The journey of the ‘Prayer Mile’

Published 4:47 pm Friday, September 28, 2012

One of the best things about being a journalist is finding incredible stories and then being the one to share those stories with a friend, a community and in the digital age, the world.

For the upcoming issue of Spanish Moss magazine I was assigned a story on the prayer mile. All that anyone could tell me about it was there were small wooden signs on mile marker 100 and 101 on US Highway 80, outside the community of Benton, that read, “PRAYER MILE.”

No one seemed to know anything else about it. It was a mystery; a mystery I was determined to crack.

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I spent several days calling local churches to see if they were the ones responsible for putting up the reminders to pray. No answer.

I tried calling city halls and city clerks in nearby town including Tyler, White Hall and Lowndesboro. They referred me to other departments; all of which ended up as another dead end.

I even tried calling the Alabama Department of Transportation to see if they could tell me anything about these mysterious markers on the highway, but no one seemed to know what I was talking about.

The people I questioned in Selma knew of the prayer mile, but had no idea how long it had been there, who put it there, or how it all started.

With no concrete leads, we decided to refocus and instead of explaining what the prayer mile is and how it came to be, I would write about how even though people know of it, no one really knows anything about it.

I headed out to mile marker 100 on Saturday morning to get some pictures of the sign and to spend some actual time out in the prayer mile. For those of you headed to Montgomery or back to Selma on Saturday morning, and saw me on the side of the road, I appreciated all the friendly waves and the occasional honk.

I’m not sure if it was because I was nervous about standing a few inches from the side of Highway 80 as cars sped past or if it was simply the fact that I was in the prayer mile, but I began to lift up a few words in prayer.

I prayed that I would find the right people to talk to. I prayed that even though this story wasn’t headed in the direction that it was originally planned for, that it would still have a purpose, and still be a story worth sharing.

Leaving the prayer mile, and pulling into the small town of Benton, those prayers were answered. I stopped my car and talked to the first man I saw. He was weed eating his lawn. He lead me to a woman who invited me in for a glass of sweet tea and conversation.

She told me that even though she didn’t know who the creator of the prayer mile was, it was both a daily blessing and conviction. When we were finished, I thanked her for her time and headed back out into town.

I soon came across a woman who was just about to walk into her house when I stopped and asked her about the prayer mile. She looked at me with a smile and said she knew the man who put it there. She invited me into her home and within five minutes I was face to face with the man behind the prayer mile.

His story is one of those incredible stories that makes being a journalist the best job in the world. More than one prayer has been answered out in the prayer mile, and I can finally say that the mystery has been solved.

To find out the story behind the prayer mile, be sure to pick up next month’s edition of Spanish Moss.