By Brian Blackwell,vMessage Staff Writer
DEQUINCY – Phelps Correctional Center may not be the first place a person envisions as a place to meet for the National Day of Prayer.
But for Paula Mitchell, she couldn’t imagine spending her Thursday evening on May 5 at any other place.
Accompanied by Sam Carroll, pastor of Reeves Baptist Church and his wife, Connie, Mitchell spent two-and-a-half hours with about 20 inmates, praying with them for needs that thousands of others around the country did on this important day.
“The men that come to the chapel are so hungry for God so they love praying, singing, and hearing Gods word,” said Mitchell, a member of Unity Baptist Church in DeRidder. “We all enjoyed having the privilege of praying together on our nation’s day that we come together to ask the Lord’s guidance for us, our county and our leaders.
“There are no boundaries, inside or outside the walls that God doesn’t hear our prayers,” she said. “He looks for humble hearts, and those men have been so down that they know how to look up and beg for God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness.”
Created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the US Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman, the National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. This year’s National Day of Prayer theme was “One Voice, United in Prayer,” based on Romans 15:6 – So that with one mind and one voice you may glorify God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
More than 40,000 events were scheduled throughout the day across the country, including in a number of Louisiana Baptist churches and other locations in the state, such as at malls, convention centers, blocks of communities through prayer walks and even the state Senate chambers at the State Capitol building.
East Leesville Baptist Church celebrated the National Day of Prayer by opening its sanctuary for individual prayer. Pastor Jeff Smart said his congregation felt led to participate because of the spiritual brokenness happening in the United States.
“Our people cried out to God for healing of that brokenness; asking God to bring us spiritual awakening ‘for such a time as this’ in America,” he said. “Kingdoms and nations throughout history have risen and fallen on prayer. Amazingly, prayer connects us, gives us a welcome audience with Almighty God, the one true God who reigns over every ruler, authority and nation.”
In Hornbeck, 61 people participated in a prayer walk at noon. Hosted by the town of Hornbeck, participants journeyed to local businesses, the senior center and high school, stopping each time to pray for various concerns.
Jack Bell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hornbeck, always looks forward to this annual gathering when he joins with fellow believers to pray.
“What a privilege it is to be part of a community where we can lift up the name of Jesus and ask His blessings on our school, town, state, and nation,” Bell said.
The noontime hour also presented the opportunity for Louisiana Baptist Convention President Gevan Spinney to join other pastors from across denominational lines and Christians for a time of prayer inside the worship center at First Baptist Church in Haughton. Around 130 prayed for the church, educators, government, military, police, business, media, revival and awakening.
“It was encouraging gathering together with brothers and sisters from other churches in our community,” said Spinney, pastor of First Baptist Haughton. “We all have the same desire to give Jesus to our community. We closed the prayer time gathering at the altar to pray for God to revive his church in Haughton.”
In the evening, pastors from Ball, Deville and Pineville along with others came together for a community prayer service at Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville.
“God is going to do something special in here tonight and the devil don’t like it,” Philadelphia Baptist Prayer Minister Ricky Belgard said during his prayer. “He is shaky right now. Wake up America. I believe God’s alarm clock has gone off in America. And folks we better not roll over and press that snooze button and go to sleep. It’s time for God’s people to get up. It’s time for God’s people to pray up.”
First Baptist Church in Covington hosted an evening service as well, which was attended by about 250 people.
“We had a nice attendance and a wonderful time of prayer and praise,” said First Baptist Covington Senior Pastor Waylon Bailey. “People seemed burdened about the direction of our country. They know we can’t do this alone.”
The National Day of Prayer served as a way for the community in Lafayette to join together again for prayer, as they did following a deadly movie theater shooting in the town in July 2015. Hosted by First Baptist Church in Lafayette, Pray Lafayette: United 2016 was a reminder for the same group of pastors who gathered after the tragedy last year that they are united as one in Christ.
Pastor Steve Horn said event organizers made a concentrated focus on bringing Hispanic, African-American and Anglo churches together for prayer that evening. Each of the prayer focuses were led by both an Anglo and either a Hispanic or African-American pastor.
“The importance of our gathering tonight was to teach our congregations that God is not the One we turn to only in times of community tragedy, but He is the one on whom we depend daily in all areas of our lives—government, family, our churches, and our personal needs,” Horn said.
Jay Johnston, state coordinator for the National Day of Prayer, attended the gatherings at the state capitol and First Covington. He was encouraged for what he said is the largest gathering at the capitol for the day of prayer in many years.
“This year we had every corner of the state holding prayer gatherings along with many prayer gatherings throughout the state,” said Johnston, associate pastor at First Covington. “I am excited that Anne Graham Lotz has been handed the mantle from Shirley Dobson to serve as the National Chair for National Day of Prayer. We have some great days in front of us as we commit ourselves to prayer.”
Churches looking to start or strengthen their prayer ministry may contact Johnston via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 615.260.4752.