Kendall Smith could not have imagined the far-reaching effects his obedience to God's leading would have. All Smith wanted in 1998 was to pray for financial relief for co-workers facing lay-offs at Inland Buildings, the Cullman, Alabama, plant where Smith works. He could not have known how many answered prayers and miracles would result.
One of those miracles occurred earlier this year in the Jimmy Hyatt family. Four-year-old Jacob Hyatt went to Children's Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, expecting treatment for a sinus problem. He was diagnosed with ependytoma and admitted to the high-risk section immediately. The next day, doctors extracted a golf-ball sized brain tumor from the area that controls vision and balance. Jimmy Hyatt knows the prayers and love of friends are what brought his family through those dark days.
"When we went to the hospital, I had $20 in my pocket," says Hyatt. The next night, friends from Inland showed up with a stash of cash. Today Jacob is well on the way to recovery.
Randall Cooksey says the prayers of friends gave him and his wife Esther strength for their life's greatest challenge. Esther's doctor told them a tumor was the cause of her excruciating abdominal pain, then went on to warn them it could be cancerous. Cooksey says he was devastated as he went back to work at Inland, where a few co-workers gathered around to anoint him and pray for him. Surgeons later removed a 12-pound, 7-ounce tumor. Cooksey praises God it was benign.
Dwight Oaks felt like he was at the end of the rope when his seven-year-old son, Josh, needed a kidney transplant and he didn't even have enough money to pay the deductible for medication. At his church's prayer meeting, Oaks says, "I prayed for a financial blessing." After returning home that night, young Josh discovered in Dad's lunch box an envelope with a gift of cash and a note that said it was a gift from God. The gift had been collected by Inland co-workers and slipped into his lunch box.
The common thread that connects Hyatt, Cooksey and Oaks is an employee prayer group at Inland, a plant which produces custom-engineered structural steel framing. The plant employs about 200 people, and each Wednesday some 25-30 of them gather to pray together for a few minutes.
In 1998, when a series of lay-offs hit Inland, Smith began thinking about how families would suffer financially and he was moved to pray for them. He invited a few others together and they asked God to meet the specific needs of each one. They met again the next week, again praying a few minutes for their workplace, their families, their churches and the nation.
The lay-offs lasted only two weeks, and the little band of prayer warriors praised God for answered prayer -- and decided to keep praying together. Each Wednesday they take about ten minutes out of their 30-minute lunch break and circle up to pray. Someone shares a short devotion or Scripture focus, and they spend most of their brief time praying.
"We want to encourage others across the nation," says Cooksey. A painter at Inland, he coordinates the group, scheduling who shares each week and handling a growing number of media inquiries. Just as Smith was the catalyst for this group, Cooksey would like for this small group to be the catalyst that encourages others to organize their own workplace prayer groups.
Smith says their experience shows how God is faithful when His people do the smallest things to honor Him. Cooksey's excitement is contagious, and he sees a three-fold benefit in their group. First, the workplace has a Christian witness; second, the lives of participants and their co-workers are blessed; and third, the nation is strengthened as people pray for national leaders.
Randall Cooksey doesn't dream small dreams. With permission of Inland executives, he has written people across the nation urging them to start prayer groups and inviting them to visit Inland. He's even written President George W. Bush, inviting him to come pray with the group.
The Inland prayer group illustrates two principles: how one man's obedience can launch an avalanche of blessing, and how prayer really does change things.
By Randall Murphree