December 9, 2016


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Policing the pros and cons of prayer Have your say

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/10/2012 (1507 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Re: New top cop's weapon: prayer (Oct. 24). I am not a religionist but I admire Winnipeg police Chief Devon Clunis for his prayer comments. This is not because I want to see religion in the police force but because it shows empathy and caring for the people he is in charge of protecting.

Prayer, for all religion, fundamentally recognizes the value of others. I consider prayer for anything to be ridiculously arrogant. But having said that, I think prayer makes us think about the best possible solutions to problems, and I share Clunis's hope it will motivate us to be proactive in the peaceful resolution of those problems, without police intervention. I also hope our new police chief will be employing more than just prayer in his arsenal.

Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press Archives
Winnipeg police Chief Devon Clunis.

Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press Archives Winnipeg police Chief Devon Clunis. Purchase Photo Print




The appeal by the chief of police to use prayer in combating crime makes me think of an event that occurred a few years ago.

An entrepreneur in a small American city started to build a bar opposite a church. Church members initiated a campaign in opposition, which in part consisted of several prayer vigils at the construction site. Work proceeded in spite of the opposition, but just as the project was nearing completion the building was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.

Church members who rejoiced at this answer to their prayers changed their tune when the bar owner sued them for $2 million on the grounds their prayers were responsible for the destruction of the bar. The church countered with the claim their prayers would have no effect on anything and used a study from Harvard University to support their claim.

The study showed that intercessory prayer, i.e., asking God to intervene to achieve a desired result, had no effect on outcomes, although it may make the person praying feel better. In fact, it showed patients who knew people were praying for them actually did worse than those in a control group, presumably, because they felt they were about to die.

When the case reached the court, a rather puzzled judge noted the unusual nature of the case: a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer and a church congregation that doesn't!




Why is everyone so surprised a man of faith (he was a police chaplain for 14 years) believes transformation can occur when people share a common spiritual goal? Crime occurs because the spirit is wounded by poverty, hate, lack of opportunity and hopelessness. Police deal with the results of this intolerance and injustice.

To truly change requires community action, compassion and respect. If coming together in prayer is a way of encouraging positive action, how can this be wrong?




Yes, the criminals, the muggers and the gang members will all pray, but they will pray for more access to guns and knives, more dark places to hide and less law enforcement.

If our new police chief feels everybody holding hands and singing What a Friend We Have in Jesus is going to bring peace and tranquility to this city, he needs a serious wake-up call.

Does the police chief not understand the separation of church and state must be adhered to? Religion has a place in the lives of some people but this kind of archaic thinking does not belong in the running of a modern police department or any sort of government agency.




I am struggling to understand the outcry over police Chief Devon Clunis's comments about prayer. Remember the context. He made this statement to a reporter for ChristianWeek, so he knew he was speaking to people of faith who believe in prayer. He challenged them to not only pray but to put actions behind their prayers, to get involved in being change agents in their communities.

Just a few months ago the people of Winnipeg were bursting with pride over the Winnipeg bus driver who stopped his bus and gave his shoes to a man on the street with no shoes. That bus driver said he began every day with a prayer that God would help him see and respond to opportunities to help others.

This is a perfect example of what Clunis is talking about. If you are a person of faith, by all means pray. But if we put actions behind those prayers we can make a real difference in our community.




Christians believe God answers prayer. For those of other faiths, prayer is also important, and they believe God answers prayer.

If we in Winnipeg get together in our places of worship and pray about the safety of our city and the need for the crime rate to drop, this is a good first step.

The second step is to take action. Faith without action is not a true faith. God expects us to put our faith into action daily as we live together as a community.

We need to ignore the pessimistic cries of those who have no faith and put our faith in action. Devon Clunis seems to be a man who can.




Some of the most violent societies are also the most religious, so one should be careful about promoting prayer as a means to reducing violence.

In fact, religion is quite often used as an excuse to promote violence and discrimination against minorities. I suggest our new police chief stick to policing and leave the proselytizing to others.




Our new police chief, in response to high crime rates, suggests we start praying. Well, maybe that's all that's left to us. Still, I think I'm losing confidence in our leadership.




I'm glad Devon Clunis is such a fan of prayer, but it got me thinking what a kinder, gentler Winnipeg Police Service would be like.

Briefings would become sermons, press conferences would be benedictions, professional standards would be confessional, and the open-door policy would be replaced by the revolving door of our justice system.

Actually, now that I think about it, I'll pray for WPS to rethink its current course and go with James Jewell as chief, because prayer is the answer to everything.




Devon Clunis has the right to believe in any god and that his God actually listens to his prayers and answers them, even though there has not been an iota of proof any prayer anywhere has ever been answered.

The real question is how someone who not only believes this nonsense but doesn't have the sense to keep it to himself is selected to run one of the most important departments of the city. For all the unsolved murders and other crimes in Winnipeg, maybe Clunis can direct detectives to investigate the tooth fairy and Santa Claus.




God through prayer changes hearts and lives. We need prayer daily for our police officers, firefighters, paramedics, doctors, government workers, neighbours and, yes, even our enemies.

I think the police chief has the right idea. Let's hold him up in our daily prayers.




A man urges people to pray for a city through a Christian publication that is written to church members. People get worked up about this?

How is this any different then saying "we should actively think and meditate on ways to improve our community" or perhaps "brainstorm ideas to be productive in fighting crime at all levels?"




As I read the latest on Winnipeg's new police chief on your website, there were almost 600 comments on his belief prayer is helpful.

Yet when people are made aware of the desperate conditions of Lake Winnipeg, there is barely a whisper. Apparently water is taken for granted, but prayer -- now that becomes controversial.



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