After rounds of applause for government officials and community leaders at a National Day of Prayer service at Sacred Heart Cultural Center on Thursday night, a standing ovation was given to the one not only responsible for the event, but the day itself.
“We thank God,” said the Rev. Mike Freed, the pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church, as a crowd of more than 100 stood and applauded. “It’s God who makes this possible.”
The service at Sacred Heart, co-sponsored by the South Augusta Pastors’ Alliance and Mayor Deke Copenhaver’s office, closed a day of events in honor of the 61st National Day of Prayer.
The annual observance is held on the first Thursday in May.
Churches across the area opened their doors for prayer vigils from sunrise to sunset. People met in the streets of Aiken for an outdoor prayer service at lunchtime.
In North Augusta, another 100 met for the 23rd annual Mayor’s Prayer Luncheon held by Mayor Lark Jones. There, community leaders shared their prayers for national, state and local leaders; members of the armed services; the economy; and the difficult times many people face.
Several speakers at the day’s events stressed the importance of prayer itself.
“Today on this 61st observance of the National Day of Prayer, I submit that we must pray first,” U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver said to a crowd of
150 who gathered at First Baptist Church of Augusta for a breakfast benefiting Miracle Making Ministries, a local faith-based community development corporation. “Prayer must be put first above all other resources, actual or perceived.”
When Tarver accepted the invitation to speak at the breakfast, it created a stir in the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of Georgia.
“It generated quite a discussion,” Tarver said. “One employee in particular, one of our paralegals, took issue with the fact that I accepted an invitation to speak at a breakfast in recognition of the National Day of Prayer. And the only thing she could quote you as a support for her opposition was her belief in the separation of church and state.”
But it is prayer, Tarver said, that “has shaped American history and the American story.”
In 2009, Tarver was sworn in as the first black attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. On Thursday, he told of the impact prayer has had on the life of American leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Through prayer Dr. King found the support and the will to keep fighting for what he knew was right,” Tarver said.
Throughout the day, Copenhaver shared his belief in the power of prayer and its impact on Augusta.
“It is no secret I believe in the transformative power of prayer,” Copenhaver said at Sacred Heart. “There’s really no area of the city we aren’t seeing transformed now. ... Throughout this city God is transforming the physical landscape for better.”
The Rev. Edna Bradshaw, of the South Augusta Pastors’ Alliance, closed out the service, which including booming renditions of songs such as This Land is Your Land and God Bless America.
“Lord we come with thanksgiving from the bottom of our spirits and the depths of our souls,” she said. “We have knocked at the door of your love and kindness. … And now, Lord, we wait. We wait for the manifestation of our prayers.”