Prayer

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.”

‘Distant Healing’

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

Answering a prayer: Injured tot smiles, laughs, wiggles toes and fingers

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

An answered prayer

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

Power Of Prayer: Church And Hurricane

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.

Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005

UK Charity Offers British Forces Personnel Prayer By Telephone

A UK charity has launched a unique telephone prayer service to British service men and women and their families currently based in Germany.

A UK charity has launched a new service to British Forces personnel and their families serving in Germany which will enable them to receive spiritual support via a new telephone prayer service, reports Assist News.

United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) launched the service called Prayerline yesterday, enabling the service men and women and their families in Germany to talk to and pray with someone over the telephone.

“All Prayerline staff are fully trained and although the new service will not be an advice or counselling line, it is intended to be a place where people can go when they need someone to pray with,” read a UCB press release.

Neil Winterton, manager of UCB Prayerline commented: “This service is one that has been needed for some time. With many servicemen and women serving in Iraq and many other countries, families are often left alone for long periods of time and in Germany the problem is increased as those left behind, often with young children, are in a foreign country themselves.”

Mr Winterton said that UCB Prayerline has been working closely with the chaplains on the bases in Germany.

He said: “We are pleased to be able to join with the British Armed Forces to supply this service. When families or individuals are struggling, the one thing that they often seek is spiritual support and we look forward to supporting the chaplains in Germany through this project.”

Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005

Plane lands on a wheel and a prayer

Some passengers prayed as an Air New Zealand jet circled Auckland Airport yesterday with suspected damage to its landing gear.

The flight from Hong Kong with 156 people aboard landed safely after pilots made a low pass at 200m so engineers on the ground could make a visual check of the nosewheel.

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the pilot had thought he heard a noise from the landing gear in the nose after leaving Hong Kong.

Passengers said they were told about the potential problem 20 or 30 minutes before the scheduled 11.15am landing.

“The pilot said they were taking every precaution,” said Lynda Stewart, who was returning from a trade fair in China.

She said some people were praying “for sure”.

Passengers clapped and cheered when the plane landed 30 minutes later than scheduled, said Ms Stewart.

Also aboard was Lisa Blakey of Hawkes Bay, returning home from six months’ volunteer work in Israel with her grandmother.

“The captain was really good about it. Excellent,” she said.

“[He told us that] as we were taking off from Hong Kong someone realised there may be something wrong with the front of the aircraft. He said he was going to do a flypast to make sure everything was okay.

“I think it was the way he explained it – he was just so calm and relaxed, it didn’t bother me.”

In September, a passenger jet with crippled nose gear made a dramatic landing at Los Angeles.

The JetBlue Airbus A320 spent three hours dumping fuel before touching down, its nose gear setting off a shower of smoke and sparks as it dragged along the runway.

Passengers watched the drama on their in-flight television screens.

Sunday, Oct. 30, 2005

Knitting a tapestry of prayer

Last weekend our family stayed in the home of a friend in Orange Beach. It was hard to miss the basketful of colorful yarns and plush, hand-knit shawls draped over the couch and chair.

She told us the story of a new passion in her life — knitting prayer shawls. Her church had been doing hurricane relief since Hurricane Ivan hit. Just as they were winding that effort down, Hurricane Katrina approached.

Weary of the pain and suffering caused by this barrage of hurricanes, she had an idea. Before they evacuated, she would learn to knit her prayers. She hurriedly bought some beautiful colors of yarn and stopped by an elderly friend’s home for a crash course in knitting.

Prayer with every stitch

My friend’s hand-knit shawl turned into not a work of art but a tapestry which was a byproduct of her prayers. With every stitch, she was praying for the people affected by the hurricanes. She draped the finished piece over the shoulders of a friend in need, and the woman began to cry. She felt the assuring warmth of many prayers.

Two days after returning home from this visit, I received two baby blankets from a dear lady who has been praying for premature babies. She showed me her pattern of prayer, knitted right into the blanket. I was honored to carry her blanket to the newborn nursery of Decatur General Hospital and felt awestruck to see, breathing on his own, the tiniest baby I have ever seen. It was a holy moment: a blanket of prayers was already prepared to surround this tiny child.

Jeremiah 1:4

I thought about the Scripture in Jeremiah 1:4: “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I knit you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.’ ” What a blessed mystery it is that God’s love is always ahead of us.

I can barely remember how to knit, having learned on a Barbie outfit, and I’m not really looking for one more handicraft in my busy life, but this is something worthy of pursuit. I plan to see if I can find some yarns that need to be knit together in a tapestry of prayer for unity of God’s people or for a shawl of love for someone who desperately needs to know and feel God’s presence.

I know some avid knitters at my church, Hopesprings United Methodist, who are eager to start this new ministry. As the seasons change from hurricane to winter, I look forward to sitting down with them, with a fire in the fireplace, and knitting many, many prayers.

Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2005

Priests take a hike and find lost glasses

It must be a vision thing, sacredly speaking.

After scaling the southern slope of Mount Adams — twice — two Lower Valley brothers are living testimony to the power of prayer.

Of course, the fact that they have an inside track to a higher power might have helped a bit, too.

The brothers, John and Bill Shaw, also happen to be Catholic priests; the Rev. John Shaw of Toppenish is retired, and the Rev. Bill Shaw is pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in White Swan.

A little more than a month ago, a deacon from St. Mary’s, Andy Gonzalez, invited the Shaws to climb Mount Adams. John, who is 78, and Bill, who is 76, were game, so they started out on the trail in the Mount Adams Wilderness at 4 a.m.

But by the time they reached an area on the mountain called Lunch Counter — about two-thirds of the way up on the 12,281-foot climb — they were bushed.

“There’s no McDonald’s on Lunch Counter,” ruefully notes Bill Shaw, adding that he and his brother were hungry and tired and decided they’d had enough for one day.

So they headed back down the mountain, arriving at the trailhead 10 hours after their start.

However, there was one problem. John had accidentally left his eyeglasses on a rock along the trail.

So three days later, the Shaws ventured up again to see if they could retrieve the glasses. Only this time they did it without Gonzalez, their guide.

As they approached the Lunch Counter area, they began to realize how futile their search might be, hunting for a small pair of glasses in “nooks and crannies and rocks and snow,” recalls Bill Shaw.

Just about to give up and hike back down, they said a prayer to St. Anthony (the patron saint of lost items), looked down at the ground in front of them and there they were.

Now that they’ve proved they’re rugged climbers — two times — the Shaws are looking forward to hiking more mountain trails next summer.

And before that? John Shaw just might be in the market for an eyeglass cord.

Monday, Oct. 17, 2005

High Tech Prayer Breakfast draws 1500

Rising at the crack of dawn Oct. 7, more than 1,500 Atlanta technology executives crammed into the Cobb Galleria Centre to hear Miami Dolphins executive Wayne Huizenga Jr. speak. Only they didn’t come to hear tales of the gridiron; they came to hear the word of God.

Since the High Tech Prayer Breakfast was first showcased in 1992 by Atlanta real estate broker Bill Leonard, other industry-specific prayer breakfasts have been started in Atlanta: commercial real estate, residential real estate and financial events are now held once a year.

And on Nov. 11, the Hospitality Industry Prayer Breakfast will hold its first-ever event, with Ritz-Carlton co-founder Horst Schulze as the guest speaker.

Prayer breakfasts are also growing in other cities. One popular event is the DC Metro High Tech Prayer Breakfast, fashioned after Atlanta’s, and now in its fourth year. The group putting on this year’s event in December has tapped beer baron Adolf Coors IV to speak. About 650 tech execs showed up for last year’s breakfast and 800 are expected this year, said founder Carl Grant.

In California’s Silicon Valley area there are several small industry events, including a chemical engineers’ prayer breakfast. In November, Fremont, Calif.-based NAEN Ministries is putting on a high-tech prayer event in the San Jose Sharks’ stadium.

Janet Goodman, vice president of the ministries, said the industry galas she puts on generally attract around 200 people. That’s a high number for any city outside the Bible Belt, she said.

“I don’t think there’s anything going on across the country like what’s happening in Atlanta,” Goodman said. “Most of the leaders are looking at Atlanta as the leader.”

Os Hillman, director of the Cumming, Ga.-based International Coalition of Workplace Ministries, a fellowship of workplace Christians, said Atlanta could consider itself the inventor of the genre.

“We are setting the pace,” said Hillman, who has written 10 books on religion in the workplace.

Hillman said industry events are so popular because attendees are more connected with each other than at more generic gatherings. They almost become the place to be seen, drawing executives from InterContinental Hotels Group Plc and The Home Depot Inc. to BellSouth Corp. and SunTrust Banks Inc.

For Leonard, there is little good in being godless at work and religious at home.

“If we leave our faith at home, then what kind of faith is that?” asked Leonard, whose regular job is president of Wm. Leonard & Co., a real estate broker for emerging technology companies. He also founded the nonprofit High Tech Ministries Inc., which attempts to bridge the technology community toward a “deeper relationship with Jesus Christ by creating business environments where God can be discovered,” and is led by entrepreneur and venture capitalist Charlie Paparelli.

At the recent High Tech Prayer Breakfast, speakers, including Huizenga, were emotional and honest, drawing tears from themselves as well as from many in the audience.

Such functions certainly aren’t for everybody. Michael Kogon, CEO of interactive marketing firm Definition 6, was invited but sent someone else from his company to attend.

“Would I be happier if it were more inclusive? Sure,” said Kogon, who is Jewish. “That would be better. But I wouldn’t put it in any category that would make me lose any sleep over.”

Ricky Steele, chief development officer for information technology staffer Thompson Technologies Inc., a Christian-centric firm, contends that the organizers do not mince words about the purpose of the breakfasts. Nor do the speakers preach fire and brimstone, he added.

“We’re not tricking anybody into coming in, then telling them ‘You’re going to Hell in a handbasket if you don’t get right with God,’ ” said Steele, who has been active with the prayer breakfasts since 1996.

Hillman said that now, more than ever, there is a place for business and religion. One big catalyst, he said, is President George W. Bush, who has been open concerning his faith. Another is diversity and the fear of companies having unhappy Christian employees or getting sued by those employees for discrimination. Atlanta’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for instance, in 2001 instituted a Christian fellowship group. That’s from an agency that the International Coalition of Workplace Ministries says deemed the word “holiday” offensive because it reminded people of Christmas. In 2001, The Coca-Cola Co. instituted a similar program.

Possibly the biggest reason, though, is the “M” word. “Morally, we’ve fallen,” Leonard said. “That’s evident in Enron.”

When asked if such huge Christian events made Atlanta look backward, he said “backward” was the wrong word.

“I would call it a recovery,” he said.

Friday, Oct. 7, 2005

Coast Guard couple credits faith, prayer for successful rescues

Commander Scott Kitchen describes the United States Coast Guard as one big family, and after Hurricane Katrina, that family participated in what he calls “the biggest rescue effort since Moses.”

The helicopter crews flying under his command rescued 6,471 people after Hurricane Katrina and 67 people after Hurricane Rita. The total number of all rescues, both air and water, for the Coast Guard was more than 22,000.

But the Coast Guard is Kitchen’s family in more ways than one. Jennifer Lay Kitchen, Scott’s wife, is also a commander for the Coast Guard. They met and married while stationed in Miami. The two are members of Calvary Baptist Church in New Orleans.

Jennifer, who serves as the 8th Coast Guard District Planner, evacuated during Hurricane Katrina to Baton Rouge while Scott led his helicopter teams out of harm’s way.

After the storm passed, Jennifer wondered what she should do next, and her answer was not far away. The Guard needed someone at the Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge with air operations experience, so she began taking calls and determining the need for boats and helicopters during the rescue effort.

Throughout her 14- to 16-hour days, she received calls ranging from people stranded on rooftops to reports of gunfire.

“If people weren’t praying for us, we couldn’t have held it together,” she said.

Jennifer, who is also a pilot, understood God’s plan for her. In the last few years, her job has taken her out of the pilot’s seat to help coordinate the efforts of the helicopter crews.

“No matter how I fret over something, God’s got a plan,” she said.

One of the things she would have fretted over in the past would have been not flying the rescue missions.

“To not be flying would have been impossible without my present relationship with God. I would have been eaten up with [worry],” she said.

God revealed His providential hand to Scott, too, throughout the ordeal. He said God had put particular Coast Guard teams there for a purpose, and the low death toll in the region was amazing.

“Rescuing 22,000 people was not a coincidence,” he said.

Scott’s teammates rescued a 71-year-old man stranded at his home for 14 days, surviving on one gallon of water. While doing a search, the team heard a faint tapping, and upon closer inspection, they found the man. Scott praised God for such rescues because “He gave these people the will to live. They kept their faith.”

In addition to rescuing people through the Coast Guard, Scott and Jennifer use recovery skills of a different kind at Calvary Baptist. The couple helps people with hurts, habits and hang-ups through the church’s Celebrate Recovery ministry, and they teach a college Sunday School class.

Tuesday, Sep. 27, 2005

Prayer list prompts woman to donate kidney to stranger

Jacqueline Lackney didn’t know Jude Cooper, but she noticed the woman’s name on the Glad Tidings Tabernacle bulletin prayer list.

Something drew Lackney to the Flushing woman’s aid. Now, she is going to give Cooper a kidney.

“One day in service, I felt God say to me to go” to Cooper’s parents, said Lackney, 44, a custodial employee at Kettering University.

Cooper’s parents told Lackney that their daughter, weak from being on dialysis four times a day, badly needed a transplant. Lackney found she had the same blood type (A-positive) as Cooper, 45.

“I said, `OK, I want to be tested,'” said Lackney of Genesee County’s Flint Township.

The women found they were perfect matches, and the transplant is set for Oct. 4.

Cooper is a commercial photographer who was forced to quit as manager of a local photo store in 1993 because of diabetes and other ailments. She initially was cautious about the offer. Earlier, a friend had offered a kidney but backed out.

“To be honest, at first I was flabbergasted that she would even want to give me a kidney because I was a stranger,” said Cooper, a diabetic since age 22. “We discussed it — my family and I — we wanted it to be her decision.”

Church member Debbie McManus of Mundy Township isn’t surprised by Lackney’s offer.

