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Can prayer succeed where nicotine patches, acupuncture and drugs can’t?

Addiction is mostly spiritual, an imbalance of the soul

By on Monday, 7 January 2013

Quit smoking bids do not last long

There was an inspiring article in the Telegraph last week, written by a woman, Eileen Fairweather, who finally gave up smoking through the power of prayer. As she herself says, sceptical, scientific types will not believe that prayer was the critical factor; it is only when you have faith you know and see its effects. She also made the point that I have long thought the case, that addictions – in her case to nicotine – are largely spiritual in origin: they mask a deeper emptiness that only God can fill.

In Fairweather’s words, in all her struggles to give up smoking “The one thing I didn’t try was prayer. I was a cradle Catholic but lapsed in my teens. In 2001, I began going to church again. After Mass one day, someone asked me why I had returned, and I answered, ‘I realised I couldn’t do it all on my own’. I had an ostensibly glamorous existence, yet was often fearful, stressed and pained by the religion-shaped hole in my life.”

Fairweather comments: “Some speak of addiction as a disease. But it is mostly spiritual: dis-ease, an imbalance in the soul.” It was on the night of March 21, 2002 that she woke and prayed and “instead of the usual creaking clutter around my poor prayers, came the Voice, clear as a bell. I was told I was safe. “I will make this easy for you. Just tell people I did this.” The miracle had happened; no longer afraid, tense or suffering withdrawal symptoms, she acknowledges “it is God who is helping me.”

The hardest part, the author admits, was testifying to the power of God in front of “cynical agnostics and atheists”. Yet when she did mention the power of prayer in her NHS support group, to her surprise “no one sniggers. Why am I scared that I might be thought of as a ‘God-botherer?’ Prayer has miraculously helped me and these other smokers desperately need support and ideas. How many times over the past decades did I try, on my own, to give up? This time I asked God to help me – and at last I have succeeded.”

Fairweather confesses that although she has kept her side of the bargain, telling those who ask her how she gave up smoking that she was healed by the power of prayer, she still finds it embarrassing to say this in the “metropolitan working world” in which she lives. Most of us would admit to similar cowardice – the fear of being thought unsophisticated or irrational when the subject comes up in worldly circles. But reading this article has put new heart into me. My New Year’s resolution is now this: never to duck the “God experience” in my own life or my own testimony to the power of prayer, when asked or challenged by those outside the faith. This is, after all, how Christianity spread in the first place.

On a related topic, a friend to whom I sent my blog about the abuse of the Liverpool Care Pathway contrasted with my own brother’s experience of a “good death” in a Catholic hospital in Cork, has written to me asking for prayers for a friend of hers, an agnostic now in her 80s, who is planning to end her life when the time comes at the Swiss clinic, Dignitas. So I would ask readers of this blog to pray that this old lady will come to experience the love and peace of God before she dies. Miracles do happen.

  • Jeannine

    Miracles do happen all the time. I suggest that when asking for a favor from God that you be very exact in what you want & humble. He has a tendency to use comedy, especially on me.

    Almost 30 yrs ago, I tearfully asked God on a trip to a foreign country for me to meet anyone & have a casual conversation with. It was during this period when I had doubts in His existence & thought I would give it 1 last good try at praying. Literally 10 minutes later, the good Lord brought me a certifiable nut but I did have a casual conversation with that individual.

  • Parasum

     “Can prayer succeed where nicotine patches, acupuncture and drugs can’t?”

    ## No. That way lies resort to mumbo-jumbo instead. Prayer is not a replacement for medical science, or for effort and self-control. Some things cannot be cured or healed, but only relieved.

    As for this in particular – how is prayer supposed to overcome organic maladies ? Even when people are healed by supposedly supernatural means, that never sets a precedent. Medical therapies require precedents – drugs cannot be tested otherwise. Prayer is not a medical therapy, in way whatsoever. Its only medically ascertainable benefit – if it has any – may be that it relaxes the patient; but controlled breathing can do the same. So can acupuncture. A medical therapy can be used with benefit time and again, and is controllable. Neither of these holds for prayer. 

  • scary goat

    Prayer to help you stop smoking?  Dunno…yet….I’ll let you know.  The thought did occur to me and I have been trying…not very successfully yet….I’m working on it.

