One of the young men in my congregation is at Northwestern University in Chicago this week, starting an experimental stem cell treatment for multiple sclerosis that is his only hope of living beyond his twenties. Frustratingly late diagnosis, rapidly worsening symptoms, and disappointingly ineffective drugs had all combined over the past 12 months to produce a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

Then through a member in our church listening to the radio one afternoon, Trent found out about the extremely rare but revolutionary treatment that the brilliant Dr. Richard Burt of Northwestern is trialling on a very few select patients. A number of amazing, we might even say miraculous, providences followed that have resulted in Trent not only being accepted for the trial but the $150,000 cost being met – partly by a generous donor, partly by a phenomenal church collection, and partly by a group of young girls in our church who caused a state-wide shortage of cookie dough!

The treatment involves “re-booting” Trent’s diseased immune system with a transplant of healthy adult stem cells harvested from his own body. Dr Burt hesitates to call the procedure a cure, but does say that it represents “a paradigm shift in medicine,” especially in the relatively short treatment times and in that no medications are required thereafter.

Big Question
Which all raises a big question: When was the last time you prayed for medical researchers? For sure, we pray when someone gets MS, Crohn’s, and other autoimmune diseases. We pray for their healing, or for their drugs to slow down the disease, or for patient endurance, and for faith throughout.

But why do we so rarely pray at the “front end,” for the thousands of doctors and scientists who are daily engaged in research into cures for the vast range of human ills. They spend hours and years peering down microscopes, running computer models, experimenting, testing, writing, questioning, consulting, conferring, and thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking.

Big Prayers?
And where are our prayers? Prayers for perseverance, prayers for funding, prayers for breakthroughs, prayers for ethical procedures, prayers of thanksgiving for every “discovery.” Because that’s what these gifted men and women are doing. They are not inventing or creating so much as discovering what God has already invented and created.

Dr. Burt’s “eureka” moment, when he realized that stem cell transplants could be used to treat MS by re-programming bad cells to lose their memory, was really a “revelation” moment; God revealed what He already knew to him, God shared His knowledge with Dr. Burt for the good of His suffering creatures. And who knows how many more “eurekas” would be heard in labs and hospitals around the world if more of us prayed for these amazing pioneers. Maybe someone is working on the cure for the disease that will eventually invade your life. Why not pray for them today?

And why not share this short video about the remarkable Dr. Burt with your friends and family and prayerfully worship Jehovah-Rophi, the Lord who heals (Ex. 15:26).

Here’s one of the MS success stories:

Further Information

You can find our more about the significance of this research for MS, Diabetes, Crohn’s, and other autoimmune diseases at Dr Burt’s Website, Division of Immunotherapy And Autoimmune Diseases. Or watch this three-part 25 minute presentation on how stem cells are being used to treat MS:  Part 1Part 2Part 3. Finally, here’s a short news report on the treatment.

  • Christopher Bogosh


    I am conflicted about the article, let me explain why.

    First, I think about king Asa who did not seek help from the Lord but from physicians (2 Chr. 16:12). I am not suggesting this is the case here, but there is a real danger between using medical science and idolizing modern medicine. The shift is very subtle. I talk about this at great length in Compassionate Jesus. In my experience, Christians focus more on prolonging their lives to live on in the here and now than doing the will of God which may call them to die. Most assume it is always God’s will to prolong life, but this is not always the case. Richard Baxter calls this mentality “treason against heaven.”

    Second, when I reflect on the number of people in America and around the world without basic medical care I think our money could be put to better use for the kingdom. I am certainly not against ethical research but we are putting the cart before the horse as Christians if we seek cures when we have the ability to show compassion to those in need. Basic medical care to treat infections, bandage wounds, and provide bedside nursing care is compassionate care and it cost money but not as much as one treatment that may potentially work for one individual. Personally, I find it disturbing that churches will raise money for latest and greatest treatment but will allow Medicaid to pay for an elderly member’s extended stay at a nursing home–something does not compute. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus expects compassionate care first.