“I think she is a God-oriented person,” McManus said. “God is directing her on ways of doing this.”

Lackney, who has been regularly attending Glad Tidings Tabernacle since January 2003, said she wanted to give something back to the people who had helped her family through a couple of crises with cancer.

In April, her son, Brandon, now 16, had a mass on his brain first thought to be a tumor. She immediately called people in the church, asking for their prayers.

The mass turned out to be an abscess and was removed.

“I thought it doesn’t make any difference who it is, they are all my family here,” she said of the church.

Cooper’s mother, Patricia Cooper Campbell, is impressed by Lackney’s willingness to have the transplant.

“If she backs out on the last day, I will understand because I know what she is going through,” said Cooper Campbell, 68, whose late first husband had a transplant.

“It’s not about money because you can’t put a price on what Jackie is doing. It’s got to be from the love of God.”

Church members are planning a fund-raiser for Lackney to help her with the loss of income while she recovers from the kidney removal. The recovery normally takes six to eight weeks.

“God has just been awesome through all this,” Lackney said. “And this church has been awesome for taking me in and loving me.”

Wednesday, Sep. 21, 2005

WR answers a hometown girl’s prayer

Warner Robins might not be the biggest city around, the most historic or the prettiest.

But I challenge anyone to show me a town with a bigger heart.

Last week, I told you about Sarah Beth Wheeler and her prayer that her hometown would send desperately needed supplies to the Hammond, La. area.

Today, I am going to tell you what the people of Warner Robins did.

Friday about 3 a.m., a truckload of supplies – food, water, baby stuff, etc. – pulled out of Warner Robins. The truck actually went to a distribution center in Pine, La., a little hamlet outside of Hammond that still doesn’t have electricity. Pine is made of up mostly older people. It’s a rural, farming community.

It was in Pine, at the First Baptist Church, that 47,000 pounds of supplies gathered by the citizens of Warner Robins were unloaded about 3 p.m. Friday.

The line of cars had formed long before the truck pulled in.

Sarah Beth Wheeler was there as the truck was unloaded by inmates from a local prison. The inmates had given up their visitation day to help with the distribution of supplies.

People had been asked not to get out of their cars, to remain in them while the supplies were unloaded and sorted. Then a sort of drive-through was set up.

But one man, in his 80s, defied the law officials on hand. He got out of his truck anyway, saying, “I have to tell them, I have to tell them.”

He hung his head on the driver’s shoulder and cried “thank you, thank you, thank you.”

In about six hours, the truck was empty and the supplies had all been given out to people.

Not stored in a distribution center. Given out. That night people in Pine, La., ate green beans, changed diapers, had a sheet to lie on, or were able to wash their hair because of you.

When Sarah Beth Wheeler asked for the prayers of her hometown and that the people of Warner Robins would respond with much-needed supplies, several organizations jumped on board. At Russell Elementary School, where Sarah Beth’s mom, Joan Turner, teaches, staff and students had a special drive. Houston Medical Center employees brought in all kinds of things and allowed their facility to be a drop-off point. Central Baptist church members donated items, sorted and boxed all the donations and packed the truck.

Frito-Lay donated the truck and pallets of Gatorade, water and chips.

And you, to whom Sarah Beth was a stranger, opened your hearts and donated also.

Baby beds, prenatal vitamins, sheets and blankets, food by the sackful. All dropped off at the Pavilion, without any fanfare, without any acknowledgement.

Done only with love in the heart and a sincere compassion for those who are suffering right now.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me.”

Jesus tells us in the Bible, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

So with their stomachs a little fuller, their load a little lighter, the people of Pine and Hammond say thanks, Warner Robins.

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2005

Prayer may have saved life

Mike White needed to leave his Bucyrus home at 5 a.m. Saturday to set up for the Cruise-in Car and Hot Rod Show at Walston Motors. As he was preparing to walk out the door, the church-going man thought, “Should I pray now or do it later?”

He did, not making much of it at the time. But that prayer might just have have had to do with his good luck later in the day.

White and his wife were feet away from certain injury or even death after an afternoon crash involving three vehicles on Marion Road sent an extended cab GMC pickup through a tent set up for the car show. White was in fact one of the first to get to the truck, which was still running with two men unconscious inside.

“It snapped the back of the seats … knocked one of the guys out of the driver’s seat” and the go-kart in the truck bed crashed through the back window, White said.

The pickup had no chance when, shortly after 12:30 p.m., Chicago, Ohio, trucker Adem Softic slammed the brakes of his 2004 Volvo-built semi.

The 23-year-old, who was later cited for speeding and failing to assure clear distance ahead, hit the brakes because as he was approaching Bucyrus northbound on Ohio 4, he saw a car stopped in the road. It was simply too late.

Randy L. Warwick, 45, Bucyrus, was behind the wheel of the GMC truck with Travis Lee Agee, 33, North Robinson, in the passenger seat. They were taken to Bucyrus Community Hospital by ambulance and were released Monday, according to White.

