Victoria man measures prayer results for 22 years (video)
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The murmurs and trembling of prayer utterances inside Faith Family's Studio 45 on Saturday morning surrounded Dr. Constantine Stoilis as he lowered his head in prayer.
The room's bright colors and three-dimensional wall art - meant to stimulate the imaginations of children the other six days of the week - did little to distract his concentration.
His eyes were closed and still. His lips moved gently yet produced no sound.
Like other members of the church's Saturday morning prayer group, Stoilis prepared to sit for as long as he needs to complete his prayer time. It's a task he endures each Saturday - one he's participated in for more than three decades.
Three hours have passed since the group started praying at 7:30 a.m.
"We could be here until 1 p.m.; it just depends on when we're finished," he said, smiling.
But Faith Family's Saturday morning group isn't like other prayer groups, Stoilis admits.
They don't pray for their own prosperity or for the benefit of personal gain.
They pray with fervor for the good of humanity, requesting divine intercession from God to better their church, the nation and the city of Victoria.
"We pray for the president and all of our leaders. We pray for peace in our city, our nation and in Israel. We pray for our police officers, for their protection and for our troops to be safe. We pray to reduce and prevent inclement weather. We pray for the prosperity of Faith Family Church," he said, holding a printed worksheet of bulleted prayer items for the group.
But there's one item on the worksheet that stands out for Stoilis, a specific prayer item that he's been focused on changing since founding the prayer group 33 years ago.
Stoilis said every Saturday morning, his prayer group prays specifically for the reduction of class 1 crimes in Victoria.
And for the past 22 years, he's been charting crime statistics in Victoria, using monthly Victoria Police Department crime reports, in an attempt to quantify prayer results and the effectiveness of corporate prayer.
"Since we've been praying for class 1 crimes to go down in Victoria, which includes murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, basically your dangerous crimes, we have seen a 45 percent reduction in crime in the past 22 years," Stoilis said. "Being in the science field (as a dentist), I'm a facts and figures person. I like to see measurable results. I like to see what God does."
Stoilis said he learned about quantifiable prayer many years ago after listening to a sermon about measurable prayer results.
"It put something in my head that day that prayer is measurable and can have results," he said.
So in 1991, Stoilis began charting Victoria's crime reduction, updating his graph each year. The decline in class 1 crime was the lowest crime rate since the group began praying, he said.
Victoria Police Chief, J.J. Craig said he was impressed with Faith Family's Saturday morning prayer group's commitment to praying for the city for more than three decades and was surprised to hear the group had been charting their prayer results.
After reviewing Stoilis' chart, Craig agreed the 45 percent crime reduction was an accurate estimate.
"I would say the numbers are pretty accurate. It tells me they've done their homework," Craig said.
Craig admits there are many factors that may play a role in Victoria's class 1 crime decreases, but said he cannot deny that prayer may have also been a component.
"I was very impressed with this group's commitment to praying for us and for (crime reduction) for all of these years," the chief said. "There's a lot of factors that go into crime rates going up or down, but I'm not going to deny the power of prayer. ... I'll take all the help I can get."
Stoilis notes that after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the Saturday morning prayer group stopped praying for Victoria's crime rates for about a year and a half and focused on praying for the nation.
"You can see on the chart, our crime rates go back up," he said, pointing to his chart.
After the group began praying for class 1 crimes again in 2003, Stoilis said crime rates again begin to fall.
"It sure does seem like when you pray, coincidences seem to happen," he said.
Longtime prayer group member Joyce Brown, a retired Victoria County extension agent, said she believes the city is safer because of the Saturday morning prayer group.
"I believe in the power of prayer. Every Christian should be praying for their city. We are a light sitting on a hill," Brown said. "We should be angry at the crime rates, and that should motivate us to pray."
Brown, like Stoilis, said they know their group is not alone in their commitment to praying for the city. There are many other churches and prayer groups praying for Victoria, Stoilis said, and each of them are doing their part to bring peace to the city.
Yet each of them agree there is something special about their weekly prayer group.
"I just believe this group is specially anointed," Brown said, grinning. "I don't believe a group could stay together in prayer for 33 years if it wasn't anointed by God.
Stoilis said he is pleased to pray for his city each week and believes it is something God has asked of him. And each week he hopes the goodness of the gospels may bring peace to people of Victoria.
"The power of God is so strong here," he said. "Prayer works, and I promise it's not ego. That's just spiritual law."