  • Paul

    This is absolutely spot on.  Believe in the only God and his only Christ, reject those spirits who reject him, give him alone the glory, and faith becomes so powerful you can do the impossible, like shedding addictions and healing from diseases.
      I thought I was on my deathbed eight years ago, so ill I could barely get to the bathroom and back to bed.  Slowly I realized that the roots of the sickness were spiritual.  I had developed an infatuation with Zen and Buddhism years earlier, in student days.  From the moment I realized my mistake and returned to pure, biblical faith, I began to heal, and to heal quickly.  Other by products - my financial affairs began to come good, and without the slightest effort a lifelong addiction to cigs and booze just disappeared.  Glory to God, and to his Christ, the only Saviour, the only Healer, the only Resurrection, the only Life.


  • 12Maria34

    I believe that anything is possible in prayers because I simply believe that anything is possible with God.  Thus, I believe.

    I will pray for the 80 yr old lady friend.

  • DJM

    You prayed to meet anyone and have a brief and casual conversation with them. Wow fancy that, bumping into someone and talking to them. God truly is mighty.

  • Paul

    Parasum,  You need to learn what healing is.  It is spiritual.  The spirit is the relationship with God.  We do it through faith because we don’t have direct vision.
       Once a person turns to Jesus as his only Saviour and Healer, he is already healed in the spiritual realm.  The flesh will follow.
       This is why Jesus said to those whom he healed:  ‘Your faith has made you well.’
       Medicine is good.  It fixes the body’s mechanics, but it cannot heal.  Only God can do that.

  • Steve Calovich

    If the prayer is the rosary said every day without fail, then the answer is yes.

  • Elizabeth

    I believe in the power of prayer, the graces given, to help us overcome addictions of any kind. But what I don’t agree with from this article by Eileen Fairweather is her statement:  “Some speak of addiction as a disease. But it is mostly spiritual: dis-ease, an imbalance in the soul.”  

    Come on.  Addiction to cigarettes is an actual physical addiction, as well as psychological. Addiction to alcohol is an actual physical addiction, as well as psychological.  And on and on.  Yes, there is a spiritual component to human’s tendency to become addicted to various substances or behaviors as there is to everything, as we are basically spiritual beings, children of God.  Years ago, I was given the grace, unbidden even, to overcome a behavioral addiction so I don’t doubt.  But I do take issue with the simplistic statement that my cigarette addiction is an imbalance in my soul.  

    I’m a sinful creature; we all are.   I suppose you could say that we ALL have an “imbalance in the soul”, can’t you?  I’m also a nicotine addict.  To date, the Lord hasn’t given me the graces to overcome this addiction but I haven’t prayed for it either.  I’m rather like St. Augustine when he said:  “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet”.  Until that day when I do start to pray in earnest to overcome this addiction, or until the day when my Lord helps me without my asking for it, I continue to be a nicotine addict.  

  • Therese Z

    I had one of those moments once. I was always alone in my pew, the pew before and behind were always empty. I was just inching back into church and was wishing to meet people. I said in my head “Lord, why won’t anybody sit with me? Am I always going to do this alone?” Within three minutes, the pews filled up around me and on either side at a very lightly attended Mass. I had a little kid staring at me over the pew in front, people talking behind me, I was packed in. The Lord is hilarious!

  • Ardy22

    “Religion is the opiate of the masses”

  • karlf

    So why aren’t most buddhists sick alcoholics, and all Catholics healthy teetotalers? Your logic does seem a little flawed.

  • karlf

    Maybe you should just stop pandering to the cravings and stop smoking.

  • karlf

    I don’t suppose all the millions of people around the world who are currently suffering all sorts of terrible afflictions and abuse would see it your way.

  • karlf

    I gave up smoking without the Lord’s help, and you can too.

  • Parasum

    Prayer is no solution to medical problems. This bears out what I said – to quote from the article:

    “Fairweather comments: “Some speak of addiction as a disease. But it is
    mostly spiritual: dis-ease, an imbalance in the soul.” It was on the
    night of March 21, 2002 that she woke and prayed and “instead of the
    usual creaking clutter around my poor prayers, came the Voice, clear as a
    bell. I was told I was safe. “I will make this easy for you. Just tell
    people I did this.” The miracle had happened; no longer afraid, tense or
    suffering withdrawal symptoms, she acknowledges “it is God who is
    helping me.””

    ## To which the answer is: Bully for her. What about the millions of people who are *not* given “voices ? Such things, however real (real as what, is not clear) are no substitute for medical help, because they cannot be administered in a controlled way in accord with what is good for the patient; since people have different allergies, needs, & medical histories. But medical help can be administered in those ways – that is how it works.

