Nathan Talbot was at 18,000 feet, climbing in the Himalayas, when the altitude sickness hit him. Pounding headaches. Shortness of breath. And days without food because he got so nauseated.
Two of the people in his group died from the illness.As Talbot got sicker, his guide tried harder to convince him that he should take some medication. He refused.
"I didn't feel any antagonism toward the medicine. I just thought prayer would be more effective for me than a whole bottle of pills," the Christian Science lecturer and teacher remembers. "I just felt so assured. I'd seen healing through prayer to be so effective my whole life. And I didn't want to make him feel bad, but I wanted to do what was best for me."
Best, for Talbot, meant asking God to heal him. As has always been the case, he said, those prayers were answered.
These days, Talbot takes his message on the road, traveling from his home in Boise to lecture on "The Medicine of Prayer." He'll be speaking Sunday, May 17, at 3 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, Alta A Room, 999 S. Main St. in Salt Lake City. His appearance is sponsored by the Second Church of Christ, Scientist.
He's a natural spokesman for his Christian Science faith. A member of the Oregon Bar and author of numerous articles, he has been president of the Mother Church, associate editor of Christian Science periodicals including the Christian Science Journal, Sentinel and Herald and the manager of the church's Committees on Publication. More than that, he said, he's a true believer in the power of faith in God to mend broken bodies.
And he's not alone.
"I think healing is something society is starting to take seriously," he said in a telephone interview. "That is a wonderful thing for those of us who have been nurturing that idea for a long time. There's credible evidence out there that doctors and people generally in the health field are looking thoughtfully at where the concept of prayer fits into the whole arena of healing."
He cites as evidence the four conferences on spirituality and healing, sponsored by Harvard, to which more than 1,000 people have come each year.
While it's not uncommon for individuals to consider the matter, he said, that was a very public setting with a wide range of participants.
Talbot has spent a lot of time collecting evidence of the power of prayer. One of his favorites is a study of 2,400 cases of diagnosed illness, ranging from multiple sclerosis to cancer and blindness and diabetes. "All were healed through prayer. And the most convincing part of the study," he said, "was the 203 examples of broken bones. Eleven of them were healed overnight."
He tells dramatic stories of miracles: A 15-year-old boy in a motorcycle accident who elected to try healing through prayer. "The first x-rays showed crushed vertebrae. Later X-rays showed bones well-mended.
"Those are dramatic. But day-to-day things are important. We need to heal the little issues and can grow into the big issues. The majority of healing this way has to do with the daily issues, whether it's an argument with a neighbor or an injury."
He knows his viewpoint is somewhat different. And he's glad.
"In the Himalayas, the guide saw a drug as the answer. I'm in a different world. I was raised to define Christian healing as just the natural practice of Christianity. And if there's a message I hope the audience gets, it's that if we just take a little step in turning to prayer, I think that could have a major effect on our society. There are a lot of good spiritual qualities I think our society badly needs.
"We like trying to drug ourselves for everything," Talbot said. `Prayer transforms and renews us spiritually. Society would be tremendously blessed by a little more of the side effect of this medicine, prayer."