Can Prayer Replace Antibiotics?

Eric Nelson notes at the number of people who die every year from infections that antibiotics couldn't cure -- 23,000, a figure released by the CDC last week.

These people die each year from drug-resistant germs, what's called "antimicrobial resistance," a scary trend that's getting worse as bacteria continue to build up resistance to antibiotics.  As Nelson reports, "Common infections could become deadly, and diseases that were once curable will become more difficult and more expensive to treat."

Where is all this antimicrobial resistance coming from?  Agriculture, where farmers feed these drugs to chickens who are cooped up together to prevent them from getting sick and passing it on, or to plump them up, to doctors who prescribe it for aggressive parents who think antibiotics cure a cold (they don't; colds are viral), to the numbers of prescriptions being written for ear infections and the flu and other illnesses that tend to heal by themselves.  Antibiotics are everywhere.

Scientists are looking into alternatives to antibiotics, but Nelson has a stunning idea.  What about prayer?  He cites an example of a woman who was diagnosed with tuberculosis but lost weight (and her hair) from all the antibiotics she had to take. In despair, she gave up on the meds and started going to church, looking for solace.  Nelson writes that she began to feel better.

She's not a nutcase.  The eminent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has also noted that it is predicted that over the next ten years “our view of health will be expanded to encompass mental, social, and spiritual well being.” This reflects a growing acknowledgement by researchers and medical professionals alike of the direct link between spirituality and health, Nelson says.

Now I'm not really sold on this idea, but I know people believe it happens.  I prayed and prayed and prayed for a child and it was only when I took different (medical) means to have one, that I became pregnant.  And yet, after attending a conference on infertility five years ago, where faith was also suggested, I became pregnant the following month, though sadly, I miscarried.

I think what prayer can do is help us get through tough times.  I pray a lot -- about everything.  I pray for my friend with a sick child, my friends who have cancer, even the people I don't like very much (who shall remain nameless, as they are related to me!).  But do I ask for things from God?  Not really.  I just ask to be shown the way.

As many of you know, I was treated for breast cancer nine years ago, and for a recurrence, two years later, resulting in radiation and major surgery.  I recently found out that it was not cancer, but "precancer."  Today the protocol is changing -- and they're even removing the word "carcinoma" from the diagnosis I received, because what I had really wasn't cancer, but possibly, only possibly, the start of it.

I'm having a tough time with it because I was treated as though I did have cancer, and what's been done can't be undone.  But back to prayer.

Do I believe that because I prayed for good health, I got it?  No.  I prayed for guidance, for a way to handle my illness when my doctors all felt they needed to treat my abnormal cells as cancer.  Today they probably wouldn't.  

So do I believe in miracles, based on the woman who had tuberculosis?  Not really.  You can say that what happened to me is a miracle, and in some ways, it is, in others not so much.  Would I not take antibiotics if I got strep throat (again) from my son, and just pray, instead?

No.  I believe that when you pray, you get guidance, not cure.  But sometimes, that's all you need.


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