From Chicken Soup for the African American Soul

A Lesson Learned
in an Answered Prayer

I learned to really believe—and you can add a thousand more reallys—that the Lord loves me and wants only the best for me. That is an absolute. I made mistakes and I will again. I know I may step out of the light and go off and make the biggest mess in the world. But I always know that I can step back into the light!

Della Reese

Some years ago, I taught at a small Christian school in Yonkers, New York. Most of our students commuted daily from the Bronx-Harlem areas. A group of African American parents convinced that private education was the only way to spare their children from the often forsaken inner-city public system had started the school years before. Even though the parents of most of our students claimed no particular religious affiliation, they respected the fact that our school days always began with Bible class and prayer.

One day during our regular devotional, my eighth-graders and I were discussing the Ninth Commandment as recorded in the Bible in Exodus 20:16: “Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (KJV). A lively discussion about lies and lying ensued. Most of the children concluded that lies were harmful because they open the door for mistrust.

Suddenly Shari’s interjection gave the discussion a different spin, “But what if someone is about to rape me, Mrs. Richards?”

Faced with our silence she added, “I honestly don’t think God would want something bad like that to happen to me. So if I tell the guy that I have AIDS, so that he doesn’t rape me, would that lie be such a bad thing?”

All eyes turned towards me. Shari’s reasoning seemed logical enough to refute all previous conclusions.

“Well,” I began slowly, “a lie is a lie. And that would definitely be a lie because you do not have AIDS. But if you ever find yourself in such a situation, or in any situation of danger for that matter, I think your best bet is to pray.”


“Yes. There are some situations that are definitely out of our control and we need to ask God for help. A lie like that may not help, because what if that doesn’t matter to him or he doesn’t believe you?”

The kids all shook their heads in deep thought.

I continued, “I honestly think that the best thing to do is start praying, aloud if you can, but pray.”

Bible class ended, and we moved on to other topics, yet little did I know that this answer would prepare one of my students to face a most horrifying experience.

The following Monday morning I was startled from my sleep at 3:30 A.M. by the phone. It was the principal.

“I’m on my way to the hospital. . . . Donald’s family was robbed at gunpoint last night. I’ll be bringing him to school today, but you need to keep an eye on him. He might experience some after-effects during the day. His mother is in shock.”

At the time, Donald and his mother lived in the Bronx— a part of the city often notorious for its elevated crime rates. I could not go back to sleep after hearing this, all the while envisioning terrible scenes of what could have happened.

Upon my arrival at school, I went straight to the cafeteria. Donald ran to me; we embraced, and he started crying. Seeing and feeling his pain, I started crying also. I took him up to the classroom, where he recounted his nightmare.

Donald was having dinner while his mother prepared to style a client’s hair, when three men, dressed in dark clothing and heavily armed, burst into the apartment. They laid the client on the floor and pointed a gun to her head. One of the intruders also put a gun to Donald’s head. The three men yelled at his mother, telling her to hand over the “merchandise” or else they were going to kill Donald. By then, another gun was placed at his head.

Donald’s mother did not know what they were talking about and kept crying and pleading that she did not have anything or know about any merchandise.

Obviously intent on recovering the merchandise, they locked the victims in the bathroom. Meanwhile, the men trashed the house in search of the alleged merchandise.

The captives could hear loud cursing and furniture and lamps breaking. One of the gunmen insisted that whether they found the merchandise or not they had to kill the hostages because their faces had been seen. The two women cried uncontrollably, gripping each other in agony, certain they were going to be murdered.

In the midst of their despair, Donald said, “Momma, if I die, I want you to know I love you. But I need to do this now. I need to pray.” He climbed into the bathtub, knelt and started praying.

Donald never told me what he prayed that night. Yet the petition of a thirteen-year-old boy, who had learned to pray in school, touched the heart of God. Donald’s family did not profess or support any particular religious denomination. His only religious exposure was at school. Donald said that he prayed for a long time until they realized that there was silence in the house.

They dared to turn the lock. With the door open, to their dismay—and relief—they saw the house was trashed, but the invaders had left.

“Teacher,” Donald said at the end of his story, “I remembered you said the best thing to do when we’re in trouble is to pray. God answered my prayer.”

The police could not understand why they were not murdered. It would have been a “clean job” since no one else in the neighborhood claimed to have heard or seen anything.

Later that day, with Donald’s permission, I retold his experience to the class. The kids were shocked, and they all rallied around Donald. Each time prayer was offered special mention was made of him and his mother. On a weekly basis, we sent handmade cards and candy to Donald’s mother to encourage her and to show our support. Yet the lesson remained unquestionably reaffirmed.

Norka Blackman-Richards

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