On a street in Brooklyn, prayer demonstrates power

The closed-circuit security camera captures the young man’s attempt to snatch the author’s bag.

NEW YORK CITY—It was May 11 and I had to be at the acupuncturist’s clinic by 2 p.m.  I left Manhattan and headed to Brooklyn at 1:15 p.m. I was by myself. I usually travel with my friend but she ran into train delays from where she was coming, and we decided to meet at the acupuncturist’s instead. 

In my bag was a book I intended to read during the commute, “Speaking in Tongues.” I wanted to refresh myself on certain details so I could share the spiritual gift of praying in tongues with the next week’s bible class. But after reading a page, I was led to pray in tongues myself.  It is a very powerful manner of praying, especially when one has no specific idea of what to pray about. The Holy Spirit figures prominently in this prayer mode. 

I kept praying in tongues as I walked the two blocks from the train station to the clinic.

At 1:50 p.m. I was about five steps away from the entrance to the building where I would take the elevator to the second floor. I had walked from a different connecting street to explore Midwood because my treatments were to end by May 26 and I had yet to know this Jewish neighborhood.  

I felt a tug to my bag. Because I was just outside the building that I had been going to for the last seven months, I thought someone from there had recognized me and was trying to catch my attention. I did not look behind me.  At my age, I knew that a sudden turn could make me lose my balance. Also, I wanted the person to step up beside me.   

The tug at the top end of my bag was strong. Then it happened again, and this time it was more forceful, causing me to spin 180 degrees until I was facing the direction I had come from.  


I saw a young black man in a white hoodie very close to me. Our eyes met. He let go of my bag, causing me to lose my balance, and I found myself incapable of breaking a fall.

My two hands were full. In my left hand was a bag that contained an empty half-gallon glass Ball pickling jar, and my right hand was holding my bag that had a pair of short handles unfit to sling over my shoulder. Realizing that my fall was imminent, I spread my hands away from me, fearing that the glass would break on the pavement, shattering where I was to land. 

I did not let go of the two bags. Defenseless, I fell flat on my chest with my head up because I was intent on looking at the young man who caused me to fall.  The tug caused me to skid to the ground like a baseball player trying to reach the base with his stretched arm. I landed farther from the building I was about to enter.

As I was falling, the young man who was tugging at my bag let go and crossed the street. Next thing that happened, I saw a pair of men’s shoes by my left side and heard a voice asking if I was hurt and what kind of help I needed. I said I didn’t think I was hurt but that I needed a hand to get up.

The gentleman asked me again how I was after helping me back on my feet. But I was distracted; my focus was on looking for the young man who had disappeared. At that point I saw him rise from behind a parked vehicle across the street, and then he fled the scene, making a left at the corner and heading in the direction of the train station.

After assuring himself that I was not disoriented, and that I could get help from the building I had pointed to, the gentleman asked me if I saw where the young man was heading and whether I could describe him. I could: He is young, black, with a white hoodie covering his head. That day the temperature was in the low 80s. He did not need a jacket and had no need to cover his head with a hood.  

The gentleman walked me to the entrance of my intended destination. I looked at him and realized that he was from the same building. “God bless you,” I told him. As he closed the door that he had opened for me, he blessed me back.

Later, I learned that he ran towards the direction I had indicated, to try to find the young man. 

Related: Prayer is not asking or ‘controlling’ but ‘being’ with God

First aid 

At the clinic, the acupuncturist said he himself had just come into the building and up the elevator. He missed seeing me coming towards the building by less than three minutes.  He checked to see if I had injuries other than in the sternum area of my chest which I was complaining about. 

The clinic administered first aid, applying a cold compress to my chest and medicating and taping up my left pinky and ring finger which had abrasions from the skid. The acupuncturist called 911, and the EMT and two cops came within 15 minutes of each other.

The EMT was surprised that the extent of my physical damage was limited to a contusion on my chest, a redness on my right knee which she confirmed would bruise in a while, and the abrasions on my two fingers.   

The cops asked if I was hurt and if anything was taken from me. The EMT repeated to the cops her findings, so the cops focused on whether I lost anything.  When I said no, they asked to see my bag and were surprised that it was not dirty, not scratched. Nothing was broken. Even the Ball glass jar was intact.  

The building and the other building on the block—a yeshiva, or a Jewish school for girls—are both equipped with closed-circuit security cameras trained on the sidewalk lining the block. The tapes of both buildings were replayed to the cops.  

Two days later, when I returned to the acupuncturist for the treatment I missed, he showed me still pictures of the action caught by his building’s security cameras. My jaw dropped. The young man was less than a foot behind me when he tugged at my bag.  His right hand tugged and his left hand covered his face, aware that the street had security cameras.

