Dr. Jomo Cousins, a Florida pastor known globally as the ‘Prayer Guy,’ has released a comprehensive workbook designed to help readers establish a closer relationship with God through prayer.
BY JENISE GRIFFIN
Long before Dr. Jomo Cousins’ new prayer book was released, the popular Florida-based pastor had garnered worldwide recognition and respect as the “Prayer Guy.”
For nearly 11 years, the senior pastor of Love First Christian Center in Riverview has consistently hosted a 6:30 a.m. weekday prayer line which can be accessed via social media, including Facebook, YouTube and Periscope.
For about 20 minutes Monday through Friday, the high-spirited pastor delivers live, scripture packed prayers and shares his trademark motivational nuggets to thousands of listeners through the church’s prayer line.
Then on Sundays, he preaches to thousands at his church’s three contemporary, biblicallydriven worship services, which are streamed live on the church’s website (LFCC.TV) and via social media. In addition, he hosts a Fresh Wind radio program and has a column that appears in the Christian Voice, a monthly publication.
Goal: One billion souls
The successful entrepreneur, motivational speaker and former NFL player has another lofty goal: He wants to reach one billion people through prayer. Yes. One BILLION.
For a while, the goal was one million. But he’s pretty sure he has surpassed that figure.
“God told me a million was too small. I think I’ve already reached a million people,’’ Cousins told the Florida Courier. He estimates that the prayer line is reaching more than 100,000 people a month based on numbers he has been able to track via Facebook Live and other social media vehicles that stream his morning prayers.
Thus, his latest book, “Prayer Life: The Conversation – The Workbook that Helps You to Work and Pray Through Life,’’ is a natural progression for the pastor who says people are streaming in on the prayer line from nearly every continent in the world.
Questions and answers
In “Prayer Life,’’ Cousins guides readers on a journey destined to move them to a closer relationship with God through prayer. The 327-page workbook is filled with questions that prompt self-reflection and includes a Frequently Asked Questions chapter pertaining to prayer.
Other chapters deal with the importance of daily prayer, the connection between prayer and trouble, potential reasons for unanswered prayer, dealing with disappointments, and the need for an attitude of thanksgiving. An audio version of the book also is available.
Cousins already has two books under his belt – “Fully Equipped: God’s Total Package’’ and “The ABC’s of Success.’’
‘An investment of time’
For those who want to move toward a more successful life, Cousins said it starts with prayer.
“Spiritual warfare is real, Cousins relates, ‘’and every Christian should be armed with the tools to walk in the footsteps of God’s promise.’
Cousins is often asked about his ability to quickly recite multiple scriptures from memory at a time – chapter and verse – during his prayers.
“It’s an investment of time,” he told the Courier. “I read Scripture a lot in reference to prayer. I’ve done it long enough. I also think it’s my gift. It’s amazing how God will download it to me.’’
Wherever he goes in the world now, he’s recognized. Cousins said he’s often stopped when traveling in the U.S., and out of the country with his family. It usually starts with this question: “Are you the Prayer Guy?’’
The 44-year-old Cousins says in his book, “It was never my intent to be the “Prayer Guy’’ or the young pastor who prays in the morning. My goal was simply to be obedient to God. I made a decision that I really wanted to be about God’s business.’’
“I set my heart that I was going to make what was important to Him important to me. I
made a commitment that I was going to start praying on a daily basis. This was a personal commitment (covenant) between me and God.’’
He’s not surprised by the popularity of the prayer line. The key to the success is the consistency. The discipline.
“If you can be consistent in an inconsistent world, your light will shine. People are looking for something that’s stable,’’ he remarked.
Even while on vacation and on holidays that fall on a weekday, he shows up. And even when his throat hurts.
“I know this is what God called me to. I don’t wrestle with it,” he noted.
Cousins’ own journey has included a number of triumphs as well as trials.
The son of Jennifer Newman and George Cousins was born in Kingston, Jamaica. His childhood was spent in Washington, D.C.
