By Andy McDonald
A gathering of approximately 100 people came to the the Madison County Courthouse lawn on a cool, windy Thursday for a National Day of Prayer observance.
The event was sponsored by the Richmond Area Ministerial Association.
Several local clergy took to the stage, leading participants in a series of prayers for various for institutions such as the military, government, business, media, education and families.
The Rev. Robert Blythe of the First Baptist Church, Francis Street, Richmond, began one phase of the event by calling for candidates and incumbents of state and local offices to stand before the crowd as he offered a prayer.
Blythe prayed that office seekers and office holders would have the best motives for wanting to serve, and that both officials and voters would approach their respective duties with “wise and understanding hearts.”
The theme of this year’s national event was One Voice United In Prayer, in which the Madison County Court House venue was one of many public prayer gatherings across the United States.
The annual event began in 1988 when President Ronald Reagan signed legislation officially designating the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer.
Madison County Sheriff Mike Coyle, who is running unopposed in the May 20 Democratic Primary for sheriff, said this year’s event was especially important because the country is enduring challenging times.
“I think with all the things we have going on in our nation, one of the best things we can do is come together to pray for our community, our country and our soldiers,” Coyle said.
Pastor Steve Lewis of the Richmond’s First Church of the Nazarene was the main speaker for the event. Lewis, president of the Richmond Area Ministerial Association, noted that prayers from the various pastors covered many facets of American life and business, but the central purpose was in praying for America.
“We’re here to glorify God, and we’re here to pray for our nation,” Lewis said, adding he was pleased with the day’s turnout because it brought together a diverse cross section of Madison County residents, all united in a common purpose. “It’s important, because our nation is more in need of prayer than any time before.”
The event featured musical performances by Elder Virgil Gardner of Pleasant Green Church as well as Bill Eckler and Pam Combs of the Berea Westside Baptist Church.
Eckler is the Berea Police Department’s school resource officer at Madison Southern High School. As an officer who regularly interacts with local youth, Eckler said he wanted to commemorate the National Day of Prayer not only to give personal thanks, but also in the hope that the event will touch those who need it most.
“The Lord has played the most important part in my life since I was nine years old. Even though I let him down sometimes, he’s always there to lift me up,“ Eckler said. “We live in a time when I think a lot of young people are looking for an answer. We just want to share with them that there is hope.”