To help meet the needs of fellow classmates, 16-year-old junior Brianna Farris started a “prayer locker” ministry at her school — Pell City High School.
Students can write down and leave requests of any nature in the locker. Brianna then takes them home and prays for them individually. Brianna said she first had the idea to start a prayer ministry when she often found herself serving as a shoulder for her friends to cry on.
“I would always go home and pray for them [her friends] as well, so I got the idea of people being able to drop prayers or anything that they want to discuss in my locker,” Brianna said.
When Brianna went to her mother, Candace Farris, with the idea, her mother warned her that it may cause controversy among students who do not believe in prayer.
“When she first told me she was feeling led to do the prayer locker, I asked her what she would do if she got an ugly note,” Candace said. “She thought about it for a minute and said ‘Well, I would pray for them too.’ Then I knew she would be able to handle it.”
Brianna said she could not shake the idea or get rid of the desire to start a prayer ministry.
“I felt that I was being led to do this,” Brianna said. “If someone feels the need to put a mean note in my locker, then maybe they are trying to reach out and ask for prayers or help too.” Brianna started the locker by simple putting a note on the outside indicating that students could drop prayer requests in the locker, submitted anonymously or with a name.
Because the locker was arranged by Brianna and not sponsored by faculty the school administration allowed it, reported the Dothan Eagle. The locker saw immediate success, garnering anywhere from five to 10 prayers each week.
Brianna estimated that the reaction from students was about 95 percent positive and 5 percent uncertain or skeptical, but not outright negative.
“It just took off,” Brianna said. “I did not know it would do so well.”
“We never imagined how many people she would touch and lives she would impact,” Candace added.
Brianna said she also rewrites the requests she receives, labels them with her school name and leaves them in the prayer basket at the church she attends with her family, Mt. Zion Free Will Baptist Church in Pell City, so the congregation can join in on praying for the students.
Mt. Zion pastor Michael Barber said the entire congregation is excited for Brianna and her efforts to minister to her school.
“We are really proud of her at the church,” Barber said.
“For a young person to really appreciate the power of prayer, but also in a setting with her peers, just says a lot about her walk with the Lord as well. I’m very proud of her.”
Barber said the prayer locker is still a new ministry for Brianna, but that she has plans to continue it as long as she is able and has the support to do so.
“It’s in its infancy, but she’s had a great response to it, she’s going to continue to have that,” Barber said. “I appreciate the school and the administration and their support as well in allowing her to do that.”
Barber also noted he is thankful that Brianna is so committed to following the Lord.
“It makes my heart feel good that [the school administration] is still supporting and will continue to support young people and callings on their lives. That’s a wonderful thing,” Barber said.
Brianna said she appreciates that students trust her with their personal lives.
“Even though they [students] do not have to write their name, some people do and I love that people can confide in me with their personal situations,” Brianna said.
The locker has also given Brianna the opportunity to share her faith with fellow students.
“I have had students come up to me that are lost and don’t know what to believe or don’t believe in prayer and ask me to tell them how to pray,” Brianna said. “Your prayers are always heard even though you may not understand your situation at the moment.”
Candace said she is inspired by Brianna’s bold faith. “My daughter is showing others not to be ashamed of their faith and not to be scared to pray,” Candace said.
“She is a very brave and faithful young lady.”
Brianna said she hopes the prayer locker will lead people to see that prayer has actual, lasting impact.
“There are some [students] who do not believe in prayer, or are lost in their beliefs, and my goal is this prayer locker will help them see that it is real and it does work,” Brianna said.
“I don’t push anything on anyone, but I just hope that they can see through other students who do believe, that [prayer] is real and that it can touch everyone at my school and make a different in their life and decisions they make.”
After she graduates next year, Brianna said she hopes to pass along the locker ministry to someone else. She is also exploring the possibility of expanding the idea to other local schools.
“I do plan to continue to pray for our schools and the people in them even after I graduate,” Brianna said. “I hope that doors will continue to open for me to be able to inspire others or to find ways to reach out to others.”
Tess Schoonhoven is a Baptist Press staff writer.