Rachelle Liggett: I know many feel strongly but it's dangerous to dismiss prayer's power
A model who spoke of her belief that prayer helped to cure her cancer says she has been overwhelmed with messages of support since she told her story.
Rachelle Liggett, a 25-year-old model and teacher from Portadown, was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of 10.
Her claim this week that she was cured by the power prayer caused huge debate across social media.
But Rachelle defiantly said: "What happened to me had been building up inside for years, and it feels great to have finally opened up about my cancer.
"I understand that many people feel strongly towards my story, either in a good sense or not, but it is very refreshing for me to have finally told it.
"I have received huge amounts of support online, by phone, by email and personally, which is deeply encouraging.
"In fact, I was up until 2am on Friday morning trying to answer all the messages of support I received, not only from friends but from strangers as well.
"Some people have said prayer is futile. For me, prayer produces hope and hope can be very powerful to people. To dismiss the power of prayer and hope can be very dangerous."
Rachelle also reiterated the point she made in her original interview that she believed medical treatment also assisted in her recovery.
She never dismissed the help she received from doctors in the Royal Victoria Hospital, but merely believes that medical treatment alone was not enough to cure her from leukaemia.
"I would never advise anyone not to take medical treatment," she said. "I availed of all the treatment available to me. We need doctors, but I believe we cannot function without God."
Rachelle received support from Kim Martin, the mother of Joshua, whose story inspired her to speak publicly.
Fourteen-year-old Josh, from Donaghadee, was diagnosed last Christmas Eve with a rare and aggressive form of cancer, and he endured countless surgical operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
In October scan results revealed that Josh had no tumours in his system and no sign of any cancer growth. His family believe that a campaign of prayer helped him in his recovery.
Kim told the Belfast Telegraph: "I thought Rachelle was very courageous in telling her story. I just wanted to send her a message of encouragement.
"We were very happy as a family to read Rachelle's story. I have received many comments congratulating Rachelle on her story, even from people I do not know. I encourage everyone to seek God."
Support for Rachelle also came from Peter Lynas, the Northern Ireland director of the Evangelical Alliance.
He said: "Rachelle's story of being healed by prayer is so inspiring and uplifting. Healing people was a really important part of Jesus' ministry and that continues today.
"I am hearing more and more stories of people being healed through prayer, which is so encouraging.
"It's great that Rachelle has come forward to tell her story of being healed by God. As she notes, some people are strangely hostile. They seem to resent anyone believing God has healed them, (but) they can't prove it wasn't God.
"The core of my belief is that God came to Earth in human form, died and rose again. Healing people is a given.
"When I tweeted about Josh Martin being healed I was surprised to get some negative responses. It seems those who don't believe in God are unsettled when He shows up and heals people.
"Doctors do an amazing job, but sometimes, as in Rachelle's case, something unexpected happens - medicine and miracles working together."
However, Boyd Sleator, chairman of Atheist NI, said that the story was a "slap in the face" to the doctors and medical staff who had treated Rachelle.
He said: "It is also dangerous and irresponsible to send out the message that prayer cures cancer when there is absolutely not one shred of supporting evidence. It isn't just a hypothetical danger that parents may dispense with healthcare and opt solely for prayer - it has actually happened."