A quarter century ago, my friend was indicted for allegedly molesting a boy. The accusers were a man-hating single mother and her easily manipulated son; they looked for an adult to victimize and found my friend. He was naïve enough to allow them to place him in a compromising position, and then they simply lied about what supposedly happened. His first attorney disbelieved him and had convinced him to plead out when I became aware of the situation. Knowing all the parties fairly well – she even tried to set me up, but I smelled a rat – I first referred him to an attorney who believed him and next flew out to California to arrange a prayer team for duty during the trial. I offered myself as a witness for the defense, as I had knowledge of the accusers’ chronic and malicious dishonesty over the years.
The prayer team engaged in silent daily prayer inside the courtroom. They prayed not for acquittal, but for justice and truth. We faced a prosecutor who added a charge during the trial, a judge so biased he refused to drop it even when the prosecutor agreed, and damning statements the defendant admitted making to the boy. When the jury voted “not guilty”, they were just as unanimous that the defendant had been set up. Truth and justice prevailed.
It wasn’t all about prayer. Although my testimony was ruled inadmissible, my highest use was leading prayer and responding to tactical revelations God provided. One of the most damaging statements of the defendant – a former fighter pilot – was that certain military airplanes gave him a “hard-on” while showing the boy photos of those planes. When God reminded me of lines from the famous film “Top Gun”, the defense attorney called the pilot’s former CO to the stand; and he confirmed a common phrase in fighter-jock-talk that has no sexual connotation whatever. When the defense attorney tried to hypnotize the defendant, so as to curb his angry responses under questioning, there was no joy. Yet when I prayed God’s peace over him, he was able to be a calm and credible witness. Couching the events in prayer from the get-go lays the proper foundation for God to move in each of us – from giving strategy and tactics to building courage and peace to creating favor with a jury in an atmosphere of extreme prejudice. But it is still incumbent on each of us to act, as God gives inspiration and instruction.
As important as prayer itself is prayer for what God wants. We wanted our friend acquitted; God wanted justice and truth. “Thy will, not mine, be done” are words uttered from the Cross, but likewise from the empty tomb and every location in between.
Sometimes one group prays dynamically, while another group acts diligently – though all should pray all the time per Mark 11:17 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17. When California’s Proposition 8 was fatally behind in polls, political and church leaders campaigning over the state were unable to halt the slide, let alone turn the tide. A determined prayer campaign was undertaken, and the prayers were shaped by God for blessing, forgiveness, and healing for all. The proposition passed by a large majority.
“Well, yeah, but the courts just threw it out. The prayers didn’t work.” Again, prayer is not something that works; it is something submitted. But the obvious conclusion is we need to pray – and work – more, and let God – not us – win.
A federal judge closed the pumps in the Sacramento Delta and threw thousands out of work based on dubious science. One solid presentation after another failed to sway him. An eighteen month prayer campaign – for his blessing – saw his eyes opened; and when he reversed his decision, he told the environmentalists who howled that he was just not impressed by their version of science. Scientific and legal presentations were necessary, but prayer sowed the ground for opening his mind.
My favorite personal witness is Anderson Middle School, where faculty and staff worked for years to create the atmosphere of peace and curiosity that fosters learning, only to see their school spiraling into violence and hopelessness. After a summer day of concerted on-campus prayer, the violence disappeared, the new reading program took off, and the faculty returned for Fall with renewed hope. The school became a California distinguished school. It was their efforts that determined and shaped the renewal, but it was prayer that sowed the ground for it. When we submit to God in prayer, it is more natural to submit to Him in action; and only great good can come from it.
James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships and The Holy Spirit and the End Times – available at local bookstores or by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.