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Coronavirus healing, racial justice central to former Oklahoma State football player's Statewide Prayer Walk

Former Oklahoma State defensive back Jamie Thompson, seen returning an interception at Texas Tech in 2004, decided in mid-May to organize a prayer walk in Oklahoma City for coronavirus healing. A few weeks later when George Floyd was killed and racial strife bubbled over, he realized the event would be about more than he ever anticipated. [OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]
Former Oklahoma State defensive back Jamie Thompson, seen returning an interception at Texas Tech in 2004, decided in mid-May to organize a prayer walk in Oklahoma City for coronavirus healing. A few weeks later when George Floyd was killed and racial strife bubbled over, he realized the event would be about more than he ever anticipated. [OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]

Jamie Thompson built a career around anticipation.

It is a needed skill as a defensive back. Where is the receiver going? Where is the ball thrown? Where is the play heading? Thompson was good enough at determining those things to be a standout at Oklahoma State, then spend a couple seasons in the NFL.

But even with a nose for what was about to happen, he had no way of knowing what was coming when he first proposed doing a prayer walk. It was the middle of May, and Thompson was like everyone else then, dealing with effects of the coronavirus shutdown.

Seeing his city and his state heading toward re-opening, he felt a calling to bring people together for prayer in Oklahoma City.

“I really thought it was just gonna be about COVID-19 protection and praying for our city, for healing and no sickness,” Thompson said.

It has become something not even the former defensive back could've anticipated.

Sunday evening, Thompson's idea will become reality with the Statewide Prayer Walk at the Oklahoma state Capitol. There will still be prayers for physical, mental and economic healing from the pandemic, but the event will also focus on the racial strife that has gripped the country for the past month.

Thompson believes the way the prayer walk came together is divine.

The first call he made after hatching the idea was to Kevin Fouts, the senior pastor at Discovery Church in Yukon. Thompson teamed with Fouts and his church on several events when Thompson was an assistant football coach at Yukon High School.

“I knew that would definitely be open to going in and doing something like that,” Thompson said.

Fouts was.

Thompson then got buy-in from his best friend, Joel Tudman, also the founder and lead pastor at The Place of Faith in northeast Oklahoma City. They met at OSU where Tudman was and still is an assistant strength and conditioning coach.

As Thompson and others at Place of Faith were in the early stages of planning the prayer walk, George Floyd was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis. It sparked weeks of protests and unrest and a substantial shift in the conversation about racial justice.

“A light came on,” Thompson said, “like God speaking, ‘Yes, this is also what it’s about. Not just the COVID protection but also the racial injustice that’s been here in our country for so long.’

“I know it’s a God thing.”

It wasn't just the timing.

It was the people involved, too. In getting buy-in from Tudman and Fouts, Thompson had a predominantly black church and a predominantly white church heading up the prayer walk.

Fouts sensed the heavenly leading, too.

“This is about us not just talking about a subject,” he said, “but it’s about us being the example, walking hand in hand around the Capitol, praying with one another and for one another.”

Tudman said, “It is my prayer that it moves beyond prayer.”

He hopes new relationships are seeded during the event. He wants people from different backgrounds, different vocations, different worlds to meet, and then, he hopes those connections can continue long after the prayer walk is done.

“I would like to see it evolve from just talking to God to now we’re actually talking to each other,” he said.

Tudman knows there’s pressure on Americans of all stripes right now. Black and white are trying to figure out what to say, and oftentimes the pressure to have exactly the right words and avoid being shouted down keeps people from speaking at all.

“Prayer, to me, is a lane that everyone can get involved in,” Tudman said. “You don’t have to be outspoken. You can just get in the lane and pray.”

Sunday evening, there will be a short program at 6 p.m. on the south side of the Capitol. The prayer walk will then begin and go around the building three times, one for our state, one for pandemic healing and one for racial justice.

Thompson believes the Statewide Prayer Walk could become an annual event, but for now, he is excited about all that could happen Sunday evening.

“This is a barrier breaker,” he said. “This is a ground shaker.

“Us coming together with our faith, it shows our victory.”

Even if it's beyond anything he ever anticipated.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or jcarlson@oklahoman.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.

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STATEWIDE PRAYER WALK

When: 6 p.m. Sunday

Where: South side Oklahoma state Capitol

Questions: Email Jamie Thompson at ipray@theplaceoffaith.org.

Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›

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