Truckers Chapel

Jackson, Georgia. Just off I-75. A tiny chapel sits in the middle of a truck stop parking lot. The house of worship is actually just an semi-trailer parked outside the filling-station-slash-IHOP, welcoming all sinners, seekers, and pancake aficionados.

Just look for the bright neon cross perched atop the trailer, lit up in the darkness. You can’t miss it.

Tacked to the chapel door was a sign which read: “Open.” So I stepped inside.

Sixteen chairs faced a pinewood pulpit. The walls were the same cheap wood paneling everyone’s family used to have in 1970s. The place was, more or less, your run-of-the-mill church.

As soon as I entered I was immediately greeted by a welcome table bearing the accoutrements associated with twentieth-century evangelism—donation envelopes, newsletters, brochures, donation envelopes, gospel tracts, prayer hotline numbers, donation envelopes, free crucifixes, and of course, in case you missed them, donation envelopes.

I visited this small trailer today because I am a columnist, and columnists must visit places like this. Otherwise, columnists end up writing multiple boring columns about their dogs.

Which I would never do.

In the chapel, sitting up front, were two men. Heads bowed. Eyes closed. I’m guessing they were truck drivers.

One man was large, wearing a sleeveless shirt. The other had heavily muscled arms that were painted in multi-colored tattoos, and he wore a beard that looked like it belonged on an Oakridge Boys album cover.

I quietly made my way to the back row and had a seat.

One of the men opened his eyes when he heard my footsteps and made eye contact with me. Then he closed his eyes and resumed whatever he was doing. Praying, I guess.

Truthfully, I’ve never known exactly what prayer is. Oh, I’ve heard all the definitions. But for some reason, I’ve always felt that prayer is one of those things that I gravely misunderstand.

I grew up in a fundamentalist tradition that treasured prayer. But, honestly, I never got onboard with all the shouting and endless repeating of five-word clichés until your face turned crimson.

My people basically believed prayer was asking for stuff. Although nobody came right out and said it, the idea was: you knelt, you cried, you moaned, yearned, and you begged for things you wanted.

That was prayer.

And the catch was, if you were a good little boy or girl, if you behaved, and paid your income taxes on time, maybe God would give you some candy. In other words, the Man Upstairs was a proverbial Santa Claus.

Yes, I realize I’m generalizing here, but you get the picture.

But when I got a little older, I came to feel differently about prayer. This happened when I met an elderly woman named Miss Myra.

Myra was originally from Sweden and she lived in the apartment next door. When Myra was forty, she lost her only child to cancer. Two weeks later, she lost a husband to a heart attack. Then her own body began to fail her with lupus.

Still—if you can believe it—Myra was among the happiest women I ever met. I wish I had one tenth of the glee Miss Myra had.

She always sang wonderful songs while doing her laundry, using languages I did not understand. And she was always baking, or planting wildflowers along the highway.

Myra once told me that prayer wasn’t asking God for stuff. Her philosophy was, hey, God already knew what you needed before you opened your mouth, so you didn’t need to remind him. God had your back whether you checked all the right boxes or not.

Once, the old woman explained prayer by touching my sternum, closing her eyes, and saying, “Prayer is this.”

Sadly, her gesture made no sense to me. I have never been the sharpest spoon in the drawer.

“Prayer is my chest?” I asked.

She smiled. “Think of it like this…”

Miss Myra placed her birdlike arms around me and hugged me. She held me against herself and I could smell her old-lady perfume. We hugged for several minutes.

“Do you see how our hearts are now touching?” she said, mid-hug.

She was right. Our two chests were smashed together, our hearts were separated by mere inches of rib and muscle.

“This is prayer,” she said.

In my life I have undergone some very difficult times, just like you. Times when I didn’t think I wanted to keep going. Looking back, I realize that these were not the moments when I needed to kneel and offer some clichéd Amazon wishlist to heaven. These were dark periods when, frankly, I just needed a hug.

Which is why I always come back to Myra’s words.

Before I left the Truckers Chapel, the two men rose from their chairs. They threw their arms around each other, and slapped each other’s backs. If I wasn’t mistaken, the younger man was about to cry.

No words were exchanged between them. No cheesy spiritual catchphrases. Instead, these two men simply embraced.

And within this nondescript trailer, somewhere off I-75 in Jackson, Georgia, I believe I accidentally witnessed what old Myra was talking about.


