Almost every day the average American pulls up to a local drive-thru — to order fast food, pick up laundry or even to deposit a check. Now a church in metro Atlanta is asking, “Why not a drive-thru for prayer?
Last year when the pandemic restricted Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in suburban Marietta, Georgia, from holding in-person community prayer services, church leaders decided to try something new — drive-thru prayer.
“Drive-thru prayer is ‘stay in your car, come as you are.’ The process is very simple and unintimidating,” said Dolores Elliott, prayer ministry coordinator for the church.
“Some who may not feel comfortable coming into a church … feel safe and secure in their car.”
Drive-thru prayer is held in the church parking lot 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month.
The time frame was strategically selected so that “moms can come when their children are in school, people can come on their lunch break and others who don’t want to come to an event at night will come during the day,” Elliott explained.
‘A smile and a prayer’
As teens stand near the busy thoroughfare in front of the church, holding signs to promote the parking lot prayer event, as many as 15 to 25 cars begin to stream in. Some drivers have even turned around to return to the church parking lot to request prayer. Usually five to eight intercessors are standing by, ready to offer a smile and a prayer.
“Johnson Ferry Road [where the church is located] is a busy street, but it is also a mission field. Every person who travels this street has needs,” said 83-year-old intercessor Sarah Freshour. “Drive-thru prayer gives them the opportunity to drive through and have their needs brought before the Lord and prayed for deeply by those who serve and know the awesome power of prayer.”
Launched as a response to COVID, drive-thru prayer has continued, even as pandemic restrictions have eased. Although Johnson Ferry Church, pastored by Clay Smith, is a large congregation in a suburban community, Elliott encourages churches of all sizes and in all contexts to consider drive-thru prayer.
“Drive-thru prayer is an easy way to reach out to the community surrounding you, letting people know your church is a place where they will find people to listen, love and pray for them,” Elliott explained.
‘God’s hand’ at work
“From the very first drive-thru prayer, we have seen God’s hand each month,” Elliott said.
One time a couple drove up, requesting prayer because they were getting married that evening. “What an honor it was to pray for this couple as they began their life together,” Elliott recalled.
Others requesting prayer may be driving home from a doctor’s office. “Some have had a devastating diagnosis,” and desperately need prayer, she said. Others “have come wanting to give praise for good news they received” from the doctor.
On another drive-thru prayer day, a car with three women who were searching for a lost female relative pulled into the parking lot. “She had been missing for a few days. They saw our sign and wanted prayer to find their relative,” Elliott said.
On at least one occasion, a woman in her car began by mentioning general prayer requests for the upcoming election and for churches. After closing in prayer, the intercessor asked if the guest had any other prayer requests. At that point, the woman in the car, a nurse, opened up about a more personal request; she needed a short-term rental for a couple of months before leaving the country. Another drive-thru prayer volunteer that day had a unique ministry, opening her home for women who needed short-term housing. The two women connected, and the guest’s prayer was answered in real time.
A few weeks later the homeowner discovered she would need a pacemaker. “That was a part of the story we did not know because God had sent the guest to the particular house He knew would need a nurse for a few days to care for her. Only God!” exclaimed Elliott.
“We know there are many people in this area who are hurting and dealing with the challenges of life. Each prayer is held in the utmost confidence. We understand what a privilege and honor it is to intercede for others,” Elliott said.