Grace Baptist Pastor Rands takes congregation on prayer walks

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 7, 2014 

It was something he never expected.

Pastor Jeremy Rands told his Grace Baptist Church congregation he felt the need to pray for the city. So for 35 consecutive nights at 10 he was going to be somewhere in Columbus doing just that. He asked church members to pray for him and mentioned that if anybody wished to join him, they would be welcome.

"I thought maybe two or three members might keep me company," Rands said.

But more than 30 men have been with him on most nights, and on occasion close to 60.

"It was never intended to be something like this," Rands said of what is referred to as the Pastor's Prayer Walk.

Rands and his followers meet outside at different locations around town. They have visited the Columbus Government Center, the Public Safety Building, the Muscogee County Jail and Columbus State University. This past Monday evening, the group met at the top of the St. Francis Hospital parking garage.

"We pray for the people making major decisions," Rands said of meeting near government buildings. "We pray they will make the right ones."

Each night, prayers are said for the city's sick, homeless and addicted.

Rands said he was inspired to do the prayer sessions after seeing so many people in need of help.

Prayers are said for soldiers and local law enforcement officers. Rands said there are about a dozen active and retired police officers who attend his church on 14th Avenue.

One evening, the group was near the CSU campus downtown when about five students came by and asked what the men were doing.

"When we told them that we were praying for them, they thought that was neat," Rands recalled.

The prayer group has not missed a night. Even when Columbus streets were covered in snow and ice, the men were doing their thing downtown.

"There were no footprints in the snow but ours," Rands said, smiling.

The first thing the members of the group do when they meet is give special prayer requests. Members then give thanks for prayers answered. The men break into smaller prayer groups and drift into different areas. The sessions last an hour.

Rands is closing in on his one-year anniversary at the church. The prayer meetings began on Jan. 13, the anniversary of the day he was hired, and they will finish Feb. 17, the anniversary of his first sermon.

Church member Dennis Hasty, a retired federal prison warden, has not missed a night of prayer.

"The Lord laid this idea on the pastor's heart and we want to support him," he said. "There is a lot of unity among the brethren in the church and this has brought us even closer together."

Hasty called it a great experience.

"It has been a blessing to me," he said.

When asked about going out on the cold and wet nights, Hasty laughed and responded, "The time of the year for doing this was definitely not selected for convenience."

Rands said the 10 p.m. time has a special purpose.

"To meet at 10 each night means making a sacrifice," he said. "It is getting out of the comfort of your house and driving somewhere. It means losing sleep. It shows the Lord we are serious."

While no women are in the group, many at the church have told him that each night at 10 they are taking time to pray.

Rands said he wants the members of Grace Baptist to make an impact on Columbus.

"We need to get out of the pew and into the city," Rands said.

He said pastors in other areas of the country whom he has told about the walk have been inspired to do something similar.

Rands has no plans to make it an annual event.

"I don't want this to be part of a routine," he said. "We already have plenty on our schedule."

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