“They’re both terribly sore,” he said, having checked in with Agee, who has a listed telephone number.

According to a police report, Softic saw the GMC pickup and another car in the road, its occupants conversing with a pedestrian standing in the middle the road. Softic braked hard but “was unable to stop and veered to the right,” striking the GMC in the rear and sending it 100 feet left and into a tent where people had been gathered just minutes before.

The pedestrian, Fonda L. Moore, 43, Bucyrus, was collecting donations for Hurri-

cane Katrina victims on behalf of the Bucyrus Professional Network. She was cited Monday for standing in the road, a minor traffic misdemeanor that does not carry a mandatory court appearance. Attempts to reach her Monday were unsuccessful.

White, one of the organizers of the car show, said he talked to police earlier about possible congestion from car traffic coming in and out of the show. More than 100 vehicles were on display at the show, which he called a success.

Ron Hoeft, Crawford County commissioner, former Ohio State Highway Patrol post commander and car enthusiast, who lives half-mile away from Walston Motors, had just left the show and was on his way back when he saw traffic building up and realized something had happened.

After driving up to discover the crushed tent, he said he thought “we might see bodies everywhere.” He said medical personnel, police and fire department were at the scene within minutes and it didn’t turn out as bad as he thought.

“My opinion is we’re awful lucky,” Hoeft said, insisting the car show had absolutely no role in the accident and that no particular person was likely to blame.

Hoeft said the car show, sponsored by Walston Motors and hosted by the Lincoln Highway Chapter of Pontiac Oakland Club International, was raising money through a raffle for the Bucyrus After School Enrichment Program.

After the accident, White rushed to Moore, who has standing in the road near the semi.

“She came out and said she was OK,” he said.

White credits the authorities for responding quickly and efficiently Saturday. He gave testimony at church Sunday, reflecting on what could have been.

“It could’ve been worse,” he said. “Thank God it wasn’t.”

And as far as his decision to pray Saturday morning?

“I’m thankful I did.”

Monday, Aug. 22, 2005

Prayer, faith and a cool miracle

A favorite prayer of mine includes a bidding for a “childlike faith in God,” at which point my mind often wonders, “What would Granny Steele think?”

Granny Steele passed away when I was still a boy. I wish I could have known her for a longer time. I wish I could ask her questions right now. I’d like to know more clearly, for example, her thoughts about the day that I was playing alone in a room with a gas space heater and accidentally created danger. The noxious fumes pretty soon brought Granny and my father into the room. I didn’t catch the concern as they fretted about the danger, cut off the gas, and opened doors and windows, because, as I told them, “It’s OK. Jesus will save us.”

I would give a lot to have a record of Granny Steele’s exact reply, but essentially it nudged me out of childlike faith and toward questioning. Jesus won’t save us from mishaps? Then what is faith about? Why do we bother to believe?

No-nonsense pragmatism

Granny Steele was a church-going woman, but I imagine that her journey of faith was steeped in self-reliance. In her daily grind, Jesus didn’t plow fields or pluck chickens, churn butter or chop wood. For her, Jesus’ parables of the earth probably were quite literal. I also imagine that she felt abandoned by God when one of her 12 offspring died in a fire in a ramshackle wooden schoolhouse. That loss may be why my potential disaster with the gas heater brought her out full bore. In her no-nonsense way of saying that Jesus wasn’t going to cure my every mistake, she set me on a different course.My faith to this day is riddled with pragmatism. Where other people see miracles in even the smallest of events, I expect there are rational explanations. When I see faith summarized on bumper stickers and T-shirts, or hawked by TV preachers, I remember Granny Steele instead.

On a recent Saturday in oppressive heat, I spent several hours working outside. After a cool shower and several glasses of water, I wondered why I was still sweating. So I checked the thermostat. My house was as hot as, well, you know what. The air conditioner wasn’t blowing.

Does someone with a childlike faith pray, “God, fix my air conditioner”? I only know that I can’t say such a prayer. But the next morning as I knelt in church, I did pray silently, “God, this is more than I can handle right now.” (I’m sure I also subtly reminded God of the sad state of my dishwasher, van, lawn mower and bank account.)

There’s an ominous slogan: “God never gives us more than we can handle.” My typical rebuttal is, first, those words are of no comfort to the victims of war and poverty we see in the news every day; and, second, despite the admonition to “turn the other cheek,” there’s nothing in Scripture that says, “Let life kick you in the shins.”

Which is what I did anyway that blistering hot Sunday. The Gospel lesson began with Matthew’s summary of the parable of the tiny mustard seed, but faith was a little ways from my mind. I was thankful for being in an air-conditioned church, but also distracted by thinking of air-conditioned places where I could hang out that afternoon.

