Doug and Sue Dean pray at their local church. (File/FOX Carolina)
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -
Millions of people pray every day, from help on a math test to curing a life-threatening illness. And while some prayers are answered others are not, leaving many people to ask if prayer works.
When South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore suffered a season-ending knee injury against Tennessee in October, 80,000 fans grew silent in Columbia. Fans knew a second serious injury could end Lattimore's dream of playing in the NFL.
Shortly after the disappointment, something amazing happened on Lattimore's Facebook page.
More than 70,000 people were there.
"Every comment was not a comment about football," Lattimore pastor Rev. Edward McDowell said. "It was about prayer. 'Marcus, we're praying for you.' And I think that's important."
McDowell is the senior pastor at Silver Hill Memorial United Methodist Church in Spartanburg where Lattimore and his mother have been fixtures for years. He said church members literally huddled around Lattimore after both of his knee injuries and felt his own prayer life would make a difference in his future.
Recently, Lattimore told NFL teams that his knee rehab is ahead of schedule and he should be ready to play this fall. His surgeon said his progress is nothing short of a miracle.
Yet not everyone is convinced. For years, researchers have tried to measure the effects of prayer on people, especially with regard to healing.
Furman Chaplain Vaughn Crowetipton said it's difficult to quantify the power of prayer since there is no real way to know how many people are truly praying for a person in need. He said results are all over the board.
A 2006 study by leading cardiologists concluded that prayer did not make any difference and could even make it worse.
"What tended to happen was, as people were told in the context of the study that we're praying for you, that there was almost an anxiety about that I need to get better since somebody's praying for me or conversely, I didn't know I was so bad that I needed praying for," Crowetipton said.
However, Crowetipton said many studies have uncovered positive results. In her new book Indian University researcher Candy Brown found people who knew they were being prayed for felt cared for and were able to relax enough to allow their bodies to do what they're supposed to do - heal themselves.
Doug and Sue Dean of Greer will tell people that not only does prayer work, it is the very reason Sue is still alive.
A few weeks after they were engaged in April of 1991, a doctor told them Sue Dean had Lymphoma and there was a 50 percent chance she would survive. After nine months of chemotherapy and radiation, she survived.
Nearly 20 years later, the ugly "C" word was back after Sue Dean was diagnosed with bi-lateral breast cancer. This time, the Deans said their faith was much stronger and church members surrounded them with prayer immediately.
The Deans would need that faith and prayers, including Doug, who felt helpless because he could not fix his wife's problem. He said one day during a drive to work, he asked God, "What should I do?"
The message he received was to surrender all of his fears about his future and let God take control.
"I can't give her up. I love her too much," Doug Dean said. "That's why you have to give her up. Back and forth, that struggle and trial. And even though I was thinking about it, I knew I had to say those words out loud. Finally, it was Lord, 'OK, I give her up. She's yours. Make her healthy.'"
It would not be that easy, but after a double mastectomy, a follow-up surgery and five weeks of radiation, Sue Dean is cancer free. And she is better equipped to help her patients as a nurse with the Cancer Center of the Carolinas.
"And every day I pray that God uses me at my work to help someone else," Sue Dean said. "It's one of the reasons she went through this. Both times. I know that's why I had to go through this. So, I can understand how my patients feel."
While scientists have had a perplexing time wrapping their brains around prayer and how it affects humans, others who've stared down some of life's greatest challenges don't need results from a medical journal to answer the question, "Does prayer work?"
"There is power in prayer," the Deans said. "Absolutely, there is power in prayer."
Copyright 2013 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.