Unity prayer line celebrates 100 years of taking requests

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

UNITY VILLAGE, Mo. -- One of the oldest prayer lines in the world is celebrating its 100-year anniversary.

Silent Unity began in 1907 with one man in a rocking chair using a "candlestick" phone. It has since grown to 13 centers worldwide, with associates answering more than 1.5 million prayer requests each year.

"We answer the call; God answers the prayer," Lynne Brown, vice president of Silent Unity. "Anything in the human condition, they hear it."

Brown said praying for others is a central part of the religious movement known as Unity School of Christianity, founded by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore in 1889.

Myrtle Fillmore organized Silent Unity soon after, with members praying silently at 9 a.m. each day. By 1902, about 100 letters a day were coming to Silent Unity at offices then in Kansas City. In 1907, Fayette Drake was assigned the job to take prayer requests by telephone.

"In those days, it was cutting-edge to have a telephone in any kind of work," Brown said.

Now, it's certainly not the only service of its kind. Other such services include one started by televangelist Pat Robertson's "700 Club" in 1963; the National Prayer Center, which began in 1994; and a Roman Catholic Church international prayer line that started in 2006.

At Silent Unity, associates are selected from people who have active prayer lives, Brown said. They receive three weeks of training, but they don't have a script to follow and they don't ask for donations.

Associates also take turns in the prayer chapel, where someone is praying all the time.

When a call comes in, an associate, who remain anonymous to the caller, types a description of the call into the computer. The associate offers to send a follow-up letter after the 30 days that a person's request stays on the prayer list.

Associates "pray in" to prepare for their shift and "pray out" at its end. They learn "release" techniques to leave behind the woes they hear daily.

"We pray with people of many faiths," Brown said.

Dee Martin, of Lee's Summit, has used the service for years.

While house-sitting in October in the San Diego area, where she had lived for 35 years, she called Silent Unity several times as she coped with the stress of a forced evacuation because of wildfires. She wasn't hurt, and the house wasn't damaged.

"I have been right in the middle of these fires," Martin said. "A very dangerous situation, I've never experienced winds like we did this time around.

Unity "really helped," Martin said. "It made me remember a lot of important things I've learned through the years."

Those with prayer requests can call 800-669-7729 or go online to www.unityonline.org/prayer/requestPrayer.

Unity is headquartered on 1,500 acres southeast of Kansas City. The organization has churches across the country and publishes the "Daily Word," an inspirational magazine printed in eight languages and read by 1 million people daily.

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