After all the preliminary questioning and review, the EMT suggested that I go to the emergency room and took me and my friend, who had arrived, in the ambulance. The EMT made sure I understood that I could be suffering from some internal damage as a result of my fall on the hard pavement.  It was 4 p.m. by then. 


Born and raised in the Philippines, Ilo Echevarria-Wallenstein has lived in New York City for 41 years.

On the way to the Community Hospital, I got busy texting the prayer group technical team that I had an incident and might not make it in time to host our Zoom prayer meeting at 7 p.m. I asked if they could develop a Plan B. This technical impediment of the moment caused me to provide details of what had happened.  I also had to text my family.

This release of information resulted in prayers said for me. Let me assure you, the prayers began to avail much.  

I was immediately attended to at the ER. Trauma cases are prioritized, but really, I was not subjected to wait time. While being scheduled for an x-ray, I was given cold packs for my chest.

By 5:45 pm. my neck, chest and bruised right knee had been x-rayed. The radiologist ruled that there was no damage except for a contusion on my chest, and I was released.

At 6:20 p.m. I was in a car service on our way from Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan. I downloaded Zoom onto my low-bat cell phone and managed to admit the tech team to whom I had given the hosting privilege so the prayer could start at the usual 7 p.m.  After that, my cell phone was unusable.

It was rush-hour traffic then, but the usual 25-minute ride only took an extra 20 minutes.  I was even able to join the prayer group via Zoom.

Looking back

Traveling alone that afternoon, I was led to pray in tongues.  I do use the time during the commute to my acupuncturist to pray using my beads, but this time the preference to pray in tongues was keen. I obeyed. 

I was still in prayer when I felt the tug on my bag. I did not suspect that foul play was upon me; I did not even hold my bag tighter. But when a strong male does the tug and repeats it without managing to take possession of the bag, I can only conclude that power beyond me was at work.  Remember that the second tug was so strong that it caused me to pivot.  

The young man and I had brief eye contact. I was calm, not panicked. That must have been strange to him. He ran away from me. Did he sense something?  

As I entered the elevator, I started praying for this misguided young man: Lord, manifest Yourself to him and allow Him to recognize You.

I have no trauma from the incident. In fact, I returned to the clinic two days later—accompanied, of course—because the acupuncturist wanted to treat me for the contusion on my chest. My friend and I prayed for our trip, as we normally do, but this time, with more focus on safety.

Yield and obey

What do I wish to share with you? That when the prompting to pray comes, just yield. The Holy Spirit cannot be mistaken about certain moves. In trust, it is good to yield and obey.

In prayer, we fall under a cloud of protection.  

You might say: But why should something like this happen to someone in prayer? I asked myself the same and I concluded: So much more could have happened.

For one, the perp himself could have harmed me physically if I resisted him. I did not, but my hold on my bag was so extraordinarily tight that he gave up.

For another, if he got away with my bag, I would have had to go through losing cash; reporting a stolen credit card; closing a checking account; applying for replacement of a driver’s license, medical insurance card, and Medicare ID; replacing my cell phone and trying to reconstruct all the data in it; purchasing another copy of the book “Speaking in Tongues”; and duplicating a full set of my home keys.

This personal experience:

*Should convince you reading this that evil is so much in this world, BUT God in me is more powerful than what is out there in the world.

*Helps me with a powerful testimony about staying in prayer and praying in tongues when led to it, and just staying in prayer mode out of obedience.

*Proves to me again that God is with me, watches over me, and seriously fulfills His promise that no weapon formed against me shall flourish.

*Has started me praying for misguided and lost individuals who, but for prayers interceding for their deliverance, could wind up being more lost and doomed.

*Proves that asking for prayer cover is a powerful means to obtain divine favor.

And importantly, I have become more aware of travelling safely at all times, especially when needing to do so by myself. I have also decluttered my bag, making sure I carry with me only what is necessary for the trip. 

An update

Last June 1 at about 5:30 p.m., I got a call from an NYC probation officer: The young man who attempted to snatch my bag had been apprehended. Really young at 14! Please join me in prayers for him.

The officer asked me to repeat my account of the incident. I did an oral version of the written account I had prepared. He was so inspired, and commented that there was no trace of trauma in my retelling!

And the Holy Spirit surprised us with a word of knowledge: I told him that when he decided to be a corrections officer, it was because of a burning desire to let the good triumph over evil in a world so jaded and overrun by evil.

He could hardly believe what he had heard, and claimed it as the truth! I prayed with him for grace to allow him to continue to live in this mission.

Lastly, he wanted to know what I might wish to happen as a result of the incident. I asked that the young man be given all that he needs to be reformed and redirected, for all he needs at such a young age are guidance and mentoring.

Let us include all these intentions—the probation officer included—in our intercessory prayers.

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