“Shooter arrested.” These headlines over our news outlets in the Phoenix area on September 18th captivated all of us who live in the Valley of the Sun. You could hear the
sigh of relief that perhaps the bewildering reign of terror was over.
This past month Phoenix and its surrounding communities had become danger zones with eleven drive-by shootings on our freeways. Some sick person or persons had shot out windows of cars or trucks and bullets penetrated the body of vehicles of our citizens traveling to work or school. Domestic terrorism had come to our valley. Many had chosen to take side streets to avoid the dangerous freeways. Schools re-routed their bus routes. DPS offered $50,000 for a tip leading to an arrest of the shooter and hung huge billboards along our freeways with a phone number to call with tips that would lead to the arrest of the shooter. So far no one had been shot, but DPS told us it was just a matter of time before a life was taken or a serious accident occurred. We had become a valley of fear.
However, I think our community also became a Valley of Prayer. I think of it as “Drive-by Praying.” Perhaps people who hadn’t prayed in a long time said, “Catch them, Lord.” Even a simple, “Help, Lord,” could have an impact on helping DPS and other law enforcement catch the criminal. I imagined young mothers and fathers covering their children and schools in prayer as they tried to explain the danger to their little ones. With four grandchildren attending school in Phoenix, we kept them and their school covered in prayer.
God is not deaf to our prayers even if we haven’t talked to Him in a long time. Just like the plants that go dormant in the harsh winter, even though they appear dead, they bloom again and cast their fragrant flowers over our backyards…so it is with prayer. Along the dangerous freeway, I-10, drivers who hadn’t prayed in a long time woke up and called upon God for protection. Those of us at home also prayed and waited for the good news of the capture of the shooters. With grateful hearts we experienced security in the midst of danger as Psalm 91 promises:
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty…He is my refuge and my fortress; my God; in him will I trust. (KJV)
The true story is told of a Christmas Eve northeast of London, 1943, of Colonel Jimmy Stewart flying a B-24 Bomber to attack German secret weapon concentrations in France. Flying low at 12,000 feet, Stewart and his company of men, for the American Eighth Air Force, attacked the targets and all returned to Tibenham safely. Jimmy was never without his father’s letter tucked in the pocket of his flight suit.
His father wrote: My dear Jim boy, soon after you read this letter you will be on your way to the worst sort of danger…I am banking on the enclosed copy of the 91st Psalm. The thing that takes the place of fear and worry is the promise in these words. I feel sure that God will lead you through this mad experience…I continue only to pray. Goodbye my dear. I love you more than I can tell you…Dad.
God delivered Jimmy Stewart from death and honored him with a wonderful life.
Cell Phone Praying
My cell phone has become my prayer list to help me remember to pray for the victims of 9-1-1, Sandyhook, Boston Marathon and others. When I can’t sleep at night, I pray through all my entries. I can’t forget the heartbreak of so many who lost loved ones. Fortunately, it appears the crisis on Phoenix freeways is over, but I continue to pray for the safety of our neighborhoods. I also pray for the shooter or shooters and their families to know and experience God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Will you join me in prayer for our communities? Pray when you drive by a school. Pray when you see law enforcement and fire fighters. Pray as you watch the news on TV as they so often report the horrific suffering around the world. Wherever we are, Drive-by Praying can bring peace to our communities as we acknowledge our love for God and dependence on Him.