A newly formed group of Christians are praying for Knoxville and inviting others to join in daily devotionals and monthly meetings.
Pray Knox is a multi-ethnic, multi-generational effort. With services led by young people and support from area churches,
PrayKnox aims to unify "the body of Christ for the spread of the Gospel and the love of Jesus."
Formed in late 2017, PrayKnox starts 2018 with a 365-day devotional book and monthly prayer gatherings at area churches.
The $20 devotion includes a forward by "The Voice” winner and Knoxville native Chris Blue. Its daily devotions were written by Knoxvillians whose occupations range from pastors and lay ministers to students to mothers to nurses to businesspeople. Between 1,500 and 2,000 books have been distributed; copies are at https://prayknox.org.
The book, with the subtitles "1 City, 1 Movement" and “A Spiritual Weapon for Prayer Champions,” includes 260 brief devotionals. Each incorporates a Bible passage, the writer's personal reflection and prayer for Knoxville. Each also includes a prayer request for a group from "busy moms of the city" to "our city's leaders, civic and spiritual who feel the weight on their shoulders" to "those who mourn."
The devotions, with titles ranging from "Faith or Fear" and "Love Thy Neighbors" to "A Prayer for the Doubters" and "You Can't Out Give God," are scheduled to be read and prayed Monday through Friday of each week.
Saturdays are family discussion days to talk about applying the week's devotions. Sundays are what PrayKnox calls "Connection Days," in which participants are asked to connect with a new person with whom to pray.
Continuity and connections are important. Instructions on how to use the devotional tell readers,
"An effective city-wide prayer ministry requires ongoing attention, spiritual alertness and gratitude."
PrayKnox's next prayer meetings are 6:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at Overcoming Believers Church, 211 Harriet Tubman St. in East Knoxville, and 6:30 p.m. Feb. 23 at First Baptist Church Concord, 11704 Kingston Pike in Farragut. Anyone of any faith is welcome.
"Now we are going to pray in Jesus' name. But anyone can come,"OBC senior pastor the Rev. Daryl W. Arnold said.
"I don’t think Jesus would put people out who wanted to talk to his father."
OBC and First Baptist Concord are two of PrayKnox's founding host churches. The third, Northstar Church, hosted the Nov. 16 kickoff at its 9929 Sherrill Blvd. campus. Between 1,000 and 1,100 people attended, more than three times what organizers expected.
Organizers estimate members of 200 to 300 churches are involved with PrayKnox. They stress the movement is, however, more about individuals than churches.
At Northstar, the gathering included praying for "prayer targets" that included teachers, families and community unity. Those attending broke into small prayer groups. Most in the groups, organizers said, didn't know each other before they began to pray.
"You can't pray with a person without developing a relationship," Arnold said. At the November gathering, he prayed with two men he'd just met. The three continue to pray for each other.
In a way PrayKnox is the result of past prayers, said Carol Waldo, Knoxville Internationals Network executive director and a PrayKnox coordinator.
"There have been prayer movements all over the city who have been praying for restoration in the city and unity in the city. Many prayer movements have started, and some even continue,"Waldo said.
“This is kind of an answer to those prayers — that now we would rise up throughout the city and join together in that prayer. And especially with the 365-day devotional, every day people all over the city are praying the same prayers."
People of faith often react after a community tragedy by gathering to pray, grieve, encourage and console, said Kayretta Stokes, a PrayKnox coordinator, minister and OBC administrative assistant. PrayKnox is different.
"We are offensive. We are getting together and all going to pray in union,"Stokes said.
"We are all reading the same devotional, praying for the same prayer targets. It makes us unified as a body of Christ."
Arnold said he's surprised at some results he’s already seen because of PrayKnox.
"Prayer has its own language,"he said.
"God is teaching us the language of prayer, and it's pulling all the people together. It's beautiful how the Lord will exceed your expectations."