    A note on research. I worked as a medical researcher in cardiology and seriously question some of the ethics today from a biblical standpoint. Although these studies are approved by the FDA they are still rooted in ethics derived from an evolutionary worldview. Thus, since humans are at the top of the chain, cruel studies for our survival at the expense of our animal kin are justifiable. I will not get into details of some of these studies, but it sickens me today to think about them. Also, there were financial incentives connected with some of the trials for humans. Not only did I get paid for infusing potentially lethal drugs into people, but to the human participants (who saw dollar signs not potential death) were given financial incentives as well (a few of the patient’s died in these studies). The most tragic studies were those caste as the last dig effort and hope to prolong life. These studies divert hope from everlasting life in Christ and challenge his program for health and wellness that will not arrive until he returns.

    “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living” (Rom 14:7-9, ESV).


    • Valerie (Kyriosity)

      I have a joke I like to tell: Put an EGO into an MD, and what does it spell? ME GOD.

      I agree that we have a tendency toward medical idolatry — toward making gods of both the practitioners and the health we look to them to maintain or restore. And some of them are a little too comfortable with their place in the pantheon we’ve created. But doesn’t this post propose the antidote? By rooting our attitude toward medicine in prayer, we focus our worship and our trust on the Great Physician. That will place our pursuit of health and our honor of other healers in proper perspective.

      Second, it’s not necessary to pit research against basic care. It’s not a zero-sum game. our generous God can give us enough for both, starting with His gifting of people with different areas of expertise and interest. Both research and patient care are honorable professions that can be pursued in submission to Him. Again, the proposal to root our approach to all of it in prayer is our best bet that the wise and effective and investments will be made in both areas. Seeking first His righteousness is our only hope of carrying out research with God-honoring ethics.

      And research that seeks to extend temporal life need not divert hope from everlasting life if any more than lunch necessarily diverts our desire for the bread of life. We simply need to remember to look beyond the gifts to the Giver. We can deny Him by making idols out of any of His gifts, but we can also deny Him by refusing to receive them or refusing to seek them.

      • Good Samaritan Books

        Thanks for the comment Valerie.

        The main comment I was responding to was this one: “Frustratingly late diagnosis, rapidly worsening symptoms, and disappointingly ineffective drugs had all combined over the past 12 months to produce a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.” Now David suggests this young man has help and hope because medical researchers are able to use a new stem-cell treatment to reboot his neurological system. Therefore, we should pray for their success. A Christian’s help and hope does not depend on his or her ability to manage a disease, find a cure, or prolong life. Our help and hope is found exclusively in the Lord.

        Jesus is also our means for physical healing, but he will not heal us until he returns. In the meantime, we focus on our relationship to him by seeking his help to deny ourselves, love God, and love our neighbors as we look forward in hope to being healed at Jesus’ second coming. This is the lens through which Christians should be looking. Like Jesus we need to pursue God’s will even to death; give our lives to show compassion to those suffering and who are dead in sin; and look forward together as one Body in hope praying for the Lord Jesus to come with healing.

        Until Jesus returns we manage symptoms until the day we die. God commands us to exercise dominion over the world, but he also instructs us to show compassion and to use our resources wisely. Funding invested in research to develop a new product for a small pool of people when millions are without basic medical care puts the cart before the horse, especially for Christians. Along with biblical compassion via basic medical care, Christians are able to communicate the Gospel to spiritually dead people, who are truly helpless and hopeless.

  • Marcia

    Wonderful post, Dr. Murray. Often, the blogs I encounter discredit doctors and evidence-based medicine. This is a breath of fresh air! I have never thought of actually praying for the researchers themselves, but it’s a piece of good advice.

    • David Murray

      I agree with you about the ridiculous bashing of doctors and medicine that goes on way too often in Christian circles.