CARBONDALE, Ill. (BP)–Instead of settling into a comfortable retirement, Marketplace Ministries’ national director of prayer support devotes his days to praying, writing and calling chaplains.
The fact that Richard Hall stays busy at age 70 may not be that unusual in an era of increasing life expectancy. But he is a quadriplegic who handles these duties while hooked up to a respirator. He spends 12 hours a day in a rocking bed, a device that helps push air in and out of his lungs and improves blood circulation.
While one might expect a man whose dreams were cut short by polio to be bitter or disillusioned, Hall is grateful to be part of a growing ministry.
“Every day’s an adventure,” said Hall, who was licensed to preach at 17 and had envisioned becoming a Southern Baptist missionary.
“Business is a great mission field. Half the people don’t go to church and don’t have any direction; they’re just living day to day. If I can pray for that kind of ministry I feel grateful and blessed to be a part of that.”
Using the telephone, fax machine and a 3-by-5-inch notebook from Carbondale, Ill., Hall communicates regularly with the home office and its network of chaplains.
He receives a list of 50 to 100 prayer requests every week. In addition, he writes half a dozen columns a year for two ministry newsletters.
Hall compiles the latter by jotting notes (he has some use of his right hand), then taping his thoughts. Jim Wicker, a former ministry employee who teaches at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, types up the material. Then he returns it to Hall for review before it goes to headquarters.
“This is such an unbelievable opportunity,” said Hall, a member of Murdale Baptist Church in Carbondale. “This has been a milestone in my life. I’ve made some wonderful friends, mostly over the phone. Nobody’s getting rich doing this, but they love the Lord and the camaraderie among the workers.”
Since Hall lives more than 600 miles northeast of Dallas, it’s impossible for Gil Stricklin to check up regularly on his prayer director. But the founder of Marketplace Ministries doesn’t have to — he sees the results.
Since Hall took his post in 1996, Marketplace Ministries has grown 30 percent a year, compared to 5 to 10 percent a year previously, Stricklin said.
“I believe that has something to do with the sovereignty of God, but it also has a lot to do with Richard’s prayer,” the ministry’s president said. “He’s a saint. If I had to choose one person in the world to pray for me, I would go to him. If I’m struggling with a decision, I call him.”
Hall deflects such praise, saying that he wasn’t always faithful to God and his calling. He credits the Lord with helping him develop his prayer life, which begins at 6:30 a.m. when his brother, Harral, awakens him.
While Harral — who at 71 still teaches two classes at a Christian high school — gets ready for work, Richard spends the next two hours in prayer.
He describes it as constant communication, talking with the Lord as he would a friend in the room.
“I am praying like Hannah,” he said of Samuel’s mother. “It’s not always speaking out loud, but in my heart and thoughts. I ask him to do certain things, or thank him for others. I thank the Lord a lot.”
Dividing the rest of the day between writing, phone calls and more prayer, the one thing he never does is question why life delivered such harsh blows.
Hall contracted the polio virus in 1955, the day after he enrolled at Southwestern Seminary. That happened a few months after he graduated from Baylor University, and just three weeks after marrying his college sweetheart, Marian Stone.
Placed in an iron lung before doctors finally sent him home, his future appeared bleak. But after a period of adjustment and a move to Houston, he helped Second Baptist Church contact newcomers to the area.
Hall later assisted First Baptist of Houston stage a crusade that featured the church’s pastor, John Bisagno, as the speaker. In 1976, First Baptist asked him to serve as a deacon.
The Texas native’s time in that state came to an end in 1980, when a rare blood disease struck his wife. She died a week later, and he relocated to southern Illinois where his parents had moved.
Instead of agonizing over the crippling disease, and then losing his mate of 25 years, Hall found solace in God’s sovereignty.
“God never showed me why and I never asked,” Hall said. “I thought that would be impertinent. That’s just life. For whatever reason, he allowed this, but I think God is getting glory out of using somebody in a situation like this.”
That kind of optimistic outlook is one reason Stricklin contacted his old friend in 1995, asking him to direct prayer for the ministry.
Fellow classmates at Baylor, they had stayed in touch periodically over the years. At one point, Hall told Stricklin he had prayed every day for the ministry since learning about it through a mutual friend.
“I don’t think I had done that,” said Stricklin, whose voice choked with emotion as he recalled that conversation. “If the most important thing in God’s work that we can do is pray, whose job was it to pray? I didn’t have an answer for that.”
Still, it took several months to convince Hall to accept a salary. After insisting he couldn’t accept money for such activity, Stricklin asked his friend, “What is the greatest work in the Kingdom?”
When Hall replied, “You know the answer,” Stricklin replied, “That’s what I want you to do.”
“I’m sure the majority of his money goes to [pay for] long-distance,” Stricklin said. “He calls people around the world. Every time I talk to someone in the field, they say, ‘Richard Hall prayed for me.'”
Maceo Gray of Kansas City, director of the ministry’s Midwestern region, said of Hall’s work, “It’s good to know you have that kind of support. We know that’s a vital empowerment to enable us to be effective in the marketplace. It increases our faith to know he’s there and that God is listening to those prayers.”
Jerry Lilley of Branson, Mo., a member of Marketplace Ministries’ board of directors, met Hall in person several years ago when he visited Carbondale with Stricklin.
While most people are part-time prayer warriors “at best,” Lilley credits Hall with helping provide Marketplace Ministries supernatural resources.
“His prayer gives it power,” Lilley said. “It’s not just the physical efforts of the chaplains making calls, it’s the power of the Lord in responding to those needs.”
Despite his age, Hall said the Lord fills his mind with ideas constantly. Thus, he plans to keep going as long as the ministry feels he is useful.
“God’s so good to me; I’m very content, upbeat and excited,” Hall said. “I believe all revivals in history have been based on prayer, and all great movements like the Sunday School and youth revival after World War II. This is an opportunity to hold people up in prayer.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: EMPOWERING BY PRAYER.