I believe in prayer, the powerful effects of prayer. I am convinced that each one of the murders with which we’ve been associated has been solved in large part because of prayer. …Not just prayers by the families and friends, but also by police. Most officers I know of put a great deal of faith in prayer. The officers who worked the Janet Chandler murder prayed together regularly. Their families prayed with and for them, helping to scrape off the toxicity of having to deal with any number of people who wished them ill. Every other case I’ve been close to has also involved uplifting and protective prayer…for justice, for the families of the victims, for the officers who are investigating the cases (and who really want to solve them), and even for the murderers.
Why pray for murders? They cannot begin to heal until they own up to what they’ve done. Many stay in denial…they are innocent, of course. Some others, though, have thanked the police who arrested them for doing what they were incapable of doing on their own: facing the evil they have done, their sin.
Shannon Marie Sider’s 1989 murder in Newaygo was a case that rattled me right from the start. I sensed the evil that surrounded the case, the absolute debasement of the killers, and the danger they represented…both spiritual and physical danger. They had killed once with near glee and I didn’t think there would be much to stop them from killing again. The story of the murder shook me at my core; that takes some doing.
After one of the early filming sessions I was so dis-eased that went to St. Mark’s Church on–of all things–Justice Street (just behind the police station and across from the site of the old city jail). It was midday and the church was was open. So I knelt and prayed. And then I sought out the rector, The Reverend Mary Frens. I told her I thought there was spiritual warfare at work and that day I was the target.
She didn’t laugh, she didn’t dismiss my assertion. Instead she talked about the nature of evil and effective ways to fend it off and ways to protect one’s self from its effects. She talked about the work of Dr. Francis MacNutt. And then she shared two prayers that would be of use in our work.
Right then and there she gave me a copy of and then prayed MacNutt’s “Cutting Free Prayer,” a way to cleanse and scape off all attachments. This was crucial, essential.
Then she shared his “Prayer for Protection,” something to pray before beginning work.
I believe that without these two prayers the film never would have been finished. We used them because they worked.
I believe that prayers like these and other, individual prayers can lead to the solving of these long unsolved homicides…of which there are so many.
Earlier last week I had the opportunity to speak again with The Reverend Frens, to let her know how helpful she and her work had been. I needed to thank her. She invited me to come back to speak with her congregation. So, yesterday I was in Newaygo again, to let that congregation know more fully the role of their church and rector in all that transpired.
And we talked about the DelayedJustice work. I told the congregants that I thought if every church would take on a cold case, many would benefit. First, there would be more cases solved–prayer having substantive effects. But it would be a lifting up of the victims, their families, the investigators, and the perpetrators. Maybe churches could invite the families of victims to get to know them. Perhaps investigators would come to realize just how many people are at their backs, praying every day for their protection and progress.
I also told St. Mark’s congregants that access to their church was essential. I would stop there to pray every time I came to town. Never did I find the church locked. And I prayed with assurance that there would be a day when I could come and kneel in thanksgiving and gratitude.
It happened. And I return whenever I pass by to continue giving thanks and praise in that place where prayer has been so effective.
And the church always still is open…a deliberate act of necessary courage in uncertain times.
There is welcome there; on the door from the bell town to the sanctuary is this notice:
Whosoever thou art that entereth this Church
Know that the Lord Christ is here
in His Holy Sacrament Reserved.
Kneel then, and adore Him and Pray
for thyself, for those who minister and
Nor forget the souls of the faithful departed.
We do not forget.