From Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

Time to Pray

More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.

Abraham Lincoln

On the morning of September 11, 2001, my family woke to the sounds of metal crashing and a person screaming. I ran for the phone to call 911, while my son hurried to the corner. He returned with a report that a motorcyclist had broadsided a left-turning car and had been thrown twenty feet along the pavement. Emergency vehicles arrived promptly, and everyone seemed to be all right. But still, the event rattled me. It reminded me that our lives can be dramatically changed in a single moment.

A short time later my husband called from work and told me to turn on the news.

What? I thought. That neighborhood accident made the news?

“What channel?” I asked.

“Pick one,” he said flatly.

I hurried to the living room and punched the power button. Immediately, I saw a strange and terrible sight. A skyscraper with fire and smoke billowing out a few stories from the top. Sketchy blurbs scrolled across the bottom of the screen as flustered newscasters spoke in shocked tones about the World Trade Center. A passenger jet had flown directly, purposefully, into the North Tower, instantly killing everyone on board and many inside the building. Another plane flew into the South Tower. One tower had collapsed. As I watched, the second one fell.

Hours passed as I watched the reports, updates and corrections in stunned shock. The Pentagon had also been hit. Another plane had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. At the time, no one knew if there was a connection between the plane that crashed “in the middle of nowhere” and the others. Later, it was determined that it had also been hijacked, apparently intended for the White House or Air Force One.

What kind of a world do we live in? I thought. Ignoring the work I had scheduled to do that day, I spent hours glued to the television. The newscasts on every channel showed videos of the planes slamming into the towers over and over again. Every once in a while, new footage was found and shown, displaying the gruesome scenario from different angles.

We had just been in New York. Eleven days before, on August 31, my husband and I had flown out of Newark Airport to visit relatives in Pennsylvania and Kentucky for a week and a half. On Sunday, September 9, we drove back to Newark Airport. We arrived in New Jersey well ahead of schedule, so we drove around, looked at the sights and took pictures—including photos of the New York skyline! We ended up missing our original return flight, as well as a connecting flight, so we didn’t get back home until about five o’clock Monday evening. The next morning, as we watched the news, I thanked God that we had made it home, and I prayed for the many who hadn’t.

All day Tuesday, most of Wednesday and a good portion of the days thereafter, I watched the news on television, listened to news radio and even checked the news pages of the Internet for updates. I watched the many faces of people who had been directly affected by this unspeakable tragedy—those whose loved ones had died or been severely injured.

In the midst of the tragedy, stories of bravery and heroism surfaced. One story described a man on the Pennsylvania plane who tried to call home, but ended up reaching an operator. After making her promise to call his wife and children to tell them he loved them, he asked her to recite the Lord’s Prayer with him. She did. Then he, with the help of a few other passengers, somehow thwarted the hijackers’ intentions and ultimately saved the lives of countless individuals who had been targeted for attack on the ground.

As the days passed, I did my best to return to my usual routine—especially to my work, as the president had urged us to do. But life no longer felt “normal.” Like most people in the country, my emotions were much closer to the surface. I only left the house to get groceries or other necessities. And I was not making plans for another cross-country vacation any time soon.

But the most noticeable difference in my life was an obsessive compulsion to watch the news. I have never been one to tune in regularly or even to read the newspaper (other than the entertainment and coupons sections). But after September 11, I started listening to the news several times a day to catch all the late-breaking updates. We listened to news reports every night just before bed. The television was turned on first thing every morning, even before breakfast, to find out what had happened while we were sleeping. Throughout the day, I checked Internet news sites and flipped madly from local stations to CNN, MSNBC and back again. I didn’t want to miss anything new, and I was ready to grab the phone and call friends and loved ones if something happened they might have missed.

One day, as I sat glued to the television, something occurred to me. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have that same obsessive compulsion about spending time with the Lord—praying with him, listening for his voice, reading and studying his word? Not that it wasn’t important to find out if CNN had anything new. But shouldn’t it be even more important to make sure I didn’t miss anything God might have to say to me? How different would my life, and the lives of my friends and loved ones, be if I called them immediately every time I received a new tidbit of wisdom from the Lord?

In that moment, I made myself a promise. Whenever I felt the urge to pick up the remote and turn on the news to find out what was going on, I would pray. Pray for my country. Pray for President Bush and his advisors. Pray for those who had lost loved ones in the attacks. Pray for the rescue workers at the disaster sites. Pray for the Arab-Americans who were experiencing the backlash of prejudice. Pray for the innocent civilians of Afghanistan. Pray for the reservists who had been called to report for duty. Pray for those who might be planning further attacks against the United States or other peace-loving countries. Pray for the Taliban and even for Osama bin Laden himself. Pray for all the individuals who had been so deceived by evil that they believed they were doing God and the world a favor by eliminating the “spiritually bankrupt” people of America from the face of this planet.

Today, after I have spent time in prayer, I allow myself to watch the news, but only long enough to see if anything major has occurred. Then I turn it off and pray some more before going back to my duties. This self-imposed regimen has brought me peace in this time of terror. My focus is no longer on the tragedy, but on the God of the universe, the Lord of my life.

Do I have time in my busy schedule to pray that many times in the day? I had time to watch the news compulsively for many, many days.

There has never been a more important time to pray than right now.

Kathy Ide

THE FAMILY         By Bil Keane

“Daddy says you’ve been ’stremely
busy since September 11th, but . . .”

Reprinted with permission from Bil Keane.

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