Jul 7, 2005

The Cost of Prayer ?

Getting people to pray apparently takes a lot of money

The Presidential Prayer Team began with a simple idea: Encourage people to pray for the president daily. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 2001, it was an appealing plea. No politics, no agenda, no dogma. Just pray for the country's leaders.

The idea caught on. The Scottsdale-based charity became one of the most successful and fastest-growing non-profits in the country. Nearly 3 million people have signed up at the organization's Web site, and donations have topped $6 million.

But operating the charity has not been so easy. John Lind, its president, said the challenge is to keep people motivated to pray daily. And sustaining that energy costs money. Lots of it.

Financial records show the Presidential Prayer Team has been deeply in debt since its inception. Currently, it's in the hole by $531,891.

The red ink seems surprising considering the wild success the charity has enjoyed and the simplicity of its mission. It doesn't seem like it would take millions of dollars to get people to pray, after all.

"If we're going to ask them and encourage them to pray daily, we need to provide resources to help them do that," Lind said.

Some might find that encouragement by buying a Presidential Prayer Team souvenir to serve as a daily reminder. A gold logo coin in a display case goes for a suggested donation of $30. The coffee mug with a gold seal is $20. A wristband is $10.

"We just look at it as part of our mission of encouraging them to pray. Part of, I think, that encouragement is educating them on the issues.

To get selected, members must sign a statement that says the Bible is inerrant and that non-believers will suffer the "resurrection of damnation." They also must agree to donate at least $180 a year.

Lind said the group started with an interest-free loan of $250,000 from a person who wishes to stay anonymous.

But the debt continued to balloon each year. Even as 2002 brought more than $2.2 million in donations, the group's records show it spent more than $2.5 million. The next year, the group raked in $2.5 million but again overspent. Its debt at the end of 2003 was $845,769.

The financial records show some spectacular figures. Management and consulting fees cost $770,000 over the past few years. Legal fees cost $600,000. Postage has cost $1 million. Last year, the group spent $500,000 on a direct-mail appeal, Lind said.

The records also show that, in 2002, the Presidential Prayer Team gave away more than $1.1 million in grants to other unspecified groups. Lind said that was a paperwork error and that no money has left the Prayer Team.

Lind, who was hired in late 2002 with a salary of $108,000, said the group has cut back on costs, partly by having him run the charity instead of hiring outsiders.


Oy big hands in the Jesus Bucket, and they just can't wait to get that direct checkbook to the US Treasury... even as they can't keep their own sham corps out of debt.