  1. Debbie g - October 27, 2021 6:33 am

    Connections of hearts I love that ! Thank you Sean. Your heart is connected to us all And connected hearts to all of us 😊

  2. Liz Hoyt Eberle - October 27, 2021 7:43 am

    Yeah, I know. God and I have conversations off and on through all of my very old days. Thank you, Lord … the fall colors are beautiful…It was good to hear from my old friend back home…. Our new care fiver is wonderful…. I slept better last night…… And on and on. We talk about others who had bad days, are sick, missing family, traveling, and sometimes we just talk. And then we have those really special times when I TRY ..really hard …. to just listen. But there are some big things right now and He has been very quiet and I am afraid. Tonight, while in the shower, my words and tears mixed with the hot water and I did the desperate, out loud ….Oh, please, PLEASE-God…… I don’t know what to do. And I cried. Hard, hot tears. Then when I calmed down, I asked Him to forgive me for asking for so much. Took some deep breaths and sat down in my rocker to end my day with today’s column and I saw the truckers’ prayer chapel. Ahhhhhhh. Amazing. I smiled as I got a Miss Myra prayer hug from my friend Sean. Thank you. I needed that tonight.

  3. Lynn - October 27, 2021 8:29 am

    Yesterday I helped a good friend bury her husband. He had his 73rd birthday a couple of days after he died. After the service, I held my friend in my arms and we cried together a little bit. Later we texted each other. God was with us; we knew it — actually, we relied on that fact. And because we knew he was there, it was easier to grieve together.

    A couple of months ago my husband and I stood on a pier in Hong Kong, (where we live) and watched a spectacular sunset. Then we made our way back through the fishing village we were visiting, enjoying the decorations for Mid-Autumn Festival. It was basically a quiet little excursion for the two of us; to enjoy each other’s company, the full moon, and the sound of children laughing. As we enjoyed a quiet supper, I realized once again what a blessed and fulfilling life we have had together.

    Earlier this year friends told us their youngest son had cancer. He had to drop out of his first year of university to get the treatments he needed. Every single day we stormed Heaven on his behalf, petitioning God to spare his life and that he could live a full, productive life. We also prayed for his parents as they navigated a frightening, unlooked for reality. As of now, the boy is completely recovered and planning to return to school in February.

    These are the kinds of big things that come to mind when people think about prayer. But prayer is much more than just asking for stuff, or appreciating the stuff you have. It’s more of an attitude; an acknowledgement of God’s presence and His willingness to listen. When we say thanks. When we enjoy lunch with a friend. When we suddenly catch our breath at the unexpected — or suddenly perceived — beauty of nature. When we know we are loved, and give love in return. When we are hurting and in need of comfort. When we get exactly what we wanted; and when we get exactly what we needed, whether we wanted it or not. Prayer is our hand in Gods. Prayer is praising God for who he is and the way he made for us to get to him through Jesus.

    And it’s more. And more. And then so much more again. It’s the Christian life itself. With plenty of hugs thrown in.

    • Christine - October 27, 2021 11:42 am

      Thank you Sean and thank you Lynn.

      • Joyce hodder - October 27, 2021 4:33 pm

        My thoughts exactly Lynn. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Castle - October 27, 2021 9:31 am

    I drove cross-country for several years. During that time, I visited that same chapel from time to time. You brought back memories. Thanks!

  5. Phil - October 27, 2021 10:29 am

    The most beautiful defining of prayer ever. If you don’t feel it, you don’t get it. Seeing it in others is affirmation. Thank you, Sean.
    Thank you Myrna.
    And the people of the Lord said, ……🙏 AMEN.

  6. Steve McCaleb - October 27, 2021 11:11 am

    Your visit to Jackson, Georgia brought back a flood of memories. In August, 1969 a friend and I rolled a trailer-toter over 7 times within sight of the truck stop you’re talking about in your story. And we both walked away pretty much unhurt. Don’t tell me prayer doesn’t work….even a quick one while you’re rolling upside down in an interstate drainage ditch. Thank You Lord….

  7. Trudy - October 27, 2021 11:17 am

    Here’s a big virtual hug for you, Sean. I hope you feel it.
    I prayed for you this morning. I hope you feel the prayers and God’s love for you. Just converse with Him. He’ll hear you and wrap His loving arms around you.
    Love, hugs and prayers.

  8. Shirley Lieberman - October 27, 2021 11:39 am

    Thank you Sean for another poignant blog. I read your messages every morning. Actually you’ve become my morning meditation and prayer time. Please continue to write and fuel our spirits with your wit and wisdom.
    Blessings to you my friend.

  9. Janet - October 27, 2021 12:08 pm

    Oh my word, Sean, every morning I can’t wait to read your thought-filled writing. You’ve outdone yourself this morning!!! Sending you a hug from the Midwest.

