Pray On It

Her spiritual powers keep the family in line

By Norris Burkes
November 2023

PK is an old-time church abbreviation for “preacher’s kid.”

My wife and I are both PKs. Her dad pastored Fairvale Baptist Church for 49 years in Fair Oaks. My father pastored multiple churches, moving us every three or four years to a different California congregation.

We were PKs and proud of it. But my siblings and I knew our title was sometimes applied in a pejorative sense to describe bratty kids that ran unabated through the sanctuary before and after service.

As in when the choir director stage-whispered to the choir, “Wouldn’t you know it? It’s those PKs running through here like hooligans!”

My mom used to advise me that if I was ever asked why PKs don’t behave, I should tell my detractor that PKs are bratty because they spend too much time around DKs—deacon’s kids.

I suppose it was inevitable that Becky and I would have our own gaggle of PKs. After I graduated from seminary, we welcomed our firstborn the way most people do. But over the next five years we moved through the process of adopting a sibling group of three.

So, I often tell people we have one homemade child and three store-bought children. My humor means no disrespect to the adoption choice. In fact, quite the opposite.

I use the expression to convey a sense of purposeful decision. We didn’t simply want more children. We wanted these children.

But I must tell you prayer was the only way we could raise four children.

And Mrs. Chaplain was a PW. No, not pastor’s wife.

She has a reputation as a PW, prayer warrior. I use the term warrior because her prayers sometimes result in people getting hurt.

Some years ago, she prayed that our college-age daughter, Sara, would find a way to get more rest. Sara was a world traveler, an avid lacrosse player and majoring in three subjects.

Prayer outcome: A week later, Sara broke her thumb. It wasn’t an ordinary break. It required surgery and rehab. I guess the prayer worked. Sara dropped her extracurricular activities and lived a slower-paced life.

Simultaneously, my wife prayed to find more quality time with our then 12-year-old daughter, Nicole. With Sara recovered from thumb surgery, Nicole broke her foot. The doctor prescribed no walking, and Nicole spent many hours with Becky during the next two months. Prayer request granted.

About the same time, Becky started praying for me. Like my oldest daughter, I had been keeping a hectic schedule.

Becky prayed I’d reduce my writing deadlines to spend quality time with family. Her prayer established a “target lock” on me one Saturday afternoon as I finished a writing project and was assembling my entry for a contest, all while multitasking on a sermon in the midst of making travel arrangements for another cross-country speaking tour.

I grabbed my chest. Pain stretched from navel to throat. Breathing hurt. I thought, heartburn, I’ll be OK. But as a hospital chaplain, I’d heard too many people sing the heartburn tune of denial that later turned out to be their funeral dirge.

With the calm demeanor of a drowning rat, I asked my PW to drive me to the emergency room. Within a few minutes of arrival, I took my first nitroglycerin tablet. The pain subsided.

The short version of this story is I spent 23 hours in the cardiac ward under observation. Diagnosis: heartburn from hell.

The prayer hit its mark with precision, but fortunately was only a warning shot. My busy schedule slowed significantly. My wife cut another notch in her prayer belt.

At this point, I should say if you’ve read this far and still want me to pass on a prayer request to the PW, be forewarned. I’ll ask you to sign a release form.

Norris Burkes can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento. Burkes is available for public speaking at civic organizations, places of worship, veterans groups and more. For details and fees, visit

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