"But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." James 1:6
Derek and Annette George can still remember the devastation they felt after doctors diagnosed their unborn son, John Paul, with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare condition in which half of the heart does not function.
Doctors advised the young couple to terminate the pregnancy, arguing that John Paul's chances of survival were very slim. But instead of giving up all hope, the Georges turned to prayer, relying on God to help their son.
"Faith, number one, made us say no,'' Annette explained on the Today show of refusing to abort their son. "The only option that we foresaw with our faith was if our child only had nine months to live, then we were going to give him nine months in the womb and let God decide once the child was born.''
John Paul's childhood was not easy; by the time he was 3 years old, he had gone through three heart surgeries. Less than a year later, he underwent brain surgery and experienced numerous other medical setbacks.
Despite the grim situation, the George parents continued to pray, daily thanking God for saving their son's life, and hoping for a full recovery.
Thankfully, God answered the couple's prayers, and today, John Paul is 20 years old and attending community college. Although his growth is stunted due to his heart condition, he is in excellent health-- leaving his doctors scratching their heads.
"He's a miracle,'' Derek explained during the "Do You Believe" segment on the Today show. "Twenty years later, what else can I say? It's black and white."
"I just basically try to thank God for saving my life,'' John Paul added. "If it wasn't for God, I would not be here today."
For Christians, the healing power of prayer is undeniable. However, a growing amount of research from secular researchers, hospitals and universities across the U.S. have shown conclusively that faith and a strong belief in God is indeed medically, socially, and psychologically beneficial.
"Studies have shown prayer can prevent people from getting sick - and when they do get sick, prayer can help them get better faster," Duke University's Harold G. Koenig, M.D., told Newsmax Health.
Over 1,500 reputable medical studies "indicates people who are more religious and pray more have better mental and physical health," Dr. Koenig said.
"And out of 125 studies that looked at the link between health and regular worship, 85 showed regular churchgoers live longer....There's a lot of evidence out there."
Dr. Koenig also referenced a study published in the Southern Medical Journal which revealed that that prayer had a positive effect on patients with hearing and visual deficiencies.
After prayer sessions, "[Patients] showed significant improvements based on audio and visual tests," Dr. Koenig said.
He added: "The benefits of devout religious practice, particularly involvement in a faith community and religious commitment, are that people cope better. In general, they cope with stress better, they experience greater well-being because they have more hope, they're more optimistic, they experience less depression, less anxiety, and they commit suicide less often."
After doing in-depth study of the medical benefits of faith, researcher and writer Tom Knox said he was astounded at the correlation between religion and health.
"Religious attendance is associated with adult mortality in a graded fashion," he said, referencing a 2006 study conducted at the University of Texas."There is a seven-year difference in life expectancy between those who never attend church and those who attend weekly."
He concluded, "Atheists can sneer at faith all they like, but they can't assume science is on their side."