  10. Steve Leachman - October 27, 2021 12:17 pm

    Your columns are how I start my day. After I pray to Jesus for forgiveness for all my sins. Which are too many to list. This column is a great definition of prayer. God knows what we want. Better yet He knows what we need and He provides. Thank you for all your wonderful stories. And the phase is “sharpest knife in the drawer.” But I think you knew that.

  11. Nancy Crews - October 27, 2021 12:53 pm

    ❤your writing.

  12. Suellen - October 27, 2021 12:57 pm

    Jesus taught us our to pray “Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name….”

  13. Karen - October 27, 2021 2:06 pm

    Ms.Myra had it right. 💖

  14. Linda keenum - October 27, 2021 2:19 pm

    oh Sean, i think you do pray, even if its not with a full theological understanding of prayer that you have. prayer, for most of us, is just talking to God. i see that you reference Him, so i do think you talk to him. i agree with you, it’s not listing your wants. to me, prayer is a conversation carried on all thru out the day: Yep, Lord you gave us a beautiful fall day today. Lord thank you for the love of my wife. Father, it’s night time now, help me sleep. Lord, did you see that idiot driving in front of me, help her get to where she is going without killing anyone! Hey, look at those puppies, Lord thank you for dogs!!! and on and on thru out the day, you are going along just talking to God, out loud or in your head, He knows all. When it’s time to cry out, you’ll know, when it’s time to be reverend, you’ll know. when it’s time to just enjoy the sunset, you do that too with an understanding that God gave it to you. Later on in life you can look back and say that you and God had a close relationship, you depended on HIm and He listened to you. what else is there?

    • Lynn - October 27, 2021 3:38 pm

      Exactly, Linda. You nailed it.

  15. Sue Adams - October 27, 2021 2:26 pm

    Thank you for this.

  16. Ron - October 27, 2021 2:34 pm


  17. Ron - October 27, 2021 2:36 pm


  18. Steve E Rafferty - October 27, 2021 2:38 pm


  19. Nancy Ferguson - October 27, 2021 3:22 pm

    Prayer is when You Talk to God. Meditation is when God Talks to You. It needs to be a conversation. ❤❤❤

  20. Linda Moon - October 27, 2021 6:06 pm

    I’ve been missing Otis and Thelma Lou. Write some more columns about your dogs, please. My understanding of prayer is simply, “You’re God; I’m not”, and I feel this in my heart. I’ve felt your hugs, Sean, in my bones and heart, too. They were Heavenly, and I hope to have more from you before the true Heavenly God embraces me.

  21. MAM - October 27, 2021 7:29 pm

    Prayer, I believe should be a two-way conversation between you and God. I can talk, ask a lot and thank a lot, but the hard part is listening. Although I firmly believe He is by my side at all times. I’m most aware when He saves me from doing stupid things!

  22. Patrick - October 27, 2021 7:35 pm

    If you read this, since you mentioned this chapel at this truck stop, did you also eat at the Waffle House near there?? If you did, I saw you, and highly regret not speaking to you! Thank you for being you!!

  23. Melanie - October 28, 2021 12:11 am

    Sending my prayers to Ms. Liz for those big things weighing heavily on her mind. (((Hugs)))

  24. Joe - October 28, 2021 4:16 am

    Thanks for helping me understand what I’ve seen and done all my life.

  25. Christina - October 28, 2021 6:05 am

    Oh I love that: “ Prayer is sternum”! Thank you Ms. Myra. I do believe that’s the connection that brings comfort and healing.

  26. Brad Isbell - October 28, 2021 1:43 pm

    I know your article was about prayer and not the Chapel; however — you know good & well there was only one small stack of those envelopes there! *grin*

    I am sorry you were put off by them, but we leave them there for the convenience of the drivers. This way no one is standing there asking them for money. (We never “pass a plate” in our Chapels, but we *are* totally funded by donations.)

    Good article, by the way!

  27. Pete Tucker - October 28, 2021 9:37 pm

    Poignant. Thanks.

  28. Sheryl - October 28, 2021 9:47 pm

    Someone sent me this quote. I don’t know who wrote it be it sure speaks…..

    I love this interpretation of a Prayer.
    What is a prayer? Prayer doesn’t only
    happen when we kneel or put our hands
    together and foous and expeot things from
    God. Thinking positive and wishing good for
    others is a prayer. When you hug a friend.
    That’s a prayer. When you oook something to
    nourish family and friends. That’s a prayer.
    When we send off our near and dear ones
    and say, ‘drive safely’ or be safe, That’s a
    prayer. When you are helping someone in
    need by giving your time and energy. You
    are praying. When you forgive someone,
    that is prayer. Prayer 1s a vibration. A
    feeling. A thought. Prayer is the voioe of
    love, friendship, genuine relationships.
    Prayer is an expression of your silent
    being. Keep praying always…


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