My husband was sitting in his favorite chair, and I bent down to kiss him goodnight on his right temple. He flinched. That was where a gun had been held a few hours earlier, and the bruise was tender. This was when I realized that a gun had been involved in the kidnapping, and I was shocked.
He had been waiting in the car for me when two men flung open both front doors. They crowded him into the middle of the front seat and drove away. The one not driving, the nervous one, held the gun to my husband's head. Eventually, they let him out, and a short time later the police found the abandoned car.
We learned several lessons from this experience. For a starter, always keep car doors locked. A far greater and, in essence, a more important lesson was that prayers my husband offered brought forth an element of kindness in the driver. The man with the gun was demanding my husband's gold ring. The driver asked if it was a wedding ring. My husband said that it was. Then the driver said, "Let him keep it."
Shortly after that, they let him out of the car. He was able to call the police, and they brought him home. He had no doubt that turning to God in prayer had protected him from much worse violence. Such experiences do not leave us where they found us.
We could see that we needed to be more consistent in our prayers to "save the sinner." There was a lot of crime in our city at that time, and we needed to take a multifaceted approach to solving these problems.
Many communities are trying to do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. A recent documentary by Michael Moore, "Bowling for Columbine," points to the shocking number of deaths by guns in the United States, and cites some attitudes and actions that need correcting. Such increased awareness of the incredible number of violent deaths, most carried out with firearms, is an important step in the elimination of violence.
But prayer goes further; it goes to the very core of the problem and brings lasting solutions. Prayer shows us that violence is not part of our - or anyone's - fundamental nature.
What makes a person think that violence is a solution? The recent snipers' case brought to light disappointments and frustrations that were contributing factors.
Overemphasis on simply material achievements, coupled with disenfranchisement, can lead to frustration and often senseless anger. These are both areas where our prayers and actions can help achieve necessary change. Our prayers help society shift goals away from merely material accomplishments and provide greater equity of opportunity. But prayer can go even deeper; it can show us how our prayers can protect not only us from being victims, but others from being perpetrators.
During the years since my husband was kidnapped, I have been praying for my fellow human beings, as well as for myself.
When I reach out to God for how to pray about violence, I gain a sure feeling that violence is not natural to anyone. It's like the old truism that children must be taught to hate. Violence is learned. Some cultures promote violence, but cultures can change, and positive change comes most quickly and surely through prayer for spiritual progress.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "Good is divinely natural. Evil is unnatural; it has no origin in the nature of God, and He is the Father of all" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 288). God's creation is naturally good, and this is the spiritual truth of every one of us.
As we grow in our understanding of God and His creation, we find the Biblical prophecy fulfilled, "Violence shall no more be heard in thy land" (Isa. 60:18). Until that state is fully achieved, we can find safety and protection, as millions have done throughout the centuries, by turning to God in times of danger.
As my husband's prayers kept him safe, and even brought out a degree of compassion in one of the kidnappers, our turning to "the Father of all" will reveal more of the spiritual selfhood of anyone attempting to harm us. This will help free not only the attacker, but also our society, from the imposition of a culture of violence.