Scientific research has shown a link between faith and healing. Those who believe in something larger than themselves heal more often, have easier recoveries, and get well more quickly.
Some of the faithful have even experienced miraculous healing.
The Bible says that Jesus Christ traveled the dusty roads of Galilee, healing people as he traveled. Matthew 4:23 says: “Now Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people.”
Today many still reach out to God when other options fail.
“If someone is in despair, they are right in the position to stretch toward something they may not have yet considered,” Dr. Harold Koenig, Duke University psychiatrist and the author of “Spirituality and Health Research” told LifeZette. “When a doctor says there is nothing more they can do, many go to their knees for an answer.”
Some travel to distant places to be healed, hoping a pilgrimage is the answer. Others kneel in the pew of their neighborhood church to ask God to grant the seemingly impossible — cure advanced cancer, straighten gnarled limbs, take away chronic pain.
"It’s no guarantee, but prayer can only help," said Brent Crosbee, 54, of Worcester, Massachusetts. "If someone I loved were seriously ill, you bet I’d be praying. While many who pray die, there are miraculous healings that really make a person believe — or at least open the door to belief."
Crosbee’s hometown in the past has been a faith pilgrimage destination, in fact.
A young girl from Worcester named Audrey Marie Santo seemed to be a conduit for miracles. Santos suffered severe brain damage in a near-drowning accident when she was three years old, and lived the rest of her life in a coma until she died of cardiac failure at age 23 in 2007.
Many people have claimed that visiting Santo, praying for her intercession, or having others pray or visit on their behalf has resulted in a miraculous healing.
Joey Parolisi of Methuen, Massachusetts, claims his mother's prayer at Santo's bedside healed his injury.
"I was in a motorcycle collision three-and-a-half years ago and they said I would be lucky to live and probably would never walk," Parolisi told a packed congregation of the faithful in the garage-chapel of the Santo family's Worcester home in 1997, according to highbeam.com.
"My mother started praying through Audrey. I went with her once and soon after, I started getting better. One day I surprised everybody, including myself and my mother. My mother came home and I met her at the door."
After stories of healing and paranormal events related to Audrey Santo began to spread, thousands visited the girl. One story described the appearance of what seemed to be human blood on consecrated communion wafers. Others claimed to see what seemed to be blood appearing in a chalice at the Santo home. A statue of Mary positioned near the girl also appeared to cry blood.
Christians from around the world flock to Medjugorje, Bosnia or Lourdes, France, for healing. Medjugorje is thought to be a God-chosen place where the Holy Virgin Mary appears to visitors. Medjugorge.com delivers weekly and sometimes daily messages from the Virgin Mary to online visitors, as well. The waters of Lourdes are thought to heal afflictions, and visions of the Virgin Mary are reported there.
Is faith healing real — or do we just so badly want to believe that we attribute what would have happened anyway through modern medicine to the power of God?
"We have found three things in research about faith and healing," said Koenig. "First, the psychological aspect. Your mind is open to healing, and this can’t help but aid in recovery. Secondly, people of faith have strong social supports, through their church or their faith community. Third, people of faith have healthier behaviors, we’ve found. This is also important to recovery."
Data confirms the strong connection between faith and healing. The American Society of Hypertension established in 2006 that church-goers have lower blood pressure than non-believers.
Scientists have also revealed that believers recover from breast cancer more quickly than non-believers, have better outcomes from coronary disease and rheumatoid arthritis, and are less likely to have children with meningitis, reports Newsmax.
Additionally, medical professionals at San Francisco General Hospital researched 393 cardiac patients and the effect of prayer on their healing. Half were prayed for by strangers who had only the patients’ names. Those patients needed less drug treatment, had fewer complications, and experienced fewer cases of pneumonia.
Perhaps part of the mystery of healing is that it sometimes takes forms we don't expect.
"Our creator, our God, heals in ways we don’t even know," Sister Karen Zielinski, author of "Hope and Help for Living with Illness" and a multiple sclerosis sufferer told the Toledo Blade.
"It’s a healing if somebody knows how to change an ileostomy bag. I think it’s healing if somebody who always hated needles has to self-inject for diabetes. A healing might be that they’re able to handle or deal with their disease and take care of it."
Koenig agreed. It can be "an interior transformational healing," he said, "one’s new ability to derive meaning from the pain."
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