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Saved by a Prayer

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

Saved by a Prayer

Calling on God in the courtroom.
Iyanla  Vanzant
Iyanla Vanzant More by this author
Aug 11, 2013 at 10:00 AM

I really thought I would love practicing law. However, before you pass the bar, you don’t get to practice law. You get to fill out paperwork—lots and lots of paperwork. Because I had not taken or passed the Pennsylvania bar exam, I couldn’t actually represent anyone in court, though I could appear at bail hearings. Every now and again, the paperwork would turn out to hold a real story. Those were the people I really wanted to help. Those were the people I thought I would be helping after I passed the bar exam.

One woman, Patricia, had gotten into an altercation with another tenant in her apartment building. There was a knife involved. The other tenant got stabbed, and Patricia was arrested. When I first saw her paperwork, I assumed she would get bail, go to court, and get probation and I would never see her again. Case closed. I had put my paperwork in order and was standing at the vending machine when a short woman tapped me on the back.

“Are you the public defender?”

“Yes, ma’am, I am.”

“Are you going to handle the case for Patricia Muller?”

There was something about this woman that I liked. While she was very soft-spoken, I could feel an energy coming from her that I recognized but couldn’t quite explain―yet.

“That is my pastor’s daughter, and I am here on her behalf.”

That’s it! This was an old church mother. One of those powerful women who sit around and pray all day. I knew that energy because I had felt it so many times as a child when I went to church with Grandma. These women felt welcoming. They rocked. They hummed. They moaned. And they could pray the paint off the walls.

“Is she going to have to go to jail?”

“No, ma’am. Not if you pay the bail.”

She explained that the pastor and his wife were on the way up from South Carolina, and it was going to take them at least eight hours to get here. When would she need to have the money?

“They will probably call her before the commissioner within the next hour. If you can’t pay the bail then, you will need to pay it later and then go to the detention center to pick her up.”

“The Lord knows the way.”

“I am sure he does.”

The next group of defendants came up within the hour. Ms. Muller was not among them. When I looked over my shoulder to give the church mother a reassuring nod, her eyes were closed and she was rocking from side to side. By the time the third group came up without Ms. Muller, I was laughing to myself. This woman’s prayers are affecting the entire legal system.

As soon as I sat down next to the church mother, her eyes flew open. Before I could get my mouth open, she asked me if I would go and let Patricia know that Mother Carol was here and her parents were on the way. I explained that I was not allowed to speak to the prisoners before they came into the court room.

“Prisoner? Patricia ain’t nobody’s prisoner!”

“I mean the defendants. I am not allowed to speak to them while they are in police custody.”

“You are the lawyer, right?”

“Yes, ma’am. I mean, I’m not actually a lawyer because I haven’t passed the bar exam, but I can stand before a commissioner.”

“You’re going to pass the exam, but today I need you to go and tell Patricia that I am here.”

It was worth a try. I knew the officers on duty, and they teased me about being a New Yorker. I had never made such a request, so maybe—just maybe—they would be nice to me.

I went down into the basement where the defendants were held in lockup. I walked the long and narrow hallway that never seemed to end. When I stepped up to the window of the cage, I noticed that Patricia was alone. I knew from the paperwork that there were at least 212 defendants in the cage, but Patricia had a cage all to herself. She was sitting on the floor, in the corner. She had been in lockup for 11 hours. I tapped on the window and gave her Mother Carol’s message. She began to weep.

“Why are you crying? Your parents are on the way, and Mother Carol has this entire building on lockdown.”

“I am so scared.”

“Scared of what?”

“I didn’t do what he said. I didn’t stab him.”

“So what are you afraid of? You know what to do.”

“I don’t know what to do!”

“You mean to tell me that you are a pastor’s daughter and you don’t know what to do? Girl, you better get to praying.”

She looked at me as if I had lost my mind. I started her off:

“The Lord is my shepherd.”

She continued, “I shall not want.”

We prayed Psalms 23 and 91 together, aloud. Then we just prayed. The only thing that stopped us was the officer letting me know that court was about to begin. As I left, prisoners in the other cages were screaming through the windows.

“Pray for me too! Miss. Miss. Please pray for me too!”

Two hours later, the pastor and the first lady arrived. Ten minutes later, Patricia Muller entered the courtroom. When the commissioner attempted to set her bail at $5,000, I reminded him of how long the prisoner had been held—14 hours by this time, 2 hours longer than the maximum. I glanced into the gallery. Pastor Muller, the first lady, and Mother Carol were all standing, all rocking from side to side. The commissioner released Patricia Muller on her own recognizance. When she came upstairs an hour later, the pastor thanked me and invited me to church. I went.

Over the next few weeks, I realized I was in the right place, at the right time, doing the wrong thing. After many months of agony and much prayer, I knew in my soul that I was not meant to be a lawyer. I knew that my destiny was not aligned with man’s system of law. It was my destiny to find and teach the process of being in alignment with God’s law. After 21 days of fasting and purification, I left the defender’s office without a goal or a vision. I knew I had made the right choice.

About Author
Iyanla  Vanzant
Iyanla Vanzant is the founder and executive director of Inner Visions International and the Inner Visions Institute for Spiritual Development. She is a Yoruba priestess and an ordained minister in Christian New Thought. The author of 13 titles—inc Continue reading