It's after 9 a.m. on a Saturday, and the lights on the telephone are flickering with callers waiting to talk with the Rev. Roan Samuel Faulkner, host of "New Life Ministries Broadcast" on WWIN 1400 AM in Baltimore.
"This is Bishop Faulkner, you're on the air," says the minister of Columbia Apostolic Church, which holds services at Talbott Springs Elementary School in east Columbia's Village of Oakland Mills. "Please, go ahead."
A woman asks him to pray for her pastor, her congregation -- and for her runaway daughter.
"My 16-year-old, she's out there in the world," says the caller, obviously concerned. "She's been gone three days and I haven't heard from her."
Standing in front of a bulky microphone in the studio in downtown Baltimore, Mr. Faulkner closes his eyes and prays. "Lord, touch her mind and touch her heart right now," says the Apostolic minister, his voice growing in volume and intensity. "I pray you work a miracle and let her return home."
For more than two years, Mr. Faulkner has prayed for such souls over the airwaves. He draws listeners from throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area, averaging more than 20 callers during each half-hour show, says the producer, the Rev. Fred Pitts of Baltimore.
The program -- Mr. Faulkner's creation -- provides spiritual comfort to the devout and the unchurched alike. It is especially prized by those who cannot go out to church, such as the elderly and sick, he says.
His callers include 31-year-old Doris Smith of West Baltimore, who first phoned the show on May 4, 1994.
"I was having a battle with smoking," she recalls, adding that Mr. Faulkner prayed for her and "instantly" she was cured. "I haven't lifted a cigarette since," says Ms. Smith who now calls the show once a month, requesting help with her finances and physical well-being.
Such religious radio programs have been a fixture of the airwaves nationwide for at least 75 years, says Sarah Smith, spokeswoman for the National Religious Broadcasters, a trade group with 830 members based in Manassas, Va.
Overall, religious radio represented 12.5 percent of the entire radio industry last year, the trade group says.
Mr. Faulkner began his show because of a desire to spread his religious work beyond his 70-member Columbia congregation.
Since he went on the air in 1993, he says, listeners have been "delivered" from cigarette smoking, depression and other problems, says Mr. Faulkner, 48, who lives in Woodstock.
"Prayer is a powerful weapon," he says, in explaining his motivation. "Prayer has changed my life."
It is a conviction reinforced by personal experience, he says. On Feb. 11, 1978, "I was struck with an aneurysm -- a broken blood vessel in the head" and rushed to Baltimore's Good Samaritan Hospital.
"I was in excruciating pain," he recalls. "My head felt as if someone had a knife and cut every fiber in my head."
His pastor prayed for him, and some congregants visited him in the hospital on a Sunday -- the day before his scheduled surgery.
When Monday came, the doctor said: " 'There's no need for us to operate on you.' The blood vessel had knitted back together again,' " Mr. Faulkner says. "We don't know how and don't know why.
"I've been well ever since, and that's through prayer," he adds.
To prepare for his live radio show, Mr. Faulkner arrives early on Saturdays. He reviews the Scriptures and secures his headphones.
One recent Saturday is typical. He begins by giving "the word for today," a reading from Psalm 51, which talks about the consciousness of sin.
"In our world the people are crying out for change," he preaches over the air. "I listened to the news and people are saying, 'Throw out [Bill] Clinton and put in Bob Dole.'
"Even if you throw out Bill Clinton and put in Bob Dole nothing's going to change," he continues. "The only way to do that is to allow Jesus Christ to come in, and he will heal you."
Later, he opens the telephone lines. The callers include a woman seeking a clear mind to take a college placement test.
"You can do it," Mr. Faulkner tells the nervous test-taker. "Your mind is going to be clear, and you'll be able to function in Jesus' name. Lord bless you."
Another caller needs spiritual help with a different kind of struggle.
"I ask to be delivered from smoking cigarettes," says the woman.
"I want you to get those cigarettes right now," Mr. Faulkner tells the frustrated smoker. "Take the cigarettes out of the pack.
"You have them in your hand?" he asks, as sweat beads bubble on his forehead.
"Yes," she responds.
"I want you to crush the cigarettes in your hand. This is the beginning of your deliverance," he says.
"Go to the bathroom now -- quickly -- and flush them."
Soon, it's 9: 30 a.m., time for him to give his sign-off: "This is Bishop Faulkner saying, peace be with you."
Pub Date: 3/12/96