Area codes prompt churches' prayers

by Tess Schoonhoven, posted Friday, May 08, 2020 (2 months ago)

DETROIT (BP) -- What Travis Whitaker started as a daily three-minute prayer specifically for Detroit, a city heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, has become a prayer movement.

Travis Whitaker started praying for Detroit every day at 3:13. His idea of using the city's area code to determine the time for prayer has sparked a prayer movement in other cities.
Screen capture from Facebook
Whitaker, pastor of Mile City Church in Plymouth, Mich., named the initiative Mission 3:13, which is based on Detroit's area code -- 313. He wanted to use the area code of the most heavily impacted city in the state and set that time of day aside to pray for spiritual and physical healing in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. So those praying specifically for Detroit pray each day at 3:13 p.m.

The idea originated with Brian Bloye, pastor of West Ridge Church in Dallas, Ga. Burdened by the need for united prayer amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, Bloye began asking pastors in the Atlanta area to pray for four minutes every day at 4:04 p.m., based on the 404 area code of metro Atlanta.

Bloye shared the idea with Whitaker, who expanded the movement to Detroit. As more pastors became involved, adjusting the timing of prayer to their specific area codes, Bloye realized that God was doing something bigger than just a few churches in his area praying together.

"Before we knew it, we had people, churches, and religious organizations from various denominations joining us from area codes from all over the country, including Ontario, Canada," Bloye said. "We are praying for physical, emotional, spiritual healing as we face this COVID-19 crisis. We are praying for spiritual renewal and revival for our community, country, and world. We are also praying that God will end this pandemic in such a miraculous way, that the whole world will know that He did it."

Many of the prayer times are led virtually through videos posted on an individual church's social media accounts, Whitaker explained. Pastors involved were invited to contribute to a shared Google drive, where they each uploaded a video of themselves leading a short prayer time for their congregations.

Whitaker said he encouraged pastors to first publish their own video, but then also to post and share videos created by other pastors.

Whitaker is encouraged to see the movement continue to grow simply by word of mouth.

"I said 'OK God, I'm just one person, and I don't know what you're going to do with this, but I'm just going to start calling friends and have their friends spread it [the movement],'" Whitaker said. "It's really cool just to see churches of all sizes -- from mega churches to smaller churches, all ethnicities -- [involved and] to see people come together."

Roland Caldwell, pastor of the House Church in Detroit, said he has been encouraging Southern Baptist churches in his area to join the movement and focus on the power of prayer.

"Since my church is literally in Detroit, the area most impacted by the coronavirus in Michigan, many people in our congregation are involved because it has affected them the most," Caldwell said. "We are watching family, friends and neighbors die at a rapid pace. We see the hurt, but we still have hope in the Father. We still believe if we call God He will answer."

Caldwell said they have prayed for families impacted by COVID-19, health care and other essential workers, government leaders, the city's reopening process, congregations impacted by stay-at-home orders and for strength and hope among believers to prevail during this time of pandemic.

"We must first ask God, then watch God work," Caldwell said. "Believers who don't pray are telling God 'we don't need His help,' but when we turn to God, He promises through Scripture He will turn to us. This is what this mission is all about!"

Tess Schoonhoven is a Baptist Press staff writer.
Download Story