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CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, May 24, 2023 – Years ago, when I was much younger and even more foolish than I am today, I used to hitchhike back and forth between Halifax and Vancouver in the summertime. I did it so often, it became like an annual pilgrimage to the west coast. During one of those pilgrimages, I got picked up by a young man, probably in his mid-20s, who took me to his basement apartment just outside Calgary. I spent the night there.

The apartment was filthy and had a strange stench that I could not identify. What looked like leftover meat was rotting on plates here and there around the kitchen and living room. I don’t remember much beyond the filth and mess and strange, strange smell. The place was very dim and the only functioning light was the hall light. Shortly after we arrived, I remember telling the guy I was tired and wanted to get to sleep early so I could leave first thing in the morning and try to make it to Vancouver by nightfall.

The guy led me to a small bedroom with a single bed and left me there alone. I laid down with my clothes still on and fell into a restless sleep that was punctuated every so often by the guy standing at the bedroom door, silhouetted by the hall light, asking if he could come into the room and ‘sleep’ with me (for decorum’s sake, I won’t use his exact words here). Every time he asked, I told him “No”, and he went away. This bizarre ritual went on all night, too many times to count.

At daybreak, groggy but determined to get the heck out of that apartment, I got up and gathered my few things together to leave. The guy was already up and sitting at the kitchen table waiting for me. I think he’d been sitting there all night. Without saying a word to each other, we left the apartment, got into his car, and drove to the closest highway onramp, where he pulled over and let me out.

I thanked him for the lift and for letting me spend the night at his place. He stared straight ahead as if he didn’t hear me and then drove off without saying a word.

I never saw him again.

Years later, for what I thought was the first time in my life, I was exposed to a dead human body that had begun to putrefy. The smell of the rotting corpse immediately took me back to that basement apartment all those years ago and the strange smell that I could not at the time identify. I finally knew what it was.

My hitchhiking as a teenager and young adult had exposed me to many dangerous scenarios that I was too naïve and foolish to understand were dangerous. But that man constantly asking my permission to come into the room to rape me was among the strangest of all the bizarre situations I’d ever found myself in. Until I was born-again, I didn’t understand why he didn’t just come into the bedroom and rape me, why he kept asking my permission to enter the room. Now I understand that he needed me to say “Yes” in order to break through the spiritual safety net that even as an unbeliever was all around me. I didn’t put the net there; God did, on behalf of the few people in my life who were praying for me.

The demons in the guy could not get past that spiritual barrier without my permission, which even in my youthful atheistic foolishness I wasn’t about to give.

I recalled this incident today after reading about a young man in Lethbridge, not far from Calgary, who’d held a woman captive in his basement for days, repeatedly raping her. I thought: There was a woman who had no safety net of prayers around her, not from her own prayers or the prayers of those who love her. I had no idea at the time that I was being protected by the prayers of my loved ones, but I know now that I was. God honored their prayers and protected me, even when I didn’t believe in him, even when I persecuted those who were praying for me.

We need to be reminded every now and then about the power of the prayers of God’s children. These prayers are the most powerful force in the universe because they allow God to directly intervene. I experienced that power as an unbeliever, when I was rescued on umpteen occasions from being raped and abducted or otherwise molested during my hitchhiking days. The strangeness of the protection, at the time, and how I escaped in ways that to me and to those who witnessed it defied logic, puzzled me for years until my rebirth. When I was born-again, I finally understood.

Please pray for those you know who need your prayers. They may not be believers and they may hate your guts but please pray for them. The safety net of my loved one’s prayers played a critical role in keeping me alive long enough to realize the error of my ways and turn back to God. I might not still be here – even worse, I might not be born-again – had it not been for those prayers.

Please pray for your loved ones, especially for the naïve and foolish ones who’ve lost their way. Your prayers may be the only thing standing between them and the demons.