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Amid this crisis, pastors from across the Land of Enchantment began to pray. Brian D. Alarid, founding pastor of Passion Church in Albuquerque, spearheaded the effort. Alarid began a movement called America Prays, designed to unite local churches in around-the-clock prayer for cities and states.
“The number one thing New Mexico pastors wanted to pray for was the economy,” recalls Alarid, 45. “Second was crime.” This move to pray brought together congregations from all backgrounds, each taking a monthly 12- or 24-hour shift to pray.
“It's really been extraordinary,” Alarid says. “We're seeing black churches, Latino churches, and Native American churches all come together to pray and to serve. We’ve seen walls come down.”
Within two years, New Mexico moved from a budget deficit to a $1.2 billion surplus. While Alarid credits cooperative legislative efforts, he believes the power of united prayer efforts is the undeniable force behind the improvement.
“Obviously hard work and policies went into that, but that’s too big of a turnaround for any politician to get credit,” Alarid says.
Although the state budget dramatically improved, reversing illegal activities proved more difficult. While continuing to pray, Alarid reached out to Albuquerque Police Chief Mike Geier, asking how Christians could help support the community and aid in efforts to reduce crime.
The meeting developed into a partnership. New Mexico Prays participants began to intercede for the police department daily and provided a database of faith-based community resources that the police department could leverage. Nearly every church had something to offer.
“Most of the time, even an 80-member church can do oil changes for single moms,” Alarid says. “A 200-member church might have a food pantry or addiction recovery group.” The combination of faith and works yielded results. By the end of 2018, crime rates started to drop: robbery down 36 percent, auto theft reduced by 31 percent, and murder declining 10 percent.
Local pastor David C. Cooper says partnering with the police department in prayer is even helping to heal wounds from 2014, when officers shot and killed 38-year-old James Matthew Boyd, a homeless, mentally ill African American.
“It’s essential that the faith community should partner with the police department,” says Cooper, pastor of New Hope Full Gospel Baptist Church and an America Prays advisory board member. “This journey is like going from New York to California on foot; we’re somewhere near Ohio. We’ve come a long way, but there is further to go.”
The America Prays network has spread to 10 additional U.S. states as well as nine foreign countries.