Lenten Prayer Boxes Invite Community to Share from Their Hearts
During Lent more than 60 “prayer boxes” could be spotted in hospitals and doctor’s offices, hair salons, offices and other business and retail establishments where “prayer box shepherds” from Friendswood UMC placed them. Resembling a ballot box, these prayer boxes featured prayer request cards inviting anyone to share a need or even contact the church directly, if they so desired. Friendswood UMC received anywhere from 20-60 community prayer requests a week.
“This was our second year to do this during the Lenten season, and we received more requests this year than last,” notes Assistant Pastor Rosemary DuBois. “We soon realized these boxes were a symbol of hope to those who expressed a need for prayer about their medical test results, job losses or even domestic abuse. When our members took them to their workplace, for example, it helped start some very unique conversations.” If the submission included personal contact information, she would call them and pray with them personally.
Elaine Goddard, who is on the leadership team as lay leader of prayer and spirituality, says the members who checked out the boxes and placed them around the community committed to bring any requests back to the church each Sunday. “We know this endeavor was a comfort to our community, but it also greatly impacted the prayer life of our congregation,” she shares. “It was really exciting when people would put an answered prayer in the box at a later date!”
“The experience revealed the depth of pain and hurt outside the church walls,” she says. This ministry was a vehicle for personal public testimonies as well. “Members were stretched to share their faith with others as they made personal requests out in the market place for people and businesses to host a prayer box and again when they checked on the prayer boxes, particularly if they took them to their own office.”
Prayer Box Shepherd Tanya Holleran admits, “This was out of my comfort zone to go out into the community to ask about placing a prayer box but that's when you know God is at work! It was a blessing to provide an opportunity for someone to share prayer requests that were sincerely from the heart. The opportunity to pray for others you don't know is such an honor to know God knows their need and we are a voice lifting them up for petition. Overall, I thought the prayer box ministry was a huge success and I look forward to participating in this ministry again!”
Becoming a More Vital Congregation
Another perk of this innovative ministry was that it was accessible to all. Members that had not been able to participate in other ministries because of physical disabilities or other reasons were excited to be able to join in this ministry and be a Prayer Box Shepherd—from high school students to senior citizens. One Prayer Box Shepherd was encouraged to learn the salon owner liked having the box there for her customers to have a visual reminder of God’s love for them. Prayer Box Shepherd Sue Schroeder adds, “I just want to share with you that God has used this ministry differently than I expected. I expected to be serving others, and while I believe that purpose has been fulfilled, it did not occur to me that God would use this ministry to change me as well. But, this ministry prompted me to search for more prayer requests, especially of new acquaintances that I just met at work or out in the community. I am becoming a more active listener, discerning, and seeking more concerns to pray for on another person's behalf. The Prayer Box Ministry has helped my prayer life grow by becoming more intentional for all of God's people.”
According to Elaine, the inspiration for the boxes came from Terry Teykl of Prayer Point Ministry. Adds Rosemary, “We were even able to provide at least one family with much needed groceries from our food pantry after learning of their needs through this Lenten ministry.” She knows the project was a two-fold blessing where members’ faith was strengthened in the process of praying for others.