Americans dial a prayer to God's own country

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The Independent Online
JERUSALEM - Since God hasn't got a telephone, the operators at a new 24- hour prayer line set up in Israel are hoping Christians around the world will ring them instead.

Opening benedictions from luminaries such as former President Ronald Reagan, the Rev Jerry Falwell and a

retired US Ambassador to the UN, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, were barely over on Sunday when the telephones lit up with callers praying for everything from safe trips to avoiding the temptations of cable television.

'Take it from me. Prayer really does work,' Mr Reagan said during his pitch for the international line.

The stage for the opening ceremony was the balcony of a luxury hotel overlooking the hill where Christ was crucified. People in the audience, many rapt believers, held their arms skyward and shouted 'Hallelujah]' 'Amen]' or 'Yes Lord]' during each prayer.

There is an old joke in Israel that telephone calls to God are cheap because it's a local call. 'The local calls are too cheap. We are interested in international calls,' said Yitzhak Kaul, president of Bezeq Telecommunications, Israel's telephone company.

He said the company wants to build on the success of its faxes to God - anyone around the world can fax their prayers and have them inserted in the Wailing Wall.

Volunteers at the modest apartment housing the dial-a-prayer services are expecting most of the calls to be from troubled people.

They have scriptural texts on hand suited to various needs. 'It's a hurtin' line, but people need it,' said Betty St Pierre, who used to work at a telephone counselling service in Virginia.

At least one clergyman took exception. 'Christians can pray to God anywhere in the world and have instant access,' said Dr John Anthony, a Baptist pastor.

'They don't need to send him their prayers through Jerusalem.'

However, those Americans who feel that their prayers can only be answered in Christ's homeland simply need to dial 1-900-4HOLY-LAND.

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