Five Dollars and a Prayer

Article by Malcolm Marler


This past Sunday our pastor did something you rarely see in church just before the offering plate was passed.


Bob said, “I want a representative from each family to take $5 OUT of the offering plate and be open to giving it away this week to someone who needs it.  No strings attached.  Just see what happens in your life.  You’ll know the right time to give it away.  Become a hilarious giver.  See what that feels like.”


When the offering plate came by, I took the $5 out of the offering plate and put it in my wallet.  I was tempted to buy lunch with it one day but thankfully I resisted!


And so I was in my office recently in the Pastoral Care department when Cynthia said two persons had just come in and they wanted to talk with a Chaplain.


I came out of my office to find a young man, not yet 21, with his mother.  They told me their story about having a family member in the hospital and that it didn’t look like the patient would live.  They had been here for a few weeks and were from out of town.


We would like someone to pray with us and for our family member,” they said.  “We also want to know when your worship service is in your chapel so we can come.”


The young man added, “I want to give my life over to God.  I haven’t really lived the way I should, I’ve done some stupid things in my life.  I have taken a lot of things for granted.  I know this isn’t the way to get God to do what I want, but I just need to do this for my own sake, no matter what.”


We talked for awhile longer and I had held both of their hands and prayed with them.  I asked God to help “Mark” know there was nothing he had ever done, nor anything he would ever do; that would keep God from loving him.  I thanked God for Mark’s openness to welcoming God into his life.  I prayed for strength and peace and healing in their lives and for their loved one.


Before they left, I remembered and pulled the $5 bill out of my wallet.


I said, “This isn’t much but one of you can get a Subway sandwich with it.”  They said together, “No, no, no, we didn’t come in here looking for a handout!  In fact, we wanted to give you a tithe of our money.  Can we give you this $20?”


“Thank you, but I can’t,” I added.  ”But let me tell you the story of this $5 bill.”


I told them what my pastor said on Sunday and added, “I’ve been waiting all week to know who I was supposed to give this to, and now I know you are the ones. This is a small gift that has been waiting for you.”  With tears in all of our eyes, and a lump in my throat, I got tight hugs from both while they thanked me as if I had given them $100 bills.  I wondered if it was for the money, or the prayer, or both?  It doesn’t matter.


I want to be a hilarious giver in my life.  But sometimes, I hold on to money too tight.  I dole out my time in small increments.  Too often I worry too much about running out.  Do you do that too?  Or am I the only one?


Next week, I want to use my own money, and my time, and I will give it away when it is needed.  No strings attached.  I don’t want to hold back.  It’s so crazy, it’s hilarious.


Will you join me?


“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
-William Arthur Ward


“Sometimes we hold on to our possessions because we fear we might run out – life seems scarce. But when we believe that giving is the way to live, we will produce more in the future – life seems abundant.”
-John C. Maxwell


Malcolm Marler is Director of Pastoral Care for UAB Hospital in Birmingham, AL.  In addition to his interest in spirituality and health, he loves to identify physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of persons, then design and build programs that help meet those needs.  His warmth and humor along with his powerful message of hope and grace is his greatest strength.  Malcolm grew up in Alabama and attended Clemson University (S.C.) on a football scholarship as a defensive back where he graduated with a B.A. degree in Psychology.  He is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY with Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees.  Malcolm lives on a lake in North Alabama with the love of his life, Mary Bea Sullivan.  He has two open-hearted, loving stepchildren, Brendan and Kiki who are both freshman in college.  For more information or to contact Malcolm, please visit


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Posted on 14 November, 2009 in Gratitude, Helping Others, Inspirational Stories
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