One day, at the McNair Discovery Learning Academy, bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff found herself face to face with a mentally unbalanced teenager with an AK-47 and 500 rounds of ammunition. The gunman took Tuff hostage and told her he wasn’t afraid to die.
Fortunately, Tuff had had some training. Drills which the school system provided helped her to prepare for just such an emergency. Tuff managed to send a coded message to teachers that alerted them to the danger and enabled them to work swiftly to protect the children. And as she called 911 she talked soothingly and compassionately to the gunman, even calling him “baby,” and telling him that she loved him. She acknowledged that enormous and overwhelming problems come to every life, and she shared her own experiences of hopelessness and sorrow. She also assured him that no one would hate him if he surrendered to the authorities, who would offer him some help. She talked the gunmen into surrendering.
As a hostage negotiator later commented, Tuff did everything right. She never acted like a victim, or an adversary. She simply offered a calm and caring face to the unstable gunman. And this made all the difference. Tuff’s training had served her well.
But in later interviews, Tuff noted that she had had a second sort of training, besides the very effective and practical sort she received from her school district. She credits the training her pastor had offered her as giving her the mindset and heartset she needed in this crisis with the gunman. Tuff said that her pastor taught her how to pray “on the inside” no matter what was happening in the outside. He taught her how to “anchor herself in God” no matter what storms raged around her.
That day Tuft anchored herself to peace and goodness and stability, despite the chaos that raged around her. She never gave up praying. All the while she attended calmly to the outside events, she prayed in the inside.
Clearly Antoinette Tuff is an astounding woman and a hero whose unceasing prayer mattered. How good are you at unceasing prayer? OK, maybe you feel that diligent, unrelenting, persistent prayer is just more than you have got the energy for. Or maybe you are skeptical that it could ever yield such spectacular results as it did for Antoinette Tuff. But we need to remember that some of the most important changes we can affect by prayer may not be on the outside. They may be on the inside – the inside of us, where we are capable of growth in goodness and strength, wisdom and love, as we are touched by God’s presence through prayer. So keep praying.