Misplaced faith

Monday morning, before calling for repair, I tried the air conditioner again, just to make sure. It started right up. A rational explanation? Probably. More important are my questions: Why didn’t I try the air conditioner on Sunday, after my prayer of desperation, instead of sweating out the day? Why, as cool air entered my house Monday morning, did I pass my hand over each vent and stare at the thermostat, again and again, seeking confirmation of what was apparent?

It’s because my faith was misplaced. I was certain that I’d already tested everything I knew, and so I couldn’t believe that my air conditioner was working again. Just as I couldn’t believe, as a young boy, that Jesus wouldn’t save us from being blown to bits.

In the span of two days, I received God’s reminder that when we pray, we are not sealing an envelope without further thought; and I remembered Granny Steele’s lesson that faith is not about being spared from peril. I’ll consider that a miracle.

Friday, Aug. 5, 2005

Pub serves up free prayer with a pint

A PUB landlord said yesterday customers were queuing up for his offer of a free prayer along with a pint.

Dad-of-seven Kevin McArdle came up with the idea as a way of getting more people involved with churches.

Those wanting prayers said on their behalf drop a note into a box at Ye Olde Mail Coach in Conwy, using a pen and paper provided on the bar.

The prayers were read out in church later by members of a North Wales Christian centre.

A delighted Mr McArdle said the idea was popular with tourists and locals alike.

A poster outside the pub reads: “Free Prayers. Can we pray for you or someone you know?

“Drop your prayer requests in the box on the bar. We will pray.

“Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. Peter 5: 7.”

Catholic Mr McArdle, a landlord for 22 years, previously banned beer mats showing a man in underpants stretching a condom as part of a health campaign for being “over the top”.

He said: “There’s a pen there and you fill in a prayer or you can leave anything – including your name and address.. “There’s also a phone number you can use.”

The prayer box contents were collected by representatives from the Christian Centre in Colwyn Bay, part of Cytun – an organisation representing churches of different faiths, religions and denominations in Wales.

Mr McArdle said: “Some people are just passing through on holiday. Some of them would not normally go to church and find that this works.

“I think that I am the only pub doing this at the moment.

“It was a bit difficult to do in the beginning with some believing it is controversial.”

However, after first consulting with his customers Mr McArdle decided to give it a go.

He said: “We started off by putting the box at the bar. Some people are quite nice and some are more rough and ready with their feedback.

“You just put a prayer in – it might be for your mother or father or your family – some people don’t get around to it. “This can be a stepping stone for them.”

Sunday, Jul. 10, 2005

Shark-attack victim’s tale inspires others

Book and movie deals, a fragrance line and a popular Web site were the last things on Bethany Hamilton’s mind the moment she lost her left arm to a tiger shark in Kauai, Hawaii.

God was the first, and wondering whether she would ever ride the waves again was a close second, said the 15-year-old competitive surfer, who was 13 when the shark attacked.

“I’m lucky I’m alive,” Bethany said Saturday. “I just know God has a future for me.”

To promote the release of her book, Soul Surfer, a tale of her tragedy in relation to her faith, Bethany visited Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington on Saturday night; it houses one of the nation’s largest Christian congregations.

The 213-page book, dedicated to Jesus Christ and Bethany’s family, has made the Los Angeles Times’ best-seller list.

But members at Willow Creek seemed more impressed that Bethany continued surfing and kept her religious faith.

“We invited her here because in a Christian community, she is more evidence that having a relationship with God really makes the difference,” said Mark Weinert, a member of the church’s board of directors.

In October 2003, as the ocean waters churned red with her blood, Bethany said she prayed on the half-mile, 25-minute trip back to shore with her friends. She said she also prayed in the ambulance with the help of a paramedic.

Bethany, a lean blond who wore a Hawaiian lei to the event, has placed in the finals of the National Surfing Championships and has landed herself on the 2005 USA Surf Team since the attack. She’s also selling men’s and women’s fragrances packaged in surfboard bottles, called “Wired” and “Stoked,” and says she expects the movie about her ordeal to begin filming soon.

Nicole Mathes, 12, of Algonquin, who is battling scoliosis and other ailments, traveled on crutches to hear Bethany speak. She said she hoped to one day return to dancing much like Bethany has continued surfing.

“I like how she got back in the water and how she never gave up,” Nicole said.

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As fans lined up to buy her book and get her autograph, some said they appreciated that Bethany has promised to donate a percentage of receipts from her commercial endeavors to World Vision, an evangelical Christian aid organization.

“She’s doing good with the opportunity she has,” said Matthew Regan, 23. “She’s taking a bad tragedy in a good direction.”

An amazing answered prayer

It was the hottest, busiest two weeks of work my husband, Steve, and I had ever experienced in the mission field, and we were exhausted. As we walked out of our last meeting that Sunday afternoon in Astrakhan, Russia, we felt we could finally relax. Lunch with the pastor, an evening of rest, a morning flight back to Moscow for a couple of days of recovery, and we’d be on our way back to the states.

