NEW PALESTINE — The colorful cards are tacked up in jumbled rows, some pinned on top of others, some poking beyond the borders of the bulletin board.
Each proclaims, “My prayer was answered” on the front. On the back of some, brief messages jotted tell of cancer-free test results, of a marriage rekindled, of a misplaced library book found. Others have simply been dated and posted, the need kept private but the meeting of it nevertheless shared.
In January, the Rev. Kris Sorensen challenged the congregation of Brookville Road Community Church in New Palestine to write down its prayers as part of a 2017 theme at the church, “10,000 Answered Prayers.” An answer to prayer could be shared by tacking up a card on one of the bulletin boards in the lobby or outside the children’s classrooms.
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Debbie Apgar, who attends the church, estimates she’s tacked up at least 50 answers to prayer during the year. During the year, the great-grandmother has prayed for safe travel for various family members, patience in difficult situations and wellness for a pastor who had the flu.
“They range from very small things to very large things,” Apgar said. “I do ask the Lord for help all the time; it’s pretty much a daily thing with me.”
Apgar said sometimes she got behind with writing down what she prayed. Even though she had to catch up from time to time, she said she sees value in writing down what one prays.
“The writing down helps you remember to be grateful,” she said. “We take so many things for granted. … It makes it very specific.”
Karen Pieratt has posted various answers to prayer during the year, from safety for her son’s mission trip travels to the sale of her previous house.
Pieratt said she’s written down her prayers for a long time, reading them out loud and signing her name to them. She finds it valuable to be able to go back and read those prayers again and reflect on how they’ve been answered. She’s gone through a lot of hardships over the years, she said, and “I know God has brought me through one at a time.”
Pieratt, who is originally from India, had one lingering prayer that recently was answered: to be able to travel there for the first time in 10 years and attend a niece’s wedding in January. She wasn’t sure she’d be able to go, but she worked on renewing her passport and kept praying.
Then came a women’s Christmas tea at the church. She had decorated one of the tables for it and was serving as a hostess there when women from her Bible study told her she needed to open a card from them. Inside was money to help pay for a plane ticket.
“I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I never expected it,” Pieratt said. “I cried, and they cried.”
Days later, she went to a gathering of Indian Christians and ran into a good friend she hadn’t seen in several months. The friend reminded Pieratt that two years ago, she had offered to buy Pieratt a plane ticket. Her travel agent later called Pieratt to make arrangements.
“She said, ‘You should just thank God for this.’ … She just did it with joy,” Pieratt said. “That was so calming to me … it was just God, totally.”
The next Sunday, Pieratt said all five members of her family had a card to put up.
Sorensen has encouraged people to share not only “yes” answers to prayer such as that one but also the times when they feel God has indicated “no” or “wait.”
“I get a bunch that say ‘no’ as well — people beginning to understand the concept of … ‘I didn’t get it the way I was praying for, but God did answer,’” he said. “I think that’s been helpful for people to know they’re being heard. …He was listening.”
Sorensen has looked through the cards each month after they’re take down to make room for more. They’re generally not signed, and he estimates about 25 percent of them include a written note about what the prayer was and how it was answered. They range from the humorous to the moving, he said.
The year began with a sermon series on prayer. A 21-day time of prayer (and fasting, for those who choose to) is a traditional start-of-year practice at the church, but having a theme for the year was a new aspect. Sorensen saw a church he visited for a conference had had a theme, and he liked the idea.
With more than 9,700 answered prayers reported as of early December, the church is on pace to reach 10,000 before midnight Sunday.
A new theme will be revealed to the church in January; Sorensen said it’s good to have a focus and grow in a particular area — “What does the Lord want to heat up in our church body for us to pay attention to?”
But he hopes the congregation keeps recording its prayers.
“I hope they don’t stop,” he said. “Maybe they’ve learned a new discipline perhaps of prayer journaling, or they’ll continue with a habit of prayer — that a spiritual discipline has developed in their life.”