Lifting up a nation

Residents from across Sampson County joined hands Thursday and shared in a time of prayer for the nation as part of National Day of Prayer.

Before the National Day of Prayer service Thursday, a crowd of about 25 gathered across from the courthouse to share in scripture reading. Sharing scripture is Saundra Laughin House.

A group of local residents gather Thursday to share prayers for the nation, its leaders, the schools and the world, among others.

As a gentle breeze blew across downtown Clinton, peace and calmness seemed to blanket the area Thursday morning as a crowd gathered in front of the courthouse to honor the National Day of Prayer. At noon, people joined hands and lifted hearts and voices.

Thursday’s service began earlier in the day, though, with scripture reading being shared. Residents took turns sharing different verses from the Bible then joined together mid-afternoon to hold a prayer vigil and lift up the nation and its people.

The theme for Thursday’s services was “Lord, hear our cry,” taken from 1 Kings. The scripture reading and prayer service, according to those attending, was exactly the time for this to happen.

“We need to pray for our country more than we have ever prayed before,” Mary Dudley shared just after she read scripture from 1 Thessalonians.

The prayer services are non-denominational events held annually as a way for Americans to come together and lift prayers up for the nation and those in it. Participants are asked to join hands, bow their heads and join hearts — forgetting their differences and coming together in unity and prayer.

“We need to take this time to honor God and lift Him up and ask Him to hear our prayers and our cries,” said Margaret Spivey, organizer of the event.

This year marks the 64th anniversary of the National Day of Prayer and, according to the Rev. Tim Ameen, the prayer time was something greatly needed in America.

“If there is anything we need on this day, in all generations, it’s prayer,” Ameen noted. “We need prayer for strengthening our nation, but in all things we do, we need to glorify God’s name.”

City Councilman the Rev. Marcus Becton shared Mayor Lew Starlaing proclamation for the day, claiming May 7, 2015 as the National Day of Prayer in the city of Clinton.

“We need to pray for our nation, its people and leaders,” Becton read from the proclamation. “We urge all citizens to take part in this day.”

Ameen asked participants to join together, hold hands, and have a time of prayer for all the needs in America. The pastor asked the crowd to pray for the nation and its leaders as a whole. As the amens and applause were heard spreading across the courthouse lawn, Ameen continued to ask the crowd to pray for other concerns, like the military, families, the sick and afflicted, employers, employees, teachers and students.

As the crowd continued to hold hands and pray for the many concerns expressed, the crowd shifted their prayers from one topic to the next. Area ministers joined the groups, leading those joined in prayer.

“We need to pray for education,” Ameen said. “We need to pray for the protection of our teachers and students, as well as for morally sound instruction.”

Ameen asked the crowd to continue their prayers in everyday life, not leaving them at the courthouse, never to be heard again.

According to Spivey, this year’s crowd was not as large as the past few years, but the attendance of area pastors was up.

“I would like to have seen more people here, but there is a good crowd overall,” Spivey said. “We have more pastors here this year, and that is good.”

On April 17, 1952, a bill was initiated by Conrad Hilton of Hilton Hotels and Senator Frank Carlson of Kansas and passed that the president of the United States set aside an approprite day each year, other than Sunday, as a National Day of Prayer — the the beginning of the national observance.