But alas, our luxurious plans would be altered. At lunch the pastor told us of a mission church he had planted in a remote, impoverished village an hour away. Please, he said, would we do just one more meeting? Would we go to the village with him and preach? Please? Pazhalsta?

Everything in our tired minds and bodies screamed “no.” We were done, empty. The tiny hotel beds were calling us for a nap. But God had other plans, and Steve and I looked at each other, our eyes confirming what we knew – we had to go. We would soon be glad we agreed, for we were about to witness a miracle of answered prayer.

We reached the village an hour before the meeting and decided to take a walk down the dirt streets. The poverty was some of the worst we had encountered, the houses little more than shacks. But near the end of the village we saw a beautiful “Kodak moment.” A colorful old woman in kerchief and apron, a true Russian babushka, sat peeling potatoes in front of her house. She agreed to let us take her picture, and then invited us into her little home.

After a few minutes of seeing her family pictures and turning down her offers of chai, we stood to leave. At that moment Steve felt impressed by the Lord to give the lady some money. It was not a large amount to us, but we later learned it equaled more than a month’s pension for her, which she had not been receiving for some reason. As long as we live we’ll never forget what happened next. After she took the money she looked up at Steve, and suddenly her eyes widened with amazement. “It’s you!” she exclaimed.

We had no idea what she meant, but she continued, “I saw you on the TV! You were preaching. As I listened to you, I prayed to God and asked him if he would send someone like you to help me. My husband is dead and I have no money and I have to feed my daughter and her children. I prayed to God but I didn’t think he would answer me! And now, you are here!”

What are the odds? Was it a coincidence that our plans were altered, that we came to her village, arrived with time to spare, chose her street to walk down and ended up in her living room handing her the answer to her prayer? She didn’t have great faith, didn’t even own a Bible, but she cried out to God, and he heard her and answered her prayer. Needless to say, she came to the meeting that night.

Sunday, Jun. 12, 2005

Support of many helps pastor’s wife overcome brain damage

Debbie Yeske came home from her job at a church day care center with an excruciating headache. She took a bath while the rest of her family sat down to eat.

“I was still sitting there eating supper,” recalled her husband, the Rev. Mark Yeske. “I heard her flailing around in the bathroom. It sounded strange, compared to someone normally taking a bath.

“Then all of a sudden, I heard nothing. I thought that was just as strange, but I still didn’t do anything.”

Mark Yeske estimates it was about five minutes before he realized something was wrong.

“I opened up the door, and she was totally under the water.”

Thus began an ordeal that would try the faith of the Yeske family and involve spiritual leaders from throughout the community. Many believe that Debbie Yeske was lifted from a hopeless condition by the hand of God.

Back on March 7, when Mark Yeske lifted his wife’s head out of the bath water, she had stopped breathing.

“I used my faith,” he said. “I just spoke: Live in Jesus’ name. And she started breathing.”

Before the paramedics arrived, she stopped breathing again.

Mark Yeske, pastor of Real Life Assembly of God and a chaplain at St. Mary’s Hospital, prayed again. She started breathing once more.

After arriving at the hospital, Debbie Yeske had to be hooked up to a respirator.

She was diagnosed with bacterial spinal meningitis, which caused the seizure that laid her out in the tub. Doctors said the infection had spread to her lungs.

During the days that followed, Debbie Yeske remained in intensive care. Although she opened her eyes, she gave no indication that she recognized anyone.

Dr. Ajay Verma, a pulmonary critical care specialist at St. Mary’s, recalled that Debbie Yeske’s brain was damaged by oxygen deprivation.

“She had very poor cognition,” he said. “She was awake but she would not respond appropriately, so that was a big issue.”

Verma said that he has seen patients recover from similar injuries, but usually they became responsive within the first three days. In Debbie Yeske’s case, she was unresponsive for two weeks.

“Then you are thinking: Is there permanent damage to the brain from hypoxemia?” Verma said.

A neurologist ordered an electroencephalogram. The results were grim, Mark Yeske recalled.

“The doctors explained it to me this way: A normal person functions with brain waves of 12. A person with a full-blown Alzheimer’s has brain waves slowed to 8. Debbie’s brain waves were 4.”

After an additional test turned up no treatable abnormalities, Mark Yeske hit rock bottom.

“The prognosis at that point was devastating. They just confirmed that she had permanent brain damage and that it wasn’t going to get any better from that point.”

From the beginning of the ordeal, pastors from many churches and denominations poured into the intensive care waiting room to comfort the family and pray.

“We just had a tremendous amount of prayer support,” Mark Yeske said. “It was very impressive to see the body of Christ come together.

“At one time there were 30 pastors at the same time in the ICU waiting room. We formed a circle and prayed right there.”

