Prayer is the sheriff's latest tool against street crime in San Juan County, New Mexico. In March, Sheriff Michael Davidson enlisted 90 local churches of all faiths-Protestant, Catholic, and Mormon-to pray for their rural community in the state's lightly populated, scenic northwest corner.
"The San Juan County Sheriff's Office is concerned with the direction that our community and society, in general, are heading in regard to crime and other social ills," Davidson wrote to pastors in his March 13 letter, printed on sheriff's department stationery. "I am requesting the assistance of the religious community to enter into a partnership with this office and unite across denominational lines to mobilize your membership and prayer groups."
Davidson asked for prayer against pornography, illegal drugs, and domestic violence, and in support of local law-enforcement efforts. Davidson also sent a copy of Transformations, a 60-minute video produced by The Sentinel Group in Lynnwood, Washington that, documents exceptional changes in four cities after concerted intercessory prayer.
"After I saw what praying did in those four cities," Davidson recalls, "I couldn't think why God wouldn't want to do the same in our community, if we would pray in the same way."
Using sheriff's office money, Davidson bought and mailed the video to 90 pastors along with his letter requesting prayer. Jim Baker, president of Navajo Missions in Farmington, invited a group of pastors to the organization's radio station after a local newspaper ran a story on the mailing.
"We encouraged listeners to attend a rally at noon at the sheriff's office," Baker says.
Twenty-five pastors and 150 other people converged at Davidson's office, Baker says, reading a statement supporting Davidson and his prayer proposal.
"A group of pastors has been meeting for about five years, praying for our area," Baker says. " We've prayed that public officials would take a stand for Christ, so this wasn't a big surprise to me."
Baker and his pastors' prayer group later sponsored two showings of Transformations at the city's Civic Center. Davidson, an elected official, has received no censure from the county or state. To guard against controversy from the endeavor, he reimbursed the county for the $1,600 cost of the mailing. In the meantime, besides an awakening to prayer, have any changes come to rural San Juan County?
"It's too soon to see a change in the crime level," Davidson says. But rather than watching for rapid results, churches in San Juan county are extending their prayer vigils for the long haul.
The San Juan County Sheriff's Office has a Web site (actually, two of them), but no info on the prayer initiative.Other articles on Davidson's plan are available from Charisma News Service, Religion Today, Baptist Press, and Assemblies of God News
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