- Associated Press - Saturday, May 16, 2015

SCOTTSVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Diane Johnson believes prayer healed her from stage IV throat cancer.

In 2013, the Scottsville woman noticed a spot in the back of her throat that was irritating her. Her doctor gave her antibiotics to take for two weeks, but it didn’t help.

“He said, ‘I want to do a biopsy on you.’ He told me I had advanced stage IV cancer,” she said. “I wasn’t scared at that time. I was kind of numb. They told me it was really bad.

“Doctors told me to spend as much time as possible with my family,” she said. “They did not expect me to live.”

Johnson endured radiation, chemotherapy, nausea and a feeding tube that had to be cleaned every day.

“The only thing I could eat was Glucerna,” she said. “I lost 25 pounds. I was so sick I could not stand to smell food.”

Each day, Johnson would read out of a booklet and pray. She read Jeremiah 30:17 in the Bible, which in the New International Version says: “But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares the Lord, because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.”

People at her church, NewLife Church, also prayed for her.

“I would repeat these words: ‘I will live and not die. I am of the blessings and not the curse. I belong to Jesus and devil you can’t have me,’ ” she said. “The devil put on pain, but I would claim (healing) anyway. My husband would get on his knees every night and pray.”

Her treatments were finished in July 2013. Her first meal was fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, biscuits, gravy and bacon.

“Nobody could believe I could swallow,” Johnson said.

In October 2013, she had a PET scan, and she prayed there wouldn’t be a tumor or cancer.

It was gone.

“I said, ‘Thank you, Jesus! Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!’” she said. “A lot of people thought I was crazy. I wanted everyone to share in my happiness.”

A study of prayer’s effectiveness

While Johnson believes in the power of prayer, researchers in the Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer, the largest study to examine the effects of prayer provided by others, found such prayer had no impact on patients recovering from coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

A Harvard Medical School Office of Public Affairs news release from March 31, 2006, said STEP investigators - which were composed of investigators at six academic medical centers - enrolled 1,802 bypass surgery patients from six hospitals and randomly assigned each to one of three groups. Group one consisted of 604 patients who received intercessory prayer after being informed they may or may not receive prayers. Group two consisted of 597 patients who did not receive prayer after being informed they may or may not receive prayer. Group three consisted of 601 patients who received intercessory prayer after being informed they would receive it.

Complications occurred in 52 percent of those in group one vs. 51 percent of group two. Complications occurred in 59 percent of those in group three vs. 52 percent in group one. Major complications and 30-day mortality were similar across the three groups.

STEP investigators imposed limitations on the way prayer-givers would normally provide prayer. They standardized the start and duration of prayers and provided only the patients’ first name and last initial. Prayers began on the eve or day of surgery and continued daily for 14 days. Everyone prayed for received the same standardized prayer.

One doctor’s prayers

A study wouldn’t keep Dr. William Daniel, a general surgeon, who performs surgery at The Medical Center at Franklin, from praying for his patients.

“It’s usually my request. I ask them if it would be OK if I pray for them,” he said. “Having surgery done reminds you of your mortality. It makes you think about your life.”

Daniel has been praying for patients ever since he operated on a friend’s wife many years ago.

“I asked myself, ‘Why don’t you just ask everyone?’ ” he said.

Healing is “a divine thing,” Daniel said.

“We’re trained as doctors. There’s no course in healing in medical school. You want to give credit to whom the healing is from,” he said. “You want to remind people that God does the healing. We’re more or less an instrument of God’s healing.

“Jesus healed in ways he didn’t have to,” he said. “It’s not much different from water in the river Jordan or spit in the mud. It really is a miracle.”

Daniel prays God will give him skills and good judgment to do the surgery.

“I pray for peace for the patient and family and loved ones, that they’ll be in the hands of the one who loves so greatly that he sent his son to die on the cross,” he said. “Most folks, if they don’t share my faith, are willing for me to pray for them. It’s a blessing. As a practicing physician, it’s been a great joy for me.”

Those few patients who don’t want Daniel to pray for them may not get prayed with, but that doesn’t stop him from praying for them.

“Neither they nor the federal government can tell me I can’t pray,” he said.

Nearly every patient has someone who is praying for them, Daniel said.

“The hard thing is to figure out who didn’t get prayed for. That’s what makes studies so hard to quantitate,” he said. “They may never tell you. Believers can be pretty obstinate about that sometimes.”

One of the most miraculous examples of healing Daniel has seen was from a woman who had a huge abdominal mass, which had been found by her primary care doctor and had showed up on a CT scan that Daniel had ordered. Because the mass was located in her pelvis, he set up an appointment for her to see a gynecologist.

“That was on a Friday. She saw the gynecologist on a Monday. They did a repeat CT scan and there was nothing there,” he said. “The explanation given was that the CT scan was wrong and there was no mass.”

