Evangelist Oral Roberts is sending out millions of letters in a fund-raising venture claiming that Jesus appeared to him and told him God had chosen the evangelist to find the cure for cancer.

This "supernatural breakthrough," according to Roberts' letters and messages on his television program this month, will occur at Roberts' controversial unfinished Tower of Faith research center in Tulsa.

Roberts said Jesus told him to ask his hundreds of thousands of "prayer partners" to send in $240 each to complete the center so it can find cures for cancer and "other dread diseases."

In exchange, the appeal letter said, Roberts would send a set of 48 tapes containing his commentary on the books of the New Testament.

The letter also promised the prayer partners that they would receive up to 14 special blessings -- "spectacular things of [God's] miracle power" -- in their lives as they obeyed God. These included better health, peace in the family, increased mental ability and more money and success. Roberts quoted the Lord as saying, "Tell them this is not Oral Roberts asking [for the $240], but their Lord."

Two years ago, Roberts obtained millions of dollars in donations for his City of Faith Medical Center by claiming in a fund-raising letter that he had been a "vision" of a 900-foot-tall Jesus over the center. His 60-story diagnostic clinic and 30-story hospital there were opened in 1981 after a battle with state authorities who said that the city already had a surplus of hospital facilities.

An Israeli archeologist has found a silver amulet with the earliest inscription of God's name ever found in Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Post has reported.

The Hebrew letters Yod, Heh, Vav, Heh -- Yahweh or Jehovah -- were engraved on an amulet found in a seventh century B.C. tomb chamber by archeologist Gabriel Barkay of Tel Aviv University, according to the newspaper.

Barkay found the amulet three years ago, but the tiny rolled-up scroll has only recently been unrolled by modern technology. The rest of the writing is still being deciphered, the paper said.

The tomb chamber, in which gifts to the dead were placed by their bones, was found on a hill in the Valley of Hinnom in a trove of artifacts.

Barkay was quoted as saying in a lecture in Jerusalem that because papyrus and similar writing materials were perishable, there was no written record of God's name before the Hellenistic period several centuries later.

A federal judge in Mobile, Ala., refused this week to postpone his ruling allowing teachers in Alabama public schools to lead students in prayer or to permit them to pray silently in class.

U.S. District Judge W. Brevard Hand, after meeting with lawyers for both sides in a test case on the issue, turned down a plea to keep his ruling from going into effect. Ronnie L. Williams, lawyer for a family that had challenged two Alabama laws on school prayers, said he would ask the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to block the ruling until it could be appealed.

Hand ruled last week that the provisions of the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment's separation of church and state, were not meant to apply to state laws such as those in Alabama relating to school prayers.

The ruling means that Alabama teachers are free to observe a minute of silence for "meditation or voluntary prayer" under a 1981 law or to lead "willing students" in a prayer written by the state legislature in 1982.

The Supreme Court has refused repeatedly to permit teacher-led prayers in public schools. It has not yet ruled on the constitutionality of a moment of silence in which students may pray. A somewhat similar "moment of silence" law in Tennessee has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge, and one recently passed in New Jersey has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge.

The Supreme Court, meanwhile, rejected an appeal this month from a Texas school district to review a lower court decision striking down a policy permitting students to gather for religious purposes before and after school hours.

At issue was a 1980 policy of the Lubbock Independent School District permitting students "to gather at the school with supervision either before or after regular school hours on the same basis as other groups... for any education, moral, religious or ethical purposes so long as attendance at such meetings is voluntary."