He chose to attend Florida A&M University (FAMU) and major in economics. Cousins soon became a standout defensive end on the football team and eventually was drafted in 1998 by the Arizona Cardinals. After a stint in the NFL, he was sidelined because of injuries. He retired from pro football and embarked on a business and consulting career before heeding his call into the ministry.
Cousins, who said he didn’t grow up in the church, credits Pro Football Hall of Famer Aeneas Williams with “leading him to the Lord’’ after he was invited to a Bible study at Williams’ home while they were with the Cardinals.
“He reached down to me. He changed me,” Cousins said.
Love First launches
In July 2008, he started Love First Christian Center in Riverview with the support of his wife, Charmaine, whom he met at FAMU. She also is a pastor at the church.
In its first year, the church had grown to a weekly attendance of 300. The Cousins received their doctorate degrees at Tabernacle Bible College.
In 2016, the church moved into its debt-free edifice at 12847 Balm River Road in Riverview, a small city located in East Hillsborough County. The three Sunday services – 7:45 a.m., 9:45 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. – attracts more than 2,000 total worshipers. Because of its burgeoning growth, plans already are in the works for a larger sanctuary and an expansive youth center.
But in January 2015, while the church was flourishing, the senior pastor’s life took a devastating turn.
Season of sickness
After visiting a doctor because of a loss of appetite, a blocked intestine was discovered. He was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. Then came chemotherapy.
The cancer didn’t sideline him for long. His wife and another pastor preached for a couple of Sundays each, then he was back in the pulpit – even while wearing a chemo pack.
While undergoing treatment at a chemotherapy induction lab in Brandon, he found himself summoned to pray. He ministered to patients as well as the medical staff. Some of the nurses at the lab are now members of his church.
And then there were his seasons of loss. His mother died in 2010, his father a year later in 2011, and a brother died last year.
In 2012, his daughter Jamya became ill. At age 15, she’s battling an autoimmune disease.
Cousins and his wife also have two sons – Jomo II, 20, who is a student at FAMU, and Josiah, 11.
His transparency about his own illness, his daughter’s illness as well as his losses have helped to draw people in. Cousins explained that it resonates with people that he hasn’t seen the “manifestation’’ yet of his daughter’s healing.
Praying through it
There are times on the prayer line when the tears fall and he can’t help it.
“It’s not my goal to cry. On those days, it seems we get the greatest response,’’ said, adding that the callers can relate that he and his family are going through struggles just like them.
“We’re not always in a good place; we’re human. As I go through my seasons, I pray my way through,’’ he shared.
His favorite prayer? “Lord, help me with me.’’
“I learned my greatest enemy is not the devil; but my poor choices,” he explains. “God provided Adam and Eve with a clear directive. In their haste and misguidance, they choose the wrong path. With that being said, it is always my prayer for God to help me through my imperfection to grow into His perfection.’’
Paid medical debts
In December, Cousins also made news when he paid $1.3 million in medical debts for about 800 residents living in Riverview, Gibsonton and Wimauma through RIP Medical Debt, a company that buys and abolishes medical debt. At pennies or less on the dollar, donor money is used to pay off debt.
Cousins, who knows all too well how staggering medical bills can be, saw it as an opportunity be a blessing to people in the area his church is located. He has received “incredible’’ feedback from the people who were blessed as well as others who were just impressed with the church’s generosity.
His own sickness also taught him to take more time for rest and relaxation, something pastors don’t always do. Cousins shared that’s he’s “releasing more and trusting more.’’
“I’ve learned going through cancer, I’ve done too much. I don’t do Bible studies anymore,” he added, relating that it’s led by other ministers at his church. “I pulled back. I delegate more.’’
Casting his cares
In “Prayer Life: The Conversation,’’ Cousins says that 1 Peter 5:7 is one of his favorite passages in the Bible because it seems to capture his prayer life the best.
“I have learned in trying to be a good husband, a good father and a good pastor that I fail to make everyone happy at the same time,” he stated. “So, I have learned to cast my cares upon the Lord. We have choices that we have to make on a daily basis; we can carry our burdens or cast our burdens. I choose to cast them.’’
For more information on the book and Dr. Jomo Cousins, visit JomoCousins.com.