Now You Can Get Prayer at a Drive Thru
Three churches offer prayer in their parking lots
If “drive thru” brings impersonal, quick transactions or bad food to mind, consider this: prayer is essential and vital for our survival. Drive thru prayer gives people easy accessibility to prayer and to people who are willing to pray for them. It’s not a new idea; Google “drive thru prayer,” and you’ll get 6.4 million results. It’s happening in many different states and churches—and you can read about it on CBS, KSTP and the Huffington Post.
As soon as Valerie Beck, Outreach & Justice Ministries at Trinity Church (EFCA) in Lakeville, Minnesota, heard the idea, she wanted to do it:
Drive thru prayer.
Several years ago, Valerie read about a church that was hosting Drive Thru Prayer, so she checked it out. After some research and praying about bringing the event to Trinity, she found that the National Day of Prayer was in May and thought the Drive Thru Prayer event would be a great way to recognize the day and reach their community.
That was several years ago. Since then, Trinity Church has hosted Drive Thru Prayer every year. Across the Twin Cities metro area, Andrea Hebeison leads Drive Thru Prayer at Wayzata Free Church in Plymouth, Minnesota, and Carol Madison heads it up at Hillside Church in Bloomington, Minnesota. They both heard about it from Valerie.
How it works
“On the day of Drive Thru Prayer,” Andrea explains, “we put signs about a quarter of a mile ahead of the church so drivers can prepare to pull into our parking lot. We assign people to stand on the street side and hold signs, they smile and wave at people in driving by.
“We set up orange cones in our parking lot and schedule volunteers, usually in 2-hour shifts. [At Wayzata Free Church,] the event is from 7 a.m to 7 p.m., which allows people to stop in on their way to or from work.
“When a driver pulls in and rolls down the window, we ask, ‘How can we pray for you?’ Then we pray. We keep prayers short, simple and to the point, about one minute. All kinds of people of all ages pull in for prayer. We have repeat stoppers, and we have people who send others to us for prayer. The barista at the coffee shop up the street told us she tells her customers to stop in for prayer.”
Andrea describes some of the people who drive in for prayer:
“People often have tears in their eyes when they roll their windows down. After prayer, you can see their countenance change, and they thank us when they leave. Some responses we hear include:
"‘I have much more peace now’ or ‘That really touched me, how you prayed specifically for my situation.’
“One woman stopped and asked for prayer for her son, who had applied to Teen Challenge and was waiting to hear whether or not he was accepted into their program. She explained that it was a big step for the family, and then came back an hour later and told us that 30 minutes after we had prayed with her, they got word that her son was accepted into the program.
“A police officer stopped in on his way to work. He told us a shooting had taken place the evening before, and he knew he’d be facing a lot of challenging communication. He was in tears and said he needed peace and prayer support. He came back after work and said, ‘I had peace all day. It was comforting to know that people are praying for me.’
“We had a woman this spring whose baby was due in a few days. She told us her husband was dealing with some mental health issues. When she went home, she sent her husband to us for prayer.
“The people who pull in for prayer fit all descriptions, all denominations and ages. We get people who haven't been to church in a long time, people not connected to any church, people who have never prayed with anyone else.
“We definitely have people bless us,” Valerie adds. “They drive in and pray for those who are serving and ask God to bring more people through the Drive Thru.
“Many people pour their hearts out. The prayer requests are mainly for family, about healing for illnesses, peace for relationship discord, or estrangement; new babies are a popular prayer request.”
None of the churches limit prayer to cars—people can come for prayer just as they are.
“We had a little boy ride up on his trike,” Andrea says. “He was in preschool next door all day and saw us when he was dropped off and during the day when he was outside. He wanted to come over for prayer. We also have people who are out for a walk stop in for prayer.”
Prayer is for everyone involved. “The people who are praying feel just as fortunate,” Andrea says. “When they pray, they’re in communication with the Father and that’s uplifting.
“Most often, we don’t hear how God answers our prayers, but we don’t need to know the answers. We just know that God will meet these people, and answer the prayers, however that needs to look.”
Prayer is always the focus. “Our goal is to meet each person in the place they’re at,” Carol says. “We’re not concerned about getting 10 cars every hour; that can get discouraging. Of course, we love having more people, but we’ll stay here to pray if just one car pulls in.”
Signs, volunteers and thank-you’s
According to all three women, Drive Thru Prayer is a simple event, but the results are substantial. Not much is needed to host it except a date, a few signs and some volunteers.
All agree that it is a volunteer opportunity that’s easy and inclusive. As Andrea describes, “people love to participate. Some people are not yet comfortable praying with others but want to be a part of the event by holding the signs. People can see what it looks like to pray with others and eventually, step out of their own comfort zone and do it themselves. It's a discipleship opportunity!
“Those who hold signs connect with drivers,” she adds. “People driving by toot their horns, wave and smile. And you never know what effect the signs have on people, or what the smile and wave meant to them. Some people may pray on their own, just by seeing the sign, some people may see the signs and stop later somewhere else to pray or be compelled the next year to stop.
“What I love is that volunteers return year after year. They love reaching outside the walls of the church. They see the need.”
At all the churches where Drive Thru Prayer is held, the responses by people in the church, the volunteers and those who drive in for prayer have been overwhelmingly positive.
“Every year we get emails thanking us for hosting the Drive Thru Prayer event from a previous year,” Valerie says. “People tell us how much [our prayers] meant to them and give us an update on their situation. These messages often come from people who don't attend our church services but simply want to express their gratitude. That's the motivation to continue to do it year after year. God encourages us that this act of love matters.”
The gospel in your neighborhood
In Partners with the President, Kevin Kompelien talked about Acts 17, where Paul sees the need, goes out and engages people. Kevin goes onto ask, “As we’re in our neighborhoods, schools and workplaces, how can we bring the gospel with us? How do we take the gospel outside the four walls of our churches to impact people’s lives?"
Wayzata Free, Trinity and Hillside are all taking the gospel outside their four walls, into their parking lots and onto the streets with the Drive Thru Prayer event. They’re taking the gospel to where people are—in their cars.
“Once you hear about drive thru prayer, you realize it’s not such a crazy idea,” Andrea says.
Valerie, Andrea and Carol have often talked about their vision for Drive Thru Prayer and agree that it’s an event for all churches who pray in the name of Jesus to join them.
Are you ready to get outside the walls of your church? Do you want to find out who drives by your church? Drive Thru Prayer is an event you should try.