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Saturday December 27, 2008

Prayers run high as cash runs low

State Side

As the economy crashed and what is possibly Wall Street’s biggest fraud scheme is stripped bare to the public gaze, Americans are turning to God for deliverance.

SNOW blanketed the city most of last week but it is the flailing economy that’s giving New Yorkers the shivers.

Broadway caught the chills, too. Popular shows such as Hairspray, Spamalot, Young Frankenstein, Gypsy and Grease are among the top names that will bow out by next month due to financial distress.

Neither had it been a ho-ho-ho Christmas. Santa Claus made fewer appearances, according to news reports, because shopping malls were not hiring men to don the red suit.

People were also buying smaller, shorter Christmas trees this year to cut costs.

Business news website Crain’s New cited data showing that prescriptions for anti-anxiety drugs went up the past two months as more New Yorkers looked for ways to cope with the economic meltdown.

Money manager Bernard Madoff’s billion-dollar pyramid fraud has led to deep reflection among the Jewish community, now celebrating the eight-day Festival of Lights (Hanukkah), which ends on Monday. They felt betrayed that Madoff, a Jew, had misled so many Jewish foundations and charities.

These days of economic hell are bringing Americans to their knees. Literally.

Churches have reported bigger attendances. Cries from the fall of Wall Street resonated at the nearby Trinity Church, which responded with programmes such as Faith and Finance: Fresh Takes on the Economy, a video series.

More tellingly, even prayer websites have been deluged by those seeking divine intervention in these dark hours when cash is running low.

“I am desperate. I haven’t been working for a while. I have a lot of bills to pay and I have nowhere to go,” says a note posted on online prayer sanctuary ( “Please send me prayers in this difficult time.”

Another person said he needed a financial breakthrough, plus help in longtime care for his mother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. “God is all I have now,” he said.

He isn’t alone in seeking a miracle on Wall Street.

Paige Wheeler, founder of, said prayer requests had been rising from those struggling to make ends meet.

“The increase of those asking for financial blessings and miracles has started to overshadow those seeking physical healings,” she said.

This was not because fewer people were sick, she explained, “but rather it is hard to be concerned with your ailments when you are worrying about losing your home or putting food on the table”.

Indeed, that was the case with a woman who has been married for 32 years. Her husband needed a hip replacement and she wanted a job badly.

“He’s living on a can of soup and a slice of bread every day,” the anxious wife said. “I am still unable to find work. I have been in the travel industry for over 13 years and am willing to relocate to Florida, Michigan or stay in Arizona.

“Please, pray for my husband and me; for our health, for me finding a job and for our financial needs.”

Then there was the young daughter worried for her mother.

“I am so sad. My mom is hurting – her job is on shaky ground, she is not in good health, finances are really a burden on her. Please God, please show my mom the right path.”

Wheeler’s website is a mere one year old but it has already registered thousands of subscribers to its Prayer Alerts.

“The success of this site for me is bittersweet,” she said in a telephone interview from Scottsdale, Arizona, where she lives.

“I am happy that I have created an arena which allows individuals to reach out to one another in prayer, but it is sad to know that the success of this site is unfortunately tied to an increased amount of pain, struggle, death and destruction throughout the world.”

She believes that the prayer requests sent to her website reflect an accurate snapshot of what many Americans were going through, especially during the tough days of winter.

To cite an example: “It is so cold here. I don’t have the money to heat my apartment properly,” someone wrote, seeking prayers for financial help.

“I am terrified that my old age will find me homeless, living in a cardboard box in an alley somewhere. I am in dire straits. Please pray for me, friends!”

Wheeler, who previously ran a health club but quit her job to become a stay-at-home mother for her two children aged six and eight, was inspired to set up the website while she was figuring out a way to reach out to people.

She grew passionate about it, saying that site evolved into a wonderful tool for people to make connections and acknowledge the healing power of prayer.

“The website,” she said, “respects all religions and faiths and seeks to affirm others by uniting in prayer.”

Another online prayer site, (“a true church without walls”), has devoted a section on financial worries.

“Lift up your concerns in prayer,” it said. Topics include The Truth About Money, How to Find Yourself After Losing a Job and A Spiritual Approach to Financial Worries.

Uneasy about posting prayer requests on the Internet?

Not for those who are already at their wit’s end. Besides, people such as Wheeler believe that “among life’s greatest misfortunes lie our unoffered prayers”.

And there are, as one pastor told a newspaper, many walking wounded these days.

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