The Prayer Box
By Rev. Keith Turman | 2023-01-09 | 3 min read
In 1997, Bishop Charlene Kammerer appointed Chan and me to the intersection of highways 801 and 158. No land, no building, no people—only a dream. My pastor friends thought I was nuts, but the thought of starting a new United Methodist Church in Davie County—something that hadn’t happened in eighty years—totally fired me up. It also freaked me out.
So I flew to Houston, Texas for The Church Planters Exchange, a conference designed for pastors starting new churches. The opening plenary session was about the importance of prayer, and the first words spoken into the microphone were from Psalm 127: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and in vain you stay up late….” The veteran church planter did some serious name dropping: Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” John Wesley said, “God will do nothing on earth except in answer to believing prayer.” William Temple said, “When I pray, coincidences happen.”
I flew home inspired, equipped, and determined to build a prayer box. I rummaged through the wood pile and found the remnants of an old quilt rack. Perfect. I loved the fact that my prayer box would be made from wood that was broken and cast aside—wood that would find a new and sacred purpose. Many of the prayer requests put into the new prayer box were from people who were broken physically and spiritually—people who needed healing and hope—people who were desperate to know that God was God—and that God actually cared enough to intervene. On the Pastor’s Prayer Retreat, I wake up early in the morning and take the prayer box into the sanctuary. After removing the lock, I organize the cards, kneel at the altar, and begin praying for each request. Throughout the day, I move from sacred place to sacred place. Prayers are offered in cathedrals and basilicas, in prayer rooms and chapels, coffee shops and bookstores, on parkway overlooks, hiking trails or mountain streams. No sermon writing. No phone calls. No emails. No meetings. Only prayers offered on behalf of God’s people.
The day always ends with fire. I burn the prayer request cards. It’s a practical thing—the confidences of one’s soul must be handled with care, and fire guarantees confidentiality. I think it’s a good end for the cards. It’s also a theological thing. When God observed the misery and suffering of the people in Egypt, and that they needed deliverance from their bondage, God called to Moses and spoke through fire. On the day of Pentecost, when the disciples of Jesus were devoting themselves to prayer in the room upstairs, the Holy Spirit came with fire.
So, on Wednesday, January 18, I will spend the day fasting and praying for you. Please use one of the ‘Pastor’s Prayer Retreat’ cards to share your specific prayer needs, and place it in the Prayer Box, which will be in each worship service on Sunday mornings, and in my office during the week. If you are unable to attend on Sundays, you can email me with your requests: firstname.lastname@example.org. All prayer requests will remain strictly confidential.
As your pastor, I take seriously the words Peter wrote in his first epistle, “Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your care.” —1 Peter 5:1-2