Nation celebrates the practice and power of prayer

Every Monday morning, Trudy Collins comes to the intercessory prayer room at Kilbourne Park Baptist Church to pray.

She gathers the prayer slips, individual requests for prayerful intervention on behalf of a person who perhaps is struggling with cancer or who has experienced the death of a loved one, and for an hour she settles in to commune with God.

“When I go in, it’s silent. There is nobody in there but the Lord and me.”

Often, she said, she prays for those she knows, the sick and the elderly within her own congregation who are in need of spiritual comfort. She prays for her family, including two grown children and three grandchildren. But, sometimes, she said, “We are praying for people we don’t know and will never know this side of heaven.”

It is a deliberate spiritual practice and after a lifetime devoted to prayer, Collins doesn’t wrestle with whether it works. “I’m 84 years old and I know for a fact that God answers prayers.”

Kilbourne Park will mark the National Day of Prayer today with a special 11:30 a.m. service. It is a day President Bush set aside so Americans may “give thanks, each according to his or her own faith, for the freedoms and blessings we have received and for God’s continued guidance, comfort and protection.”

But for Collins and other members of the church at Kilbourne Road and Beltline Boulevard, prayer is not just for one day in May. It is part and parcel of the fabric of the church, said the Rev. Travis Biller.

“These people are really devoted and they have a strong ministry,” he said, with parishioners manning the prayer room Mondays through Fridays, sometimes praying for those who have e-mailed a prayer request through the church’s Web site.

Prayer ministries are active in hundreds of Midlands houses of worship and play out in many ways as people of different faiths — Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and others — look to prayer as a central foundation.

Sociologists and psychologists have long pondered the benefits of prayer, seeking to quantify in research studies whether prayer works in the physical healing of those stricken with illness. Often, the results are inconclusive or elusive.

But Biller said that is the point where faith intervenes. “You can sit down and pray and sometimes you feel like you’re talking to yourself,” he said. “But you have to begin in faith.”

Sometimes, he said, God does not answer our prayers in the way we want. But, he said, he believes God provides clarity in dealing with the issues that humanity struggles with each day.

For Collins, who has been manning the prayer room for 18 years, the daily practice of praying is a privilege and a responsibility.

“We receive so many thank-you’s from people saying what those prayers have meant to them,” she said. “It’s the one thing you can count on, that God answers prayers.”

Reach Click at (803) 771-8386.

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC