Originally created 04/28/01

Day of Prayer seeks to unite nation under God



Evangelist Billy Graham composed simple words of gratitude, trust and a desire for moral and spiritual renewal in his prayer for the 50th annual National Day of Prayer on Thursday.

After praising God for "blessings far beyond what we deserve," the 82-year-old preacher and honorary chairman of the event, wrote "All is not right with America ... (but) may this be a new era for America as we humble ourselves."

Few of the more than 2 million participants expected to cross denominational lines to pray for government leaders would disagree.

While the National Day of Prayer is a Christian event, organizers hope people of all faiths will embrace the theme "One Nation Under God," based on Psalm 33:12.

There will be four main observances in this area, one each in Aiken and North Augusta and two in Augusta.

Lisa Van Riper, a political science teacher at North Greenville (S.C.) College, will draw from the writings of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah in her remarks for the Greater Aiken Observance. St. John's United Methodist Church, 104 Newberry St. N.W. in Aiken, will sponsor the 6:30 p.m. event.

Jeremiah addresses the duties citizens owe their government, such as praying for its welfare, Mrs. Van Riper said. But "what happens when a nation is no longer `one nation under God'?"

Jeremiah is a warning for nations who forget God, said Mrs. Van Riper, who grew up in Springfield, S.C., and calls her talk "theological reflections of a Dixie chick."

She won the National Governors' Association Distinguished Service award in 1998 for establishing the Putting Families First Foundation, a program that enlists churches to help people make the transition from welfare to work. Mrs. Van Riper is the foundation's executive director.

Judge David Watkins will be the featured speaker at the Augusta Mayor's Breakfast at the Sheraton Augusta Hotel, 2651 Perimeter Parkway, at 7:30 a.m.

Reservations are $15 for the event, organized by Miracle Making Ministries. Call 722-8693.

Judge Watkins said he wants to talk about some of the nitty-gritty issues involved in living a Christian life today. "It will hopefully show that Christianity lived out is Christianity with its sleeves rolled up and trying to do all of that against the backdrop of the times we live. It is like Chuck Colson said, it is kind of living in the new dark ages."

The Rev. Alan Faulkner, staff chaplain at Medical Oncology Associates; Dr. Johnny Hatney, pastor of Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church; Melvin Thorton; Army Chaplain (Capt.) James E. May of Fort Gordon; and the Rev. Bill Hilley, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Evans, will lead prayers on the steps of the Municipal Building, 530 Greene St., at 12:05 p.m.

The Rev. William J. Bigger, pastor of Briarcliff Baptist Church in Atlanta, will lead the North Augusta Mayor's Breakfast at the North Augusta Community Center, 101 Brookside Drive, at 6:45 a.m.

The Rev. Bigger grew up in North Augusta, he said. "It is always exciting to go back home. ... It is an honor to be invited for an event like that."

Tickets are $10. For information, call 441-4290.

Gov. Roy Barnes, a Methodist, spoke at a Cobb County event in 2000 despite a small group of protesters from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State who complained he was promoting religion.

"I will tell you at the very beginning that no person who governs other men and women can do so without prayer. It is as engraved in leadership as the oath of office," he told a packed hall of 1,500 politicians, corporate executives and high school students.

According to national organizers, President Washington called for a day of Thanksgiving in 1795, and the Continental Congress called for a day of prayer in 1776. In 1952, President Truman established it as an annual event and in 1987 President Reagan designated the first Thursday in May for its observance.

For more events in the Augusta area, see the listing "National Day of Prayer, Thursday" in the Church Bulletin, Page 5D.

For more information on the national event, visit the Web site at www.nationaldayofprayer.org.

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336.