Mothers gather to pray for their schools and children. Concerned citizens join together to pray for our country and its soldiers. Hospital workers gather to pray for their patients and co-workers. Pastors pray for their wives and ministries. The specific topics vary, but these Christian prayer groups believe in the power of God to answer their prayers. Many of these prayer partners also agree that the experience transforms them.
“When we pray together, we find that our hearts are changed during the process,” said Fern Nichols, president and founder of Moms in Prayer International (formerly Moms In Touch). She said she and other mothers find that much power comes through corporate prayer. “Christian moms seem to have the same sweet hearts all over the world as they pray for the salvation and deliverance of their children.”
With groups praying for more than 11,000 schools across the U.S. and in more than 140 other countries, Moms in Prayer focuses on praying Scripture using the Four Steps of Prayer — praise, silent confession, thanksgiving and intercession for children, teachers and school staff — as they join together privately in their homes and in churches. A prayer booklet that outlines the four steps and other key points about the group is now printed in more than 50 languages.
Based in Poway, Calif., this interdenominational Christian ministry began in 1984 when Nichols’ two oldest sons went to junior high school. She was burdened over them and the pressures they would face as she had less hands-on contact with them.
She prayed for God to send her one mom to pray with her, and soon discovered other mothers who shared her desire. Her concept quickly grew to about 200 groups in the U.S. and Canada by 1988. Now many mothers and grandmothers pray together for their children in preschool through college and career, whether in public or private schools or homeschooled.
“We find as praying mothers that when we cry out in our time of trouble, God will deliver our children from every issue they face,” said Nichols, “and this isn’t day-after-day wishing. It’s putting our hope in Christ, who never disappoints.”
Esther Halliwell, the Tennessee state coordinator for Moms in Prayer, said she joined a Moms in Prayer group 11 years ago when her daughter entered fifth grade. After praying with several other moms, she began to lead a group and then became area coordinator two years ago and state coordinator last February. A total of 204 schools across the state have Moms in Prayer groups registered to pray for them and 29 leaders are registered in Shelby County. The goal, she said, is that all schools are covered in prayer.
“I’ve seen God work through many moms who pray as they gain a stronger grasp of the Bible and are filled with hope, peace and a renewed faith,” Halliwell said.
She finds the focus on Scripture-guided prayer in one accord makes Moms in Prayer different from other prayer groups.
“While we can’t be with our children all the time, we know that our prayers go where we can’t, and God is always there,” she said.
Asbury United Methodist Church, 2969 S. Mendenhall, offers a Sunday school class that combines prayer with discussion about current issues that includes biblical references. Dr. Herbert Lester, the senior pastor, said the group is diverse in both race and age, with many varying opinions.
“We’re trying to put into action what the Bible says with a willingness to work to make it happen,” he said.
School consolidation is one major issue the group prays about from a global perspective. The members support Stacey Ferguson, organizer of the Pray for the Schools initiative, and often attend the monthly prayer group at Hickory Ridge Mall.
A group of 12 chaplains and leaders of the Faith & Health Department of Methodist University Hospital meets every Monday morning for prayer. Chris Bounds, manager of the chaplains, navigators and staff of the Family Care Center, said since Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare is a faith-based institution, they are free to pray wherever and whenever, also offering prayer over the intercom system and by providing chapels and prayer rooms throughout their locations.
“With our partner congregations (navigators), we are able to reach our tentacles out into the community bonded by prayer,” said Bounds.
Russell Belisle, chaplain of Methodist University Hospital and pastor of Cross of Calvary Lutheran Church in Memphis, explained their prayers begin by listening to each other and forming a heartfelt association. Joe Ranager, senior chaplain of Methodist Healthcare and a United Methodist minister of two churches in Senatobia, Miss., said they also minister more effectively individually and as a team by beginning their week in prayer.
Billie Cash, Collierville-based Christian author and speaker, moderates a prayer group from her church called For God and Country. The group prays for 75 minutes on the third Tuesday of each month. The leader of the group, Norma Seifert, hosts the group in her Collierville home and prepares Scripture prayers for American troops and government leaders who are prayed for by name.
She and Cash, who comes from a military family and is wife to a retired Navy officer, also lead seminars related to voting and the election process and speak across the country to military families.
Cash’s book, “PrayerSurge,” comes from her prayer experience based on Psalm 4:3 that says God sets apart the godly for Himself and when we call, God hears our prayers. She compares the name of her book to a storm surge: “When a storm comes, you need a wall of people to protect you and your radar is God.”
With six books already published, she is working on her next one, but said she has been delayed as she feels her main focus now is praying until her son, a Navy chaplain, returns from Afghanistan. She calls this season of praying as being in the weight room of God.
Cash, who also prays as she walks through her neighborhood, said prayer is an unseen work that connects her to many others.
“Prayer is really the work of my life and it’s like breath to me now.” She calls it loving God back.
Brian Harris, pastor of Bibleway World Outreach Ministries in Oakland, said he and another minister, Pastor Benjamin Allen of Matthew 6:33 Ministries in Memphis, began to meet informally for lunch each week and then decided their fellowship needed prayer.
“The women are usually the ones who step up to pray and it’s unusual for the men to come together,” he said. Now their group includes several other ministers, and they meet every month for prayer and rotate churches.
“We discuss and pray about breaking down racial and denominational barriers and pray in Jesus’ name.”
Allen said they are getting back to the basics of what the Bible teaches and he’s honored to be a part of it.
Praying for children and schools:
Moms in Prayer International, momsinprayer.org, (800) 949-MOMS
Tennessee coordinator: Esther Halliwell, firstname.lastname@example.org
For information about Shelby County Moms in Prayer groups, contact Cindy Snider at email@example.com
Praying for the schools:
First Friday of each month, noon–1 p.m.
Schaeffer Memorial Chapel, 7887 Poplar in Germantown; The Prayer Station at Hickory Ridge Mall; The Downtown Church, 502 S. Main in Memphis; and Union Grove Baptist Church, 2285 Frayser Blvd.
Stacey Ferguson, organizer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Praying for troops and country:
God and Country, circle of Central Church’s women’s ministries
Billie Cash: billiecash.com, email@example.com or
Norma Seifert: NormaSeif@aol.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Praying for issues of Memphis and the world:
Asbury United Methodist Church/Wired Word Sunday school class
Prayer for Memphis and the Mid-South:
Fourth Wednesday of each month the focus is on prayer needs of the city from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Wilson Chapel at Christ United Methodist Church, 4488 Poplar.
Gail Duron: email@example.com
Pastors and chaplains praying:
Brian Harris: Brian.firstname.lastname@example.org
Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare Center of Excellence in Faith & Health: Russell.email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com