As a young teenager I wondered, what is the point of prayer? I grew up in Unity, so I knew God works in and through me every moment of every day. Divine order is at work in the universe at all times, so why waste time praying when God is already all-knowing? I asked my minister and was told that prayer was a way to center ourselves and re-connect with the truth that we already know.
It was 1998, and I was 16, when something happened that changed my life and changed the way I understood prayer. I was living in Australia as an exchange student. On December 26, the Australian national holiday Boxing Day, my host family and I were sitting in the living room when I was attacked by the family dog. The dog, a long-snouted Saluki, snapped crossways at my face, biting into my upper lip and corner of my eye and slicing through my nose. The attack was severe and my mind immediately went into emergency mode. But what was it that ran through my mind? Was it screaming? Crying? Flailing about? No, it wasn’t. What it was surprised even me. It was, “The light of God surrounds me. The love of God enfolds me. The power of God protects me. The presence of God watches over me. Wherever I am, God is, and all is well.”
Here I was, thousands of miles away from home, a teenager in an unfamiliar family, holding my hands over my face and bleeding profusely. Anyone would have expected complete and utter panic, but for some reason James Dillet Freeman’s “Prayer for Protection” ran through my mind. I repeated it silently to myself as others scrambled around me. I repeated it as I rode in the backseat to the nearest open clinic. I repeated it as I was laid on a stretcher and assessed by a nurse. I repeated it as we got back into the car and drove another 20 minutes to Melbourne’s Children’s Hospital where I proceeded to have emergency reconstructive surgery. As I repeated the prayer, an all-encompassing strength and unwavering trust resonated within me. The deepest faith I’ve ever known overcame my body, and in that moment, I knew that as God was working in and through me, I had the power to come through this. My prayer did more than just hold me together; it transformed me from a scared child to a safe and divinely protected child of God.
When I awoke, surrounded by my host parents and a team of nurses, my face was covered in bandages, breathing was difficult and I was unable to speak. I lay there, taking it all in, and yet, I felt a deep sense of calm, deep down at my core. I was alright, and everything was going to be alright.
They say in an emergency a person has one of two reactions—either fight or flight. My reaction was neither, it was prayer. Now, more than 10 years later, I am still comforted by my reaction. The dog attack didn’t change my life, but prayer did.