Daniel thought differently.

“Her whole church had prayed for her. She was definitely covered in prayer,” he said. “I can’t say because I prayed she was healed. All healing is because of his grace. The real miracle is that God in his grace heals people no matter which tool he uses.”

Miracles are around us every day, Daniel said.

“God is not an entertainment show. He uses ordinary measures,” he said. “I think people want God to prove he’s there. He’s told us who he is. He’s showed us who he is. That’s enough.”

‘Are you a preacher?’

One day Andy Toopes, senior pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, was visiting TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital when a woman rolled up to him in a wheelchair.

“She said, ‘Are you a preacher?’ I told her I was,” he said. “She said, ‘Will you baptize me?’ “

Toopes went to visit the patient he was there to see and then went to baptize the woman.

“That was one of the highlights of my ministry,” he said. “I got a letter from her son thanking me for baptizing her.”

Later, he met with charge nurses and said something was needed there for patients. The result is a volunteer chaplain program, which will start May 14.

“Our goal is to have enough pastors in the community to be on call for a week,” he said. “There would be a backup person to call, so we’re basically covered regardless.”

Toopes looks forward to being a chaplain.

“I’ve met some fascinating people doing this. I’ve met people from every background,” he said. “People don’t have a concept of how important faith is when they are sick.”

Because he has battled sickness in his own life, Toopes understands this.

“Nothing meant more to me than when they said, ‘Can I pray with you?’” he said. “I want to make sure they understand that faith is always there for them. I think it’s so important for people getting better because they have hope.”

Toopes has also seen the power of prayer in others. In his family alone he recently had a granddaughter born at 26 weeks, out of a normal 40-week pregnancy, at 1 pound, 10 ounces. She will be going home from the hospital in mid-May. In another example, his mother-in-law had a massive stroke. Doctors didn’t expect her to live through the night, but 15 years later she is still alive. Both were covered in prayer from lots of people, he said.

“I’ve watched people dumbfound doctors and walk out of the hospital and never have problems again,” he said. “Faith is so vitally important in the hospital. Every time I walk in the hospital I see the hand of God at work somewhere.”

Even death has a purpose, Toopes said.

“For me, the greatest healing offered is death because you’re then face-to-face with the Lord,” he said.

When it comes to his own doctors, he chooses those who have faith in God.

“God heals people. With any doctor, there’s got to be a higher power than him- or herself. I want my doctor to know there’s somebody else in control who they can go to when they’re stumped,” he said. “Who gives doctors wisdom to work in the first place? Everything that comes from the medical field is from the hand of God. You can’t separate medicine from faith.”

‘The pharmacy of God’

Sedin Agic, imam of the Islamic Center of Bowling Green, said he has seen benefits come from prayer, both physical and spiritual.

“God taught us what is good for us. He sent prophets. If you want to be healthy people, you have to live to the revelation of God,” he said. “If there is something in the heart, you should insist on a doctor. If you are sick spiritually, you visit a doctor of the soul.”

Praying and obeying is part of God’s order, Agic said.

“Those who are connected to God can feel it,” he said. “The peace that you feel in yourself is the greatest miracle.”

Muslims pray with their foreheads to the ground, Agic said.

“You’re forsaking yourself in front of God,” he said. “All the negative is going out to God.”

Agic sometimes sees physical health and spiritual weakness.

“People are disobeying in huge numbers,” he said. “If you find yourself in the small number, you’re finding yourself in the greatest miracle.”

When people are sick, Agic visits them.

“We try to give them power spiritually. Just because you are sick it’s not the end. It could be a cleansing of sin. It could be reminder from God that you cannot do everything yourself,” he said. “When you’re sick, you’re not losing a connection with your creator. It’s showing you that God can help you.

“It’s a good lesson for us to understand,” he said. “It’s part of God’s sign. We should ponder and understand all these things from God who created us.”

When people are sick spiritually, Agic sends them to “the pharmacy of God.”

“Imams try to teach people. We try to choose the right medicine for them,” he said. “The five daily prayers are one kind of medicine for the body and spirit. It is prescribed by the creator.”

Religion is about balance, Agic said.

“To be healthy spiritually and physically, that’s the point,” he said.

‘The voice box for Jesus’

Another PET scan Johnson had last year shows the cancer is still gone. She said since her ordeal that her husband has grown closer to the Lord and that it brought them closer together as a couple.

“Everywhere I go I give my testimony because I feel I am hope. Every time I tell everyone Jesus gave me a miracle,” she said. “I’m glad I can talk. I’m the voice box for Jesus. Jesus is still in the healing business. If I did not live for Jesus, I would not want to be alive. He is my everything.”


Information from: Daily News, https://www.bgdailynews.com

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