"Feeling connected to a higher power positively impacted not only their feelings, but their functional outcomes, what they were able to do. So they didn't just feel better, there was evidence they functioned better in their ability to do daily tasks," said lead investigator Brigid Waldron-Perrine, who's now at the University of Michigan working on a postdoctoral degree in neuropsychology.
The study used various questionnaires to assess patients' spiritual practices and beliefs and their physical and psychological well-being. Researchers also interviewed the patients as well as significant others about how well the patient handled daily tasks, such as managing their own finances and going out in the community alone.
"Having a connection to a higher power was predictive of positive rehabilitation outcomes," Waldron-Perrine said.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant allowed University of South Carolina researcher Jane Teas to interview 135 people who believed God had a role in healing them. The study was published last year and resulted in a book titled "Faith Heals: Stories of God's Love," (SC McAC Press, $16.23).
"Our stories give testimony to a supreme presence and power of God; but not as passive, hidden in people's souls or sitting aloof on a throne in heaven. God in these stories is active, transforming the ordinary wounds of sickness and adversity to well-being and joy, using visions, dreams and whispers heard in the heart," Teas writes in the book's introduction.
"We're not saying throw out your medicine," Teas said in an interview. "We are saying there is something powerful that goes with believing. I can't say it's not real. I can say there is a force in our world that we don't know enough about to discount. I suppose one day we'll have a nasal spray for the peace that surpasses all understanding."
Greg Jonesku, 67, of Novi, Mich., is in remission from two bouts with prostate cancer; he also has heart problems. He became more active in his church about five years ago
If nothing else, faith and prayer have improved his emotional health, he said.
"I have a better attitude," Jonesku said. "I'm more relaxed, more peaceful. I don't get upset as much as I used to. I think it came from realizing that I'm not in total control, but there is somebody out there who is in total control, and I want to be closer to that someone."
Many believers don't need any scientific or medical validation for their faith.
"If we could prove it, it wouldn't be faith," said the Rev. Larry Webber, director of the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit and the person who usually leads the weekly service at which people pray for themselves or others who are ill.
The approximately one-hour service is open to people of all faiths, he said.
The service, called a Blessing of the Sick, is celebrated at 2 p.m. every Wednesday and 2 p.m. every fourth Sunday at the St. Bonaventure Chapel of the Solanus Casey Center, 1780 Mt. Elliott.
For more information, see solanuscenter.org/healing.shtml
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