    Being “super-spiritual” & expecting spiritual answers for non-spiritual problems (like the damage done by smoking to one’s lungs) is asking for trouble; it’s as crazy as “exercising faith” by neglecting to take one’s anti-convulsants, insulin, or whatever it may be that one needs. People have died as a result of such unwisdom. There is no faith or religion or piety in refusing to use the medical helps a merciful Providence makes available through the work of scientists – to refuse such things when they atre available, and have helped, is often a form of tempting Providence; IOW, a form of presumption, not of faith. 

    No-one is denying that God Alone heals – but usually, it is done through secondary causes. such as medical care & therapies & the like. God alone gives fertility – that’s not reason for human beings to avoid procreating. Healing, far from being spiritual alone, is ultimately intended for body & soul alike – but only at the Resurrection. In the meantime, the body is as important in its own way as the soul – they go together.   

    “This is why Jesus said to those whom he healed:  ‘Your faith has made you well.’”

    ## Possibly.

  • Jeannine

    You’re certainly correct. I suggest you read about the Catholic perspective on evil.

  • Jeannine

    Obviously you don’t know what it’s like to not have a friendly conversation, more than 1 sentence, with anyone in a strange country for 5 days.

  • karlf

    I have read about it, but it doesn’t tell me why God should work his miracles on you while not helping those suffering terribly from the results of natural disasters and wild animal attacks. Can you answer this?

  • Jeannine

    Yes I can try as a Catholic who also has been searching for such answers, with the condition that I, only a creature, do not & will not ever fully understand His ways.

    God permits evil to occur so that a greater good is realized with 3 conditions: 1) The good must be better than that good destroyed by the evil, 2) The good must be different from the good destroyed by the evil, 3) The good must be a good that could not possibly exist without the evil. A good example of this is the redemption by Christ. Without this we would never be able to see God’s love for us in the most conspicuous way.

    Why God choosed to perform this little miracle on me I will never know for certain until after I die but I do know that a greater good resulted from it that otherwise would not have existed. Maybe it prompted me to learn more about my faith, which I did & continue to do so. And this prompted me to write this posting in hopes that you may start to see from a different perspective on how God is active in this world. As a non-denominational Christian once told me, “You’re given only enough information from God on a need to know basis. The rest is faith.”

  • Jackie

     Hi Paul,
    Thanks for sharing your story here.  I am a recovering alcoholic and former smoker.  God has done for me what I could never do. I think the key is saying Yes to Him.  Like the article says, I think we are healed so we can testify.  It provides hope in such a dark world.  Others may think, “just maybe something like that will happen for me too.”  I know God blesses those who seek Him and want His will.  There is always defeatist thoughts inside that must be overcome.  Sharing with others and listening from the heart, really helps with this.

  • Jackie

     God blesses those who seek Him.  There are catholics who are seeking themselves, some without realizing it.  There are buddhists who are seeking God without realizing it.  Either way, God will bless and lead the true seeker.  This is one who is open minded and honest about seeking the will of the omniscient being.  Due to cultural influences,etc. not everyone is given an equal opportunity to know Christ but our creator has placed the knowledge of Him inside all of us.  As long as “self” is not God, the one true Creator will honor the seeking.  If the opportunity to believe in Jesus is presented, then the person has a choice to make and even then, the process may be a long, slow walk toward Christianity.  Only God knows why but one things for sure, He loves us all-regardless.  He doesn’t have favorites but we are all on our unique journey to fulfill whatever it is He has in mind. 

  • Jackie

    I understand your point and I think it is the biggest barrier to faith-this idea of suffering.  There are many reasons for suffering.  Much of suffering is self inflicted.  The rest is other inflicted i.e. selfish pursuit of something at the expense of others.  This used to be called sin but our world likes to remain in denial so we don’t hear that so much.  Sin causes suffering.  Sins like greed, lust, sloth, addiction, hatred -just those few alone make up a HUGE portion of human suffering. 
    This is not the world our Lord intended but it is the consequence of our free will. 

    Be careful here, Karl.  Many strong converts have found themselves seriously asking these same questions.  Among them, we have our strongest theologians.  Rest assured, these questions have been asked and answered by many before you.  You have only to seek and you will find.

  • karlf

    Thanks very much for this answer. I’ll certainly give it some thought.

  • karlf

    yes, we are on our own unique journeys, and that gives us all a unique outlook and attitudes. I cannot pretend to believe something which I see as untrue.

  • karlf

    “Sins like greed, lust, sloth, addiction, hatred -just those few alone make up a HUGE portion of human suffering” – yes indeed, combined with envy and jealousy. But don’t you think that these aspects of human nature are rooted in evolved behavioural traits passed down from our ancestral origins?