Leaders, citizens lift petitions on National Day of Prayer
Christians around Lee County came together in two venues Thursday afternoon to seek divine intervention in their individual and collective concerns.
About 300 people congregated for lunchtime ceremonies at St. Luke United Methodist Church, at 2916 Wicker St., and the Sanford Municipal Center, at 224 E. Weatherspoon St., to observe the National Day of Prayer — a tradition dating back more than 60 years. Another service was held at the Veterans’ Memorial in Broadway.
Congress passed an act authorizing the prayer day in 1952, and then-President Harry Truman signed it into law and also issued a proclamation supporting it. Every year since, the sitting U.S. president has signed a similar proclamation. Wednesday, President Barack Obama sent out his written support for Thursday’s event, in which he praised the unifying nature of prayer and expressed sympathy specifically for those affected by recent tragedies in Boston, Newtown, Conn. and West, Texas.
“Prayer brings communities together and can be a wellspring of strength and support,” Obama wrote. “In the aftermath of senseless acts of violence, the prayers of countless Americans signal to grieving families and a suffering community that they are not alone.”
Sanford Municipal Center
Turner’s Chapel Pastor Bruce MacInnes has organized the National Day of Prayer gathering at the Sanford Municipal Center for the past two decades and said prayers must begin to rise from Sanford.
“We need to be here,” MacInnes said. “We need prayer for our nation.”
City officials have always welcomed the group to gather in front of the building at the flagpoles facing Weatherspoon Street, MacInnes said, and have been supportive of their assembly.
Calvary Missionary Methodist Church Rev. Curtis Norris said during his prayer that people have turned away from God and tried to vote and live their own way.
They must come back to God and follow his direction, he said.
“There is no policy, no political person who can change our nation,” he said. “Only when we get back to the truth will our nation change.”
Linda Cox attended the event because of the sense of unity it fosters within the community, and Sanford’s dedication to praying for the city and Lee County.
People should be praying in their homes every day, said attendee Cathy Watts.
“This day, we pray as a community, a city and as a state,” Watts said. “Today, we lift our voices in prayer to share the love of the true, living God.”
Pastors Bob Yandle, Robbie Gibson, Ralph Douglas, David Kimbrell, David Yarborough, Norris and MacInnes offered prayers during the service.
St. Luke United Methodist Church
Although the YMCA is no longer officially referred to as the Young Men’s Christian Association, having rebranded itself in 2010 to simply The Y, its Christian values were front and center during the prayer luncheon it sponsored Thursday at St. Luke UMC. Those assembled heard prayers from several speakers, including an energetic James White as keynote speaker.
White, senior vice president of leadership development for the YMCA of the Triangle, said he hates going to prayer events where people don’t talk about the act of praying itself — something he said often becomes more complicated than it needs to be.
Quoting from the Gospel of Matthew, he relayed the story of Jesus telling his disciples not to be ostentatious in their prayers — but rather to be simple and straightforward. Even in modern society, he said, some people value the way they sound when they pray over the things they want to pray for.
Especially at group prayer sessions, he said, there are sometimes misguided competitions to be the most spiritual-sounding person in the room.
Jesus told his disciples that God is omniscient and thus already knows what every person is going to pray for, White said, so there’s no need for fancy presentation. As long as the request is honest and intimate, it will do.
“Most of us have heard prayers that we didn’t understand, words that we didn’t understand, and thought we couldn’t pray,” he said, adding that no one should be intimidated into not praying because they’re scared of how it might sound: “The best prayers are the simplest ones anyway.”
And when he ended his speech and began his own prayer, he thanked God for the simplicity which the Bible not only allows but encourages.
“We don’t even have to know the right words,” White said. “Because you know how it will end.”
Also during the luncheon, Brian Parker, who is pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, gave a prayer, as did Terry Schroeder and Aubrey Wilder.
Those assembled also recognized Stephanie Hillman, who is volunteer of the year.