Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
CHEROKEE COUNTY —
It's rooted deep in the nation's heritage, and since 1988, the first Thursday in May has been dedicated as National Day of Prayer.
“I think any time our churches, (our people) can come together for the purpose of asking God for healing, for strength, is a good thing,” said Donnie Barron, pastor of Rusk's First Baptist Church and president of the local Ministerial Alliance.
According to the website, nationaldayofprayer.org, NDP is meant to encourage people to pray for the country's leaders and it's families.
The site points out that the first Continental Congress called for a National Day of Prayer in 1775, as did President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, but it wasn't until nearly two centuries later – in 1952 – that “Congress established (it) as an annual event by a joint resolution, signed into law by President Truman.”
Three decades later, that law was amended and signed in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan, who set a date in early May as the official National Day of Prayer, according to the website.
The theme for this year's event – slated May 2 – comes from Matthew 12:21, “In his name the nations will put their hope.”
“And I think that's what we're needing now, and uniting in prayer with everyone all over the country, which gives us strength,” he said. “It's a crucial time right now for us as a nation, and prayer is the most important thing we can do.
His counterpart, Jacksonville Ministerial Alliance president David Butler, agreed.
“It's important because there has never been a time more urgent for our communities to come together more than now,” said the senior pastor at People's Church, which is hosting this year's event. “People are hurting, they are in need and our public (servants) and our schools face new challenges that have never been as great as they are now. So to lift them up in prayer shows unity, which God blesses. And it shows the community that we do care.”
The Jacksonville church – located at 14089 U.S. 79 East – will open its doors to the community at 6 a.m. Thursday, giving people an opportunity to step inside the sanctuary for a moment of prayer. The church will remain open throughout the day, which culminates in a 6 p.m. prayer service that is open to the public.
During the gathering, representatives from different public service entities will be recognized and prayed over, Butler said.
In Rusk, “we're very blessed in our community to be able to do this in our local courthouse,” with local county and city officials taking part in the event – slated noon Thursday in the county courtroom – “asking for God's help and God's healing,” Barron said.
“We encourage everybody to pray, to just pause and ask God to bless our country,” whether it's among those gathered at the event or in a quiet space of their own, he said.