Eric Nelson
Special to the Sun

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November 23, 2011
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Faith Factor | What kind of treatment would you recommend?

TAHOE/TRUCKEE — Even when I was a kid I wondered about that one out of every five dentists who didn’t “recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum.”

I know. I’m dating myself. But if you’re between the ages of, say, 45 and 105, you know what I’m talking about.

Although I doubt very much this one guy would recommend gum with sugar, he still struck me as the odd man out.

These days folks recommend all kinds of things — what movies to watch, which restaurant is good, the best dog walker — even what you should do about that nagging backache. And, chances are, the reason they’re making that recommendation is because they can personally vouch for the quality of that product, service, or treatment.

Which reminds me …

Not too long ago I had a whopper of a backache that left me unable to get around comfortably from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. Although I’m well aware of the various treatments available — everything from painkillers to surgery to a visit to the local chiropractor — I ended up going with something I’d used many times before. Prayer.

This where the “four out of five dentists” analogy comes in …

Ask yourself: When was the last time you recommended prayer as a means of treating a physical ailment?

Don’t feel bad. I use it all the time — and with good success — and yet I’m often reluctant to recommend it to others, maybe because of some unnatural fear of being seen as the “fifth dentist.”

Despite this reluctance, this doesn’t mean we’re not relying on prayer ourselves. According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, nearly one half of all Americans turn to prayer as a means of addressing their various health problems. And of those surveyed, more than twice as many reported “better” as opposed to “worse” health as a result of these prayers.

Which begs the question: What exactly is prayer?

For those who conduct medical research, this is a bit of a sticky wicket since prayer is such an individual thing. How does one go about measuring the effectiveness of something they can’t even define? And just because someone says they got better, does this mean prayer had anything to do with it?

Just ask Mayo Clinic hematologist, Morrie Gertz, who said, “It’s not my job to tell (my patients) they shouldn’t feel better … We may not have great evidence that alternative medicine works, but that’s very different from saying it doesn’t work.”

By the way, shortly after I decided to pray about the situation with my back, I began to feel a lot better. That was at least two or three years ago and I haven’t had that problem since. Maybe now when someone asks me what I would suggest to relieve an aching back, I just might recommend prayer. Chances are, at least one out of two of those reading this article might do the same.

— Eric Nelson is the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. For more information visit This article originally appeared on Blogcritics.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Nov 23, 2011 04:10PM Published Nov 23, 2011 04:08PM Copyright 2011 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.