Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 6, 2013

‘Praying’ it forward

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Patients traveling to chemotherapy treatments pack it and carry it with them. Several have been sent to service women and men who find in them comfort and hope. One Alzheimer’s patient may not be able to discern much these days but he knows the difference between the real one and the substitute he’s given when it is time to wash the original.

Prayer pillows, made with prayer to offer a physical reminder of prayer, seem to offer more than just a soft place to kneel, rest your head or place your fears.

“It’s a 14 by 20 piece of cloth with polyfil, but the love, prayers and blessings that they are made with is a prayer lifeline for many,” said Linda Joyce. Joyce started the program in January at Fairview Christian Community Church with the sewing skills of a women’s group called the Daughters of Jerusalem. Since the ladies started stitching, they’ve made more than 500 pillows.

“I really fought with the idea,” Joyce wrote in an email, “and kept telling God I was too busy to help start a ministry but, needless to say, he told me otherwise. I couldn’t get it out of my mind!”

The women sew the pillow cases at home, praying over them as they do, and meet once a month to stuff them and add finishing touches. Then the pillows are brought before the church congregation for a “final blessing” and prayer and scripture cards are placed in the front pockets.

The pillows made by the Daughters of Jerusalem are often delivered to nursing homes, oncology departments at local hospitals and offered to pediatric patients. They will also bring them to anyone with special needs or requests, anyone wanting prayer support or comfort. 

“Sometimes we know the situations when a pillow is needed, other times we don’t. But God does,” said Joyce.

The women have heard various stories about how important the pillows become to the person receiving it. Joyce says one of her dearest friends passed away with her pillow under her head. Another woman said that her father, the man with Alzheimer’s, “is quite attached to his yellow prayer pillow. We have trouble getting it away from him to wash it. We bought a similar one but he knows the difference.”

The pillows are made in various designs and colors so they are suitable for men, women and children. They can’t be purchased because they are a gift from the Daughters of Jerusalem ministry, but donations are accepted.

A search online shows that many websites offer prayer pillows and some are elaborate and expensive, ranging from $50 to $150. One website said that the pillows “provide believers with a beautiful, non-threatening, way to share their faith with others.”

Still other sites use the pillows not only as agents of prayer but also as fundraisers — one woman sends 50 percent of the sale to help orphans in Guatemala. The pillows are also used to help children learn how to pray, sharing their thoughts and feelings with God. The pillows are sometimes called prayer pillows, kneeling pillows, comfort pillows or peace pillows.

The cards placed in the pillows made by the Daughters of Jerusalem read, “We pray when you hold this pillow, you will feel the Lord wrapping his arms around you, holding you, comforting you, loving you, healing you, guiding you, and giving you peace now and always.” According to the card, recipients sometimes share the kindness by making a pillow themselves or passing on theirs to someone else in need.

“Someone dropped this by my office for you this week,” my husband said when he brought the prayer pillow made for me. I had recently written about Prayer Warriors and I think someone wanted me to know there was another member of the troop. Reading the cards in the pocket and seeing the physical manifestation of someone’s intercessory prayer for me made those prayers all the more real. Hearing that someone had prayed for me while they stitched the pillow with its smiling lady bugs and bees made me smile.

I’ve held the pillow in my lap while praying for a specific request. I don’t think there is something magical about the pillow, but I believe there is something meaningful. It isn’t only filled with polyfil but it is filled with faith. The woman who made it filled it with her faith, her hope for healing for any brokenness the recipient might be suffering. I’m holding it when I offer a specific prayer for someone else.

The prayer card in the pocket reads, “I asked that He’d be near you at the start of each new day to grant you health and blessings and friends to share your way. I asked for happiness for you in all things great and small. But it was for his loving care I prayed the most of all.”

I can’t sew a stitch, which would disappoint my grandmother — a beautiful seamstress — if she were still here, but I can “pray it forward,” as it were, and pass on the prayers offered for me to another person. The pillow reminds me to do that.

Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at