For Jack Reiser, a prayer is not just a wish or a superstitious gesture, such as crossing your fingers or throwing salt over your shoulder. Neither is it a euphemism for something far-fetched that probably won’t yield positive results, such as a desperation half-court shot at the buzzer.
For Reiser, a semi-retired engineer living in Northeast Fort Worth, prayer is something altogether different.
“Prayer to me is communicating with God,” he said. “We ask for things because he says if you believe in me, ask and it will be delivered. It’s also telling God what my feelings are, what I’m thankful for, how my days are going. It’s a communication tool.”
Reiser’s faith in God and the power of prayer lead him to install a rather unconventional mailbox of sorts in his front yard. His prayer post, positioned by the curb for easy access, beckons passersby with the message, “We would like to pray for you. Because we love our neighbors.”
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Fashioned from treated wood and a few odds and ends you could find at a container store and most hardware stores, the prayer post features little plastic cases for holding pencils and notecards. Users can write a message on a card and slip it into a lockbox, which Reiser checks every day.
“The first person who saw the post was a neighbor around the corner, and she stopped on the way home from work while I was out working the yard,” Reiser said. “She stopped and says, ‘Tell me about it.’ ”
Reiser, who grew up a Baptist and remains one to this day, gladly takes the time to discuss his prayer post with anyone who asks.
“I ride a motorcycle, and I was cleaning it on the driveway,” Reiser said. “Someone came up and said, ‘Do you have that motorcycle for sale?’ I said, ‘no.’ We talked for about an hour about the prayer post.”
Reiser is open to speaking with people of other denominations and faiths.
“Before Easter, I had a couple of Mormons or Latter Day Saints who came to the house, inviting people to their choir service,” he said. “We talked for about an hour about the prayer post. They liked the idea.”
'Pray for my friend'
Reiser keeps every prayer request in a shoebox so he can revisit them from time to time. Some of the requests include:
“Pray that a longtime friend may become the father he is meant to be.”
“Please pray for my friend who is going through a rough time.”
“Please pray for peace and happiness for my daughter.”
“A dear friend’s husband of over 25 years had a brain bleed in which he will not recover and no surgery will help. Today she must say goodbye. Prayers for strength and peace during this most horrible situation.”
One of Reiser’s favorite messages was from his pizza delivery man. It read, “Just seeing this made my day better and made me smile. Thanks, The Pizza Guy.”
Reiser said some people report back answered prayers. One woman wrote, “I’m taking my teacher board certification. Pray for that.”
“About three weeks later, she said, I passed the test and got my certification,” he said. “So we do get an answer or two from time to time.”
Most messages are sincere, but Reiser says there are jokesters as well. The most egregious prayer request was, “I hope I get laid.”
“I didn’t pray for that,” he said, laughing.
Reiser has a relaxed, good-natured humor about him, but he does express concern for people who submit rude and inappropriate requests.
“We pray real hard for them because we know where their hearts are,” he said.
Reiser believes in the power of prayer, but he also believes in the old adage that “God helps those who help themselves.”
He also believes that God helps people who are being prayed for by others, which is one reason he installed the post.
When asked why it was important for more than one person to pray about the same thing, Reiser told a story from his days as a Boy Scout leader to illustrate the point.
“One time we got a big canoe trailer stuck in the mud,” he said. “One person couldn’t handle that, but the 50 of us were able to pull it out of the mud. It goes to the concept that if one is good, many are better.”
According to Reiser, the prayer post is also useful in helping people admit and articulate their problems without being judged.
“A lot of times it helps people—just writing down their problems to bring it up a little bit—it makes them feel better,” he said. “‘Somebody’s out there that cares about me, has empathy for me. I’m suffering so let me tell someone. I don’t want to tell you because you may judge me, but here’s somebody I don’t know that’s not going to judge me. God’s not going to judge me, but I want to reach out to God. Here are my issues, and help me with those issues.’”
The post's genesis
Reiser doesn’t take credit for the concept of a prayer post. Rather, he said he got the idea while flipping channels, looking for a weather report.
“One night I was watching channel 11 news and saw a story on the prayer post,” he said. “We had been studying a lot in the book of John on prayer. I didn’t pay much attention to it because I wanted to catch the weather, but I thought about it all night. The next day I looked on the channel’s website and hunted it down. It was about a guy in Arlington named Bill Bernardy, who started it.”
Bernardy had posted plans online on how to build a prayer post, but Reiser wanted to speak with him to gain further insight.
“At the bottom of plans he had listed his phone number,” Reiser said. “So I called him and told him I saw his broadcast and would like to ask him some questions. I went to his house and spent about an hour talking to him about it.”
It took Reiser around three or four months to plan and get the materials for the prayer post, and about a week to build it. Bernardy was helpful during the process, giving advice and referring Reiser to a place in Houston that made anodized aluminum signs. Reiser made a few alterations to Bernardy’s design, including using a solar panel for lighting instead of hardwiring.
“Most people submit prayer requests at night, people just out at night or walking their dogs,” he said.
Reiser has installed other prayer posts in addition to the one in his yard.
“I built one in Watauga, and she’s doing real well,” Reiser said, referring to the woman who owns the home where he installed the post. “I also put one up in the Timber Creek area. The home owner’s association came back and said it’s a little too tall, so they had to cut it down a bit. That’s the only HOA complaint I’ve heard.”
A true believer
Reiser believes his prayer posts have enriched people’s lives, none more so than his own.
“It’s a blessing,” he said. “Just the feeling that we’re praying and trying to help people is a blessing.”
Reiser receives around one or two prayer requests per week and says he and his wife, Shirley, diligently pray over each and every one of them.
“I didn't have a great understanding of it at first, but Jack felt strongly to put up a prayer post,” Shirley Reiser said. “I was glad he wanted to pray for our neighbors.”
While she was a little skeptical about the prayer post initially, it didn’t take long for Shirley Reiser to become a true believer.
“Oh my goodness what a blessing it is for Jack and I to pray together for others,” she said. “I look forward to each prayer request. It surprised me how appreciative people are that we are praying for them. Sometime we get updates and we love that. Even people driving by will stop and leave a prayer request. Our prayer time together is very special to me and I can't imagine not having the prayer post in our yard.”
Brett Weiss is the author of nine books, including How to Get Published: 50 Successful Query Letters.