Many Turn to Prayer, Not Prescriptions

Placebo, or Something More?

Joanne Pearson, 48, had the prayers of many. An ambulance whisked her to the hospital after she fell down the stairs at the school where she teaches. She had compressed vertebrae and a fractured elbow, and doctors thought she'd be out of work for six to seven weeks.

But as her students prayed for her, Pearson said she began to feel better more quickly than expected.

"Every day I felt significantly better than the day before," she said. "I really think their prayers had something to do with it."

An avid walker, Beverly Logan, 48, deals with a large bone spur on the top of her foot. She says doctors told her surgery to relieve the problem was impossible. But prayer, she said, has allowed her to continue her daily activities -- and continue to take her daily walks.

"[The pain is] still there," she said. "But you don't notice it."

While detractors may argue that prayer functions as a placebo, Brose believes otherwise.

"I think there are probably a lot of nonspecific effects that happen with prayer. Some of them may be characterized as a placebo, some of them may be related to relaxation, but I also believe there is a significant spiritual piece that we just simply don't understand," he said. "But the absence of proof isn't the proof of absence. People have faith because they believe in something even when there is no proof."

Today, Garcia is still medication-free and though her pain-management doctors are in awe, they still suggest medication. Others can't believe she's living without it. Most people, she says, don't believe prayer works. Garcia, however, insists that it does.

"A lot of people saw me when I was on medication, and when they saw me afterward, they thought I was miraculously cured," she said. "I just pray and meditate when my days are really rough."

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