After days of stormy weather, the clouds parted and allowed hundreds to gather in downtown Rocky Mount to participate in the 64th observance of the National Day of Prayer.
“We are so grateful to have such a great crowd to pray for our city and our nation,” said the Rev. Steve Webb of Cornerstone Community Church. “It is a blessing from the Lord for this beautiful blue sky overhead after the last 36 hours of storms in the Twin County area.”
In addition to asking for prayers for those affected by the storms, Webb highlighted how the observance was a chance for all faiths and people to unite.
“We are from different backgrounds and churches and we can come up with all the differences among us, but there is one thing that can unify us, and that is Jesus,” Webb said.
Rocky Mount builder and pilot Charles Mullen said that call for unity is why he manned the controls of his Cessna 206 with prayer partner Tony Stone and Craig Johnson to participate in a national movement to have pilots circle the capital buildings across the country around noon and pray for leaders and officials. The trio flew over Raleigh as crowds gathered and prayed then came back to circle over the ceremony at Rocky Mount City Hall
“Gosh, we need unity in our country,” he said, “We are divided politically and spiritually, but we need to come together. We need to come back together as a nation and unify under God once more.”
Webb offered a prayer of repentance, asking for guidance and forgiveness. Many of the hundreds who attended the ceremony bowed their heads or raised their hands in prayer, but one local pastor, the Rev. Kelly L. Shope of Ridegecrest Worship Center, prayed to God from his hands and knees throughout the ceremony.
“The prostrate position is a position of humility and prayer,” Shope said after he brushed the dirt from his gray dress pants and palms.
“That is what today is all about. It is about us humbling ourselves before God.”
Prayers were offered for the safety of first responders and military personnel and their families, faith leaders and church congregations and area schools. Peace among people throughout the community also was the subject of many prayers.
“Apart from you, we can do nothing,” said the Rev. James Gailliard of Word Tabernacle Church. “But we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”
Webb culminated the prayers by leading everyone to respond, “And all God’s people said, ‘Amen.’”
“Thank you for being here as we’ve prayed, but don’t let it stop here,” he said. “The greater tragedy is when God’s people gather to pray, but they let those prayers stay within the walls of the church. Take these prayers into the city. Be the sale and be the light for all to see.” In addition to the activities surrounding the noon observation of the National Day of Prayer, more then 140 volunteers spent time on Tuesday and Wednesday reading the entire Bible aloud at three sites throughout the Twin Counties.
“I truly believe this is the most effective means to bring about change: By lifting the word of God to him and the city,” Webb said. “It is not congress that will help this city become what it can be, but it is the mighty word of God.”