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My father remarried, sent me to a strict military school, where the severity of discipline almost broke my back. I couldn't stand it any longer, and I left in rebellion at the age of ten. One year later, deciding that I would never enter formal education again, I became a seaman apprentice, hoping somehow to step into my father's trade and learn at least the ability to skillfully navigate a ship.
By and by, through a process of time, I slowly gave myself over to the devil. And I determined that I would sin to my fill without restraint, now that the righteous lamp of my life had gone out. I did that until my days in the military service, where again discipline worked hard against me, but I further rebelled.
My spirit would not break, and I became increasingly more and more a rebel. Because of a number of things that I disagreed with in the military, I finally deserted, only to be captured like a common criminal and beaten publicly several times.
After enduring the punishment, I again fled. I entertained thoughts of suicide on my way to Africa, deciding that would be the place I could get farthest from anyone that knew me. And again I made a pact with the devil to live for him.
Somehow, through a process of events, I got in touch with a Portuguese slave trader, and I lived in his home. His wife, who was brimming with hostility, took a lot out on me. She beat me, and I ate like a dog on the floor of the home. If I refused to do that, she would whip me with a lash.
I fled penniless, owning only the clothes on my back, to the shoreline of Africa where I built a fire, hoping to attract a ship that was passing by. The skipper thought that I had gold or slaves or ivory to sell and was surprised because I was a skilled navigator. And it was there that I virtually lived for a long period of time. It was a slave ship.
I went through all sorts of narrow escapes with death only a hairbreadth away on a number of occasions. One time I opened some crates of rum and got everybody on the crew drunk. The skipper, incensed with my actions, beat me, threw me down below, and I lived on stale bread and sour vegetables for an unendurable amount of time. He brought me above to beat me again, and I fell overboard. Because I couldn't swim, he harpooned me to get me back on the ship. And I lived with the scar in my side, big enough for me to put my fist into, until the day of my death.
On board, I was inflamed with fever. I was enraged with the humiliation. A storm broke out, and I wound up again in the hold of the ship, down among the pumps. To keep the ship afloat, I worked along as a servant of the slaves. There, bruised and confused, bleeding, diseased, I was the epitome of the degenerate man. I remembered the words of my mother. I cried out to God, the only way I knew, calling upon His grace and His mercy to deliver me, and upon His son to save me. The only glimmer of light I would find was in a crack in the ship in the floor above me, and I looked up to it and screamed for help. God heard me.
Thirty-one years passed, I married a childhood sweetheart. I entered the ministry. In every place that I served, rooms had to be added to the building to handle the crowds that came to hear the gospel that was presented and the story of God's grace in my life.
My tombstone above my head reads, "Born 1725, died 1807. A clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he once long labored to destroy."
I decided before my death to put my life's story in verse. And that verse has become a hymn.
The hymn? "Amazing Grace."
THE POWER OF PRAYER
There is nothing as powerful as the petition to God for help. There are many research projects that have viewed "prayer" in the same way as science would examine a new drug. In the weeks to come I will be posting on this site a list of "scientific" projects that confirm what most believers already know...God answers prayers!
In Medicine, we see the touch of God all the time, but it is called "spontaneous remission." If it happens at a prayer meeting, then God gets the credit, otherwise it is just one of those inexplicable marvels of the human body.
Dr. Randolph Byrd, a Christian cardiologist, conducted a study in 1984 that has led to a resurgence of scientific evaluation of the effect of prayer on healing. 393 patients, admitted to the coronary care unit at San Francisco General Hospital, over a 10 month period were randomly selected, by computer, to either a 201 patient control group or the 192 patients who were prayed for daily by 5-7 people in home prayer groups. This was a randomized, double-blind experiment in which neither the patients, nurses, nor doctors knew which group the patients were in.
Dr. Byrd discovered a definite pattern of obvious differences between the control group and those prayed for:
The importance of this experiment is that it stands up to scientific scrutiny. Dr. William Nolan, who has written a book debunking faith healing, acknowledged, " It sounds like this study will stand up to scrutiny...maybe we doctors ought to be writing on our order sheets, 'pray 3 times a day.' If it works, it works."
Extensive experimental evidence for "spiritual healing" is one of the best kept secrets in medical science.
Daniel J. Benor, M.D., an American psychiatrist working in England, surveyed all such healing studies published in the English language prior to 1990. His search turned up 131 studies, most of them on non-humans. In 56 of these studies, there was less than one chance in a hundred that the positive results were due to chance. In an additional 21 studies, the possibility of a chance explanation was between 2 and 5 chances in a 100. A complete list of Dr. Benor's compilation will be available soon.
As an example of his compilation, 60 subjects not known to have healing ability were able to both impede and stimulate significantly the growth of cultures of bacteria.
In another experiment, volunteers were asked to alter the genetic ability of a strain of bacteria to metabolize the sugar lactose. The results indicated that the bacteria indeed mutated in the direction desired by the subjects.
Medical journals, until recently, have generally refused to publish studies on healing.
In December of 1998 issue of JAMA the Journal of the American Medical Association, Mike Mitka commented on the number of research articles available to physicians wanting to incorporate spirituality into their treatment arsenal. JAMA specifically referred to the following works:
A University of Michigan study involving 93 of 106 women under treatment for various stages of uterine and ovarian cancer, said their religious lives helped them sustain hope.
Edward Creagan, M.D., of the Division of Medical Oncology at the Mayo Clinic, said that "among the coping methods of long-term cancer survivors, the predominate strategy is spiritual.
A 1999 study reported in the Journal of Gerontology found that individuals who regularly attended church lived 28 percent longer than those who did not regularly attend...this is the same percentage of longevity as nonsmokers compared to smokers!
A survey of 400 patients in Georgia in 1989 revealed that those who believed religion was very important had lower diastolic blood pressure readings than those who did not, according to Forbs magazine.
In 1996, Time magazine did a cover story on the belief in the power of prayer for health and healing. The poll found that 82 percent of the adult Americans believed in the healing power of personal prayer, 73 percent believed praying for someone can help cure their illness, and 64 percent believed doctors should pray with patients if requested to.
Newsweek confirmed the findings, a year later with its own poll, in which 79 percent of respondents who said they prayed regularly declared that they believe God answers prayers for healing.
Lancet, a British medical publication, reported: "Of 296 physicians surveyed during the October, 1996, meeting of the American Academy of Family Physicians, 99% were convinced that religious beliefs can heal, and 75% believed that prayers of others could promote a patient's recovery.
Columbus, OH USA