By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
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By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
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By Erin Sherbert
"There's an ex-wife beater here tonight, an ex-drug addict, an ex-homosexual. Come on down!" More men, hesitant at first, trek down the stairs and parade toward the front. They form a line and make their way to the altar in the place normally used for the Sharks' home goal and the stage where Depeche Mode will be performing next week.
"As a man, I'm expecting you to do what's right before God," the war vet declares.
"If you're a man, start walking right now!" I almost expect him to call those who don't a big pussy. "Some of you came with a friend tonight. Well, you can leave with a brother."
A man of great girth, wearing a "Live to Die, Die to Live" T-shirt, chews tobacco and intensely listens, spitting into a cup. As the numbers start to dwindle, the war vet then explains another long, graphic story about having third-degree burns and his nurse named Rosie who saved his life. He requests that everyone turn to the person next to him. "Look them in the eye and say, 'I'm your Rosie.'" The music once again builds. "The second wave of the miracle is going to happen!" he shouts.
Another sea of men starts parading toward the front. It appears more than 300 men are coming forth to direct their lives toward Christ. Each of the men receives a copy of a new joint publication by the International Bible Society and the Promise Keepers, All About Jesus (as well as a high-five).
The Prayer Team Leader was right. After the altar call we, the Prayer Team, are slammed. It is Denny's after-bar rush, except it's the prayer rush. Men, groups of men, make their way over to the Prayer Booth area. Some have that desperate look in their eye like they need that immediate Prayer Booth fix. One right after the other, men requesting the Prayer Team line up, and suddenly there's a long line leading out into the arena.
Looking at the newly formed line, I freak out and scream to the other Prayer Team members, "We're swamped!"
"Do you want to lead people on your own?" asks the Prayer Team Leader, nervously looking at the large line.
"You know, maybe it's best if I pair up with someone so they can show me the ropes," I say, being I have no idea how it's done. I'm paired up with the tall, silver-haired man who looks like a Sunday school teacher. We're a team, like one of those crazy mismatched buddy cop movies with the hardened veteran and the rookie. A young, curly-haired man comes over to us as we escort him behind the Prayer Team curtain.
"What is it you want us to pray with you for tonight?"
The curly-haired man is unsure how to express it in words.
"Is it pornography?" blurts the Sunday school teacher in a low voice.
"Yeah, pornography," I repeat more sternly, playing the bad cop in our Prayer Team situation.
"No," replies the curly-haired guy.
"Is it homosexuality?" I blurt in a more accusing manner, taking another stab at it.
"No!" he says in a louder voice, explaining he simply wants us to pray that he'll stay focused on school and stay clear of bad forces.
"Are you sure it's not homosexuality?" I repeat. It isn't.
The hands go on the shoulders, the eyes go shut, as we huddle up. Like freestyle rappers, we each take a turn at doing a spontaneous prayer for the curly-haired guy. When it's the Sunday school teacher's turn, I contribute by occasionally repeating various phrases he says, along with throwing in the intermittent "Yes! Yes!" and "Evil days! Evil days!" all in a monotone voice, while testing the limits of what would be an inappropriate touch.
When the Sunday school teacher hands over the mike to me, I simply start by plagiarizing his prayer, then throwing in a long mix about looking out for the Satan. The mention of the word "Satan" causes the Sunday school teacher to convulse and sort of jump back, letting out an almost orgasmic verbal moan. "Uhhhhh!"
I momentarily stop and open my eyes to see what the hell is going on. Thus, I keep mentioning Satan to get this Pavlovian response.
"Beware of Satan's forces!"
The Prayer Booth area is buzzing with various raised voices and Bible quotes.
Next up for us: a father-and-son combination.
"What is it you want us to pray for tonight?"
"Tell them what you did," says the father (a man) to his son (soon to be a man).
"I got in a fight at school," the son portion of the father-and-son team says with lowered head, giving the reason for the fight as some other kid "smack-talking" him.
Since I don't know any Bible passages, I try to lend authenticity by attempting to speak in Old English, as we once again huddle up.
"Oh Lord, protectith Trevor from the smack-talker. 'Cause blessed be he who turneth the other cheek to the smack-talkers. For the non-smack-talkers will inherit the Earth over the smack-talkers, for blessed be he who is a non-smack-talker."