“People are hurting. There are a lot of needs in this community, this country. I’m a praying man, and people in this community need prayer.”
Those thoughts were the impetus for Bishop Larry Jones’ drive-through prayer time last Saturday morning that brought a steady stream of cars to the parking lot near Luetta Moore Park on Martin Luther King Boulevard.
“Pull your car up here in the shade, brother; you don’t even have to get outta the car,” Jones instructed the first patron. “Don’t turn your car off; stop right here.”
Leaning in the window, Jones placed his hand on the shoulder of the driver and asked, “How’s my brother doing this morning?”
In just a few seconds and syllables, the driver shared what was on his heart with Jones, who then bowed his head and began to pray. “Father, we bless you. You’ve told us that no weapon formed against us will prevail. You hold us in the palm of your hands, and we walk by faith and not sight. I call on you, God, in the name of Jesus Christ, to bless my brother physically, spiritually and financially. Move on his life. Save and deliver him from this stronghold. Set him free.”
With an “amen,” two raps on the truck window frame and a final “love you, man,” the encounter between stranger and prayer was over.
A Bulloch County native and Statesboro High School graduate, Jones has pastored Whitesville Full Gospel Church on Shelby Street for 27 years.
'One more kid from the street'
But before he pastored, he partied.
“I’m a testimony. I was one more kid from the street, from the hood. I used to drink. Party. Fight.
God had his hand on me. I ran from him at first. I ran all the way to West Palm Beach and stayed almost a year. God got ahold of me there; I met God there,” Jones said.
Jones called his wife, Gwendolyn Jackson, who was in Statesboro, and told her God had changed him and that he was coming home.
“I know prayer works. I saw what it did in my life,” he said.
Jones said he’d wanted to set up a place to pray in the community for quite some time but didn’t know how that would flesh out. He believes you have to meet people where they are, and go to them.
“I’m from the streets. Street ministry, that’s my ministry. Some of these people won’t come to church, but they’re hurting and need prayer,” he said.
Jones said that he prayed before the event, “Lord, if we have just one, it will be worth it.”
Way more than one showed up in need of prayer. Jones said men and women who drove up asked for prayer for a variety of needs, like marriage relationships, strength against strongholds, strength to take care of their families, children’s needs, pain and healing and finances.
“So many asked for prayers for financial difficulties,” he added.
Like the woman who said through tears that it was a financial, as well as physical, struggle to take care of her ailing mom.
The way to prayer
Some of the visitors that stopped by for prayer attend Jones’ church. But most were just passers-by who saw signs held by church members that pointed the way to prayer.
A group of women from the church who take part in the “Destined Women” ministry stood in the hot sun with posters to direct potential prayer recipients to Jones.
Interestingly, Jones had some sort of connection with most of the visitors.
“I grew up on the streets; this is my community,” he said. He’d often ask, after shaking a hand, “Who are your people? Do I know you?” And with a few names dropped, Jones would exclaim with familiarity, “Shut up, boy! I thought I knew you — you’ve grown up!”
Each person seemed to relate to Jones immediately, but with evidence of his genuine concern, compassionate heart and loving nature, it was hard to do otherwise.
With some jesting before praying — Jones told one stranger to keep driving: “Get this Chevrolet outta here; I’m a Ford man and this is an anointed place” — and a keen listening ear, Jones personalized each prayer.
Most shared their requests, but some were so moved to tears that they had trouble speaking. In one case, Bishop Jones prayed, “Father we give you all the glory. You know this situation. We pray that you strengthen her and let her feel your presence.”
A couple of passers-by walked up for prayer; one parked his lawn mower and ambled over, asking for healing for his feet. Two rolled up on wheelchairs. One came on a bicycle.
Wheelchair driver Laursey Raymond asked Jones to pray for healing. She’d recently been a hospital patient because of internal bleeding and though she’d undergone a foot-amputation while there, she told Jones that she was grateful to be alive.
“I know God is working in my life,” Raymond said. “I know God is good; I know what he did for me.”
And at the end of Bishop Jones’ prayer, she raised her hands in the air, smiled broadly and said, “Hallelujah.”
Another patron encouraged Jones when he asked of him, “You still staying on the battlefield for the Lord?” Jones’ friend shared how God had blessed him, and after a short prayer, Jones admonished, “Keep giving God the glory and the praise, man.”
Jones said that many people think you have to use just the right words when you pray.
“They think you have to be so holy. Just tell God. He just wants you to talk to him. Prayer is communication between man and God. The Bible says prayer changes things. Even when Jesus was on the cross, he prayed.”