The thought that I might be shot first occurred to me at the Hospice Center where I was visiting a parishioner. The parking lot is surrounded by woods, the kind where the sniper had been shooting people.

Now I know personally that security is an illusion. The sooner I release my illusions, the sooner I will walk in simple faith where freedom flourishes unbroken by threats from the wicked whose power is maintained by the fears of their victims. I believe that we don't control our lives. God is our only hope; in this is our comfort and our freedom.

-- Roy W. Howard, North Potomac

My dad phoned me one Thursday about some shootings in Montgomery County; he was grateful I was away at college. Our family was safe in Chevy Chase, though my mother had had a close call at a Kensington gas station. Five minutes after she had left the station, a woman was shot and killed.

I thanked God for sparing my mother and then felt terribly guilty. My mother felt guilty that she, a woman who had had a full and wonderful life, lived and a young woman had died.

Surely, God must listen to our hearts when he hears our prayers.

-- J. Caitlin Finley, Smith College

The sniper attacks, more so than the events of 9/11, brought home for me the stark reality of one's sole reliance on faith and determined action to withstand any adversity.

Despite their best efforts, the law enforcement officials were clearly unable to protect average citizens from unprovoked attacks. I resolved to protect myself and family by strengthening my Buddhist faith activities, mainly by increasing the focus and intensity of daily prayers. I avoided watching daily news reports on TV, as these only served to escalate fear and doubts that could erode efforts of faith.

When the snipers were apprehended, I felt the victory belonged to ordinary people like me who collectively prayed for a speedy resolution.

-- Laura M. Huggins, Hyattsville

As a devout Catholic, I go to Mass and confession weekly. My relationship with God is the most important thing in my life and it requires a significant time commitment. For a few years now, I have always tried to be prepared for instant death, knowing that Jesus can call me back to Him at any time. Many people do not share my values or think I go "overboard" in my spiritual life.

However, the sniper attacks reminded me that yes, it is a good thing to be prepared. God can and does call people back to Him unexpectedly.

-- Amy A. Welch, Burke

I am the father of a 14-year-old and a Christian minister. The sniper attacks did not at all cause me to cease believing in a Supreme Being or God. However, I was once again forced to deal with the sentiment of "thanking God" that the suspected snipers had been apprehended.

In each case when this sentiment was expressed to me, I asked those who expressed it to think about what they were saying. I implored the "thank God it's over" crowd to recognize what could be perceived as their insensitivity toward the victims in giving God credit for stopping the attacks after 10 people had been killed. For I do not believe, based upon my study of scripture, that God cares more for those unharmed than He did/does for the victims of this most horrible of crimes.

So while my view of God remains intact, my respect for the spiritual integrity and intellectual honesty of those who profess to believe in God has once again been subject to painful reconsideration.

-- Godfrey Patterson, Silver Spring

Next month's question: What do you like or dislike in a sermon? E-mail your answer (100 words or less) to voices@washpost.com. Include a daytime phone number. For more answers to today's question, go to www.washingtonpost.com/religion.