Prayer. A silent plea in your heart while you drive to work. A noisy congregation singing praises toward heaven. A family kneeling together to petition God for the life of a loved one. Prayer can take many forms, but the purpose is the same. To connect for a moment in our busy lives with a higher power. To express gratitude, and to ask for divine help.

Nearly 30 years ago on May 16, 1986, in small-town Cokeville, Wyoming, former town marshal David Young and his wife Doris entered the doors of the Cokeville Elementary School, took control of the school and held the students and teachers hostage. The children and adults were corralled into a single classroom as Young threatened to ignite a bomb that was attached to his wrist. After two and a half hours of a standoff, Doris inadvertently set the bomb off. David Young shot his wife, then himself, but miraculously none of the children or adults in that room were killed.

Many of the stories from that day include accounts of prayer and angelic visits. Following are the words of two survivors of the Cokeville Elementary School bombing:

Lori Conger

When my class arrived at the first grade classroom that afternoon, nearly the entire school was already there. Immediately I felt something was not right. A quick glance around the room confirmed that we were in serious trouble. I know I didn’t fully understand exactly how precarious our situation was, or the details that were involved, but my first instinct was to pray for help. I prayed we would be OK. I prayed we would see our families again. I prayed for peace and for direction. I prayed and prayed. Every time fear would begin to overwhelm me, I would pray some more.

I was 11 years old at the time and had been taught how to pray from the time I could speak. There are many details of that day I cannot recall, but I do remember feeling peace and knowing we were not alone. I do remember putting my faith in God that He would somehow get us out of this impossible situation. This experience confirmed my belief and knowledge in the power of prayer, and I have never forgotten it. I came to know when we send our pleas to heaven, a real being hears them and mercifully answers them–not always in the way we envision or hope, but always for what is best.

Whoever we are, or whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, I believe we don’t have to look very hard to see God’s fingerprint in our lives and realize the miracles He has provided for us. Yes, life is hard at times–for everyone–but that doesn’t mean God has withdrawn Himself from our lives or that He is not still providing miracles. We just have to look for them.

Test that concept. Pray consistently and see what happens. Even record your experiences. God is real and He always keeps his promises. The problem we often have is that we forget that our vision of the future is extremely limited. We think we know what is best for us and others we love. We think we have the answers. The truth is, only God really knows what the future holds and what is ultimately best for us, and often it is different than what we think.


HJ Esterholdt

I think that day gave me the strength to know that no matter what comes at me I will be able to rely on my belief system and get through it.

I always believed in the power of prayer. Certainly when you overcome insurmountable odds like we did it makes the message that much stronger, but since I already believed, it was confirmation of my beliefs in a higher power. That day taught me that when you’re in your darkest moments, prayer and faith will be the light that guides you. Now more than ever I believe in miracles as I realize exactly what we were up against that day.

Certainly every prayer can’t be answered, but if you don’t have any faith your chances of your prayers being heard are even less.