After a night Mark Yeske spent in prayer at home, the following morning he found his wife sitting up, apparently recognizing people. She still was not talking or walking, but she rapidly regained both those functions in the days that followed.

She returned home on Saturday, April 2, three days before the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary.

Debbie Yeske said the only lingering effect she has is a lack of memory of anything that happened during the past six months or so before the illness.

Mark Yeske said the ordeal has made him a better pastor and chaplain, one who deeply appreciates people and deeply appreciates God for restoring his wife to him.

“We complete each other,” he said. “That was such a devastating thing, thinking that my completer wasn’t going to be with me.”

Thursday, Jun. 9, 2005

Prayer and church may slow Alzheimer’s disease

Going to church may not only be good for the soul, but good for the mind as well, say Canadian and Israeli researchers who found that religious practice may slow the insidious progress of Alzheimer’s disease.

“We learned that Alzheimer’s patients with higher levels of spirituality or higher levels of religiosity may have a significantly slower progression of cognitive decline,” said study author Dr. Yakir Kaufman, director of neurology at Sarah Herzog Memorial Hospital in Jerusalem.

Recent peer-reviewed research indicates that religious involvement lowers mortality and increases quality of life, particularly in patients with neurological disorders, Kaufman and co-author Dr. Morris Freedman explain in a paper.

Kaufman presented “The Effects of Spirituality and Religiosity on the Rate of Cognitive Decline and Quality of Life in Alzheimer’s Disease” at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Miami Beach, Fla.

Their study is the first to look at the relationship between religiosity, spirituality and the rate of disease progression in Alzheimer’s disease, said Freedman, who heads the division of neurology at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto.

“This is amazing research,” said geriatric psychiatrist Dr. Michael Rayel, chief of psychiatry at Dr. G. B. Cross Memorial Hospital in Clarenville, Newfoundland. “This work is consistent with recent studies showing that prayer, spirituality or religiosity is correlated with better mental and physical health.”

Worldwide, Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 5 percent to 10 percent of adults over age 65 and nearly 50 percent of adults over 85 years of age.

In Freedman’s home country of Canada, 1.3 percent of the population — 420,000 people — has the disease, which manifests as a gradual wasting of brain tissue accompanied by the accumulation of so-called “amyloid plaques” — protein fragments the body normally breaks down and eliminates that block transmission of information across neurons.

In the United States, 4.5 million adults, or about 1.5 percent of the population, have Alzheimer’s, at a cost of some $61 billion annually, according to the Alzheimer’s Association of America.

The new research, which found that “spirituality and private religious practices were significantly associated with progression of cognitive impairment,” may open the door to new psychotherapies designed to stop or reverse this so-far incurable disease.

The researchers devised a study that assessed 68 subjects between ages 49 and 94. Each person met criteria for probable Alzheimer’s disease as determined by the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke/Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Association.

Published in 1984, the criteria are globally accepted as diagnostic for the disorder.

Two assessment tools — the Duke University Religion Index, or DUREL, and the Fetzer Institute’s Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness/Spirituality — measured each subject’s religious practices, such as church attendance or private prayer.

“The DUREL is a five-item scale designed to assess organizational and private religious and spiritual practices including attendance, private religious activities, and intrinsic religiosity,” said Kaufman.

Kaufman and Freedman used the Folstein Mini Mental State Examination to measure cognitive response and impairment in their subjects.

The brainchild of Tufts University psychiatry professor and cognitive disorders specialist Dr. Marshal Folstein, the Mini Mental State Examination is a short survey that grades a person’s orientation, attention, memory, language and ability to follow simple commands.

Data analysis revealed “higher levels of religiosity and private religious practices were significantly correlated with slower rates of cognitive decline,” Freedman explained.

But whether or not spiritual activity slows Alzheimer’s more effectively than other types of mental activity may be the “$64,000 question,” said University of Pennsylvania radiology professor Dr. Andrew Newberg.

“Is prayer simply a heightened cognitive process or does it have unique benefits all its own?” said Newberg, whose pioneering studies imaged the brain during meditation and prayer. “One of the big questions ultimately becomes whether or not the researchers can differentiate the positive effects of spirituality from other activities.”

Separating the two elements of religious practice — belief and practice — may help explain these benefits.

“In addition to the ‘supernatural’ explanation for better health, the rituals and traditions associated with spirituality, such as socialization, volunteering, scheduled church activities and prayers, contribute to mental and cognitive processes,” said Rayel, who is also a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Scanning a patient’s brain with positron-emission tomography may
represent a next step in the research, Newberg told Science & Theology News. Positron-emission tomography is an accepted diagnostic tool used to improve predictions about future cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients.

If spirituality indeed slows the disease, additional studies could lead to religion-based therapies.

“These findings may warrant an interventional study looking at the possible effect of enhancement of spiritual well-being as a means of slowing cognitive decline,” Rayel said.

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