By KATIE EUBANKS
Every Tuesday from 6 to 7 p.m., 20 or 30 men from across the metro area meet at Mama Hamil’s in Madison. Some are ex-cons, some are pastors, some are regular guys, and some are multimillionaires. No, the buffet isn’t open for Tuesday supper. These men are there to pray for each other.
The group will start its 14th year in January and was established after local businessowner John Gooch, known by family and friends as Johnny, felt God telling him, “Men need to pray.” John called his friends Jim Palmer and Kenny Crews and asked if they wanted to start a men’s prayer group.
Since that time, 400 to 500 men have attended, whether for one night or many years. But it’s not about the numbers. It’s about Jesus.
In the cave of Adullam
Though the gathering is known as the “Tuesday night men’s prayer group,” John often thinks of it as “the Adullam group,” as in 1 Samuel 22, when David hid from King Saul in the cave of Adullam and “God sent him all the men that were distressed,” John says.
“Sinners are welcome. … We’ve seen men show up so drunk they can’t get out of their car — so we go to their car and get them. We’ve seen marriages restored. Men learn how to treat their wives.”
The group’s focus is prayer and the Bible, but the gathering is not a church, and there is no strict order of worship: Basically, men share prayer requests, which are written down, and then other men pray and speak over those requests. Sometimes somebody will sing spontaneously.
What is said in the group stays there, and nobody is shamed or condemned. That’s one of the biggest reasons men keep coming, John says.
Every week, the meeting ends with the Lord’s supper.
Seeing the value
Local entrepreneur Mack Robinson was losing sleep over an empty office building when the group founders convinced him to visit the group two years ago. Mack’s building had no tenant and an $18,000 annual property tax.
“When I got into the prayer group and realized that God was going to send a tenant in His own timetable, then I was able to relax and put it into His hands, even though I had held the building for about five years.”
A church occupied the building not long after.
Retiree Terry Williams of Ridgeland hesitantly attended his first meeting eight years ago at the behest of friends. Now it’s one of the highlights of his week.
Two years ago, Terry suggested to his wife that they start praying together every night. “And it’s brought us so much closer,” he says. “If I hadn’t been going to this group, that never would’ve been a suggestion of mine.”
Roddric Bell, who lives in Madison and is a regional director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is younger than most of the men in the group. “As a young Christian, we try to find groups that are likeminded, and try to walk the walk we’re supposed to walk,” he says.
“God was prompting me to participate more in group prayer, because there’s more power in groups, people who are seeking the same thing. … once you get there and prayer is over, the burden is lifted somewhat.”
Pastor Edward Taylor, of Word of Faith Christian Center in Yazoo City, said the following when asked about the difference the group has made in his life:
“I think it’s the value. I see myself as being valuable now. I have already seen that as a pastor, but just to be able to do our part.”
Recently, Pastor Taylor has become one of the ministers whom group leaders ask on a Tuesday night: “Do you have a word for us?”
“Now it’s my turn to go there and be of encouragement to the men. I see why God wanted me to continue to go,” he says.
“(Men) keep coming because it’s a place where they can be real and genuine and share their heart and nobody’s going to make fun of them. Oh, I love that. We don’t make fun of anybody.”
The group contains countless other stories, from organ transplants to the breaking of spiritual bondage. John wants word to spread; he wants the group to have a website and reach more young people. But ultimately, the focus remains the same.
“Jesus said, ‘If I be lifted up, I’ll draw all men to Myself,’” John says. “If we lift Him up, He draws them in.”