By Hannah Lester
Jani Price is the name behind the explosive, local movement, Park and Pray. But, she wants no credit to her name.
“For months, I had had the intensity of, ‘This community needs praying over,’” Price said. “This was way before COVID and this was really in 2019, there were horrific things, surprising, horrific and evil.
“… I knew I was supposed to pray over the community and there were gracious people that answered that call as well, and we did pray over the community. And then COVID hit.”
Park and Pray began in spring 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as cases began to rise and more and more patients flooded into East Alabama Medical Center.
Price said she felt a strong calling from The Lord to pray over patients, staff, nurses, doctors at EAMC as everything began to take a turn for the worst.
She called up chaplain Laura Eason and asked if she could bring a group to the parking deck to pray every morning at 7 a.m. and every evening at 7 p.m. and flash car lights at the hospital so those inside would know they were being covered in prayer.
Price was already a part of a group that would gather every Tuesday to pray over the hospital. And after receiving the go-ahead from Eason, Price put out a call to her community asking that they join her on the top deck of the EAMC parking deck.
“This was not me,” Price said. “It was not me. It was God a 100% and it was the special community … It was just the Lord calling His people. There is no question. I just opened my mouth and went a little bit and He exploded it.
“… By Saturday, it had exploded. I didn’t do that. I didn’t do that at all. And without these other women who answered the call as well, one little car on top of the parking deck would not have been much of an impact.”
EAMC was not the only hospital to participate in Park and Pray, Price said, following the start in Lee County. Other hospitals around Alabama, and some in Georgia, picked it up too.
“The community came,” she said. “And honestly, there are just countless stories of the Holy Spirit just moving. And from Laura Eason’s point of view, she just said it was so uplifting. And some of that, you also don’t want to focus on the event, but just think about all those prayers. All that time.
“… That is the specialness and the intensity of this community and the prayer-minded people of this community. They could have stayed at home and prayed but they did make the effort to let it be known.”
Every year Auburn Mayor Ron Anders presents six lamplighter awards to local members of the community who spark change and make a difference.
This year, in October, Price was one of those six award winners.
“Our next lamplighter led an extraordinary effort to pray for the patients, the doctors, the nurses and the staff at East Alabama (at that time) Medical Center,” Anders said. “By following a directive from her God, she inquired about praying for the worn-out staff as the pandemic raged on. Told that the initiative must remain outside, she [brought] in what can only be called ‘a movement.’
“Park and Pray started as a question and became a point of encouragement to those on the frontlines. One person prayed, felt led by God to do more, worked with Chaplain Laura, put out a call to the community and sustained an effort.”
Price had no idea the lamplighter award was coming.
“It was really fun to receive the award and I was totally surprised,” she said. “… Even when Ron Anders started to speak about the Park and Pray, it still … I would never let Laura Eason say who started this. Because I cannot claim it.”
Price said that she feels like the lamplighter award belongs to the community.
“This is what our community did at a very difficult time,” she said. “… It really ought to be somewhere for fifteen years from now for somebody to look at it, without my name, and it be, ‘look at this community that we live in, it’s a pretty neat place.’”
This is the first in a series of six pieces on the lamplighter winners from Auburn Mayor Ron Anders’ State of the City Address.