-Abbie Walker, Editor
On Thursday, May 7, Christians all around the country will gather in schools, churches, businesses, and other public places to lift up their prayers to God during the National Day of Prayer. In addition to a main event in the nation’s capitol of Washington D.C., Mississippians have also responded to the call by hosting NDP events across the state.
The NDP is a tradition that predates the founding of the U.S.A. when the Continental Congress proclaimed a day set aside for prayer in 1775. In 1952, Congress established an annual day of prayer, and in 1988, the law was amended to designate the NDP as the first Thursday in May.
According to a press release from the Mississippi Chapter of the NDP, the purpose is to “intercede” for the country, the state, and the community: “As our nation struggles with continued economic insecurity, vast healthcare change, and continual challenges to basic constitutional rights, citizens of the United States are preparing to exercise one of their most precious freedoms – the right to gather, worship, and pray to God.”
The theme for this year’s NDP is “Lord, Hear Our Cry,” emphasizing the need for every citizen to cry out to God in prayer. The inspiration for this theme is 1 Kings 8:28: “Hear the cry and prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.”
“NDP has been around for a long time, since our founding fathers. It’s a tradition in our history; it’s a part of our heritage,” said Debra Brown, the state director for the MS National Day of Prayer and a high school teacher. According to the NDP website, “The mission of the National Day of Prayer Task Force is to mobilize prayer in America and to encourage personal repentance and righteousness in the culture.”
The NDP focuses on seven major areas of influence that the communities in America pray specifically for: government, family, church, education, military, business, and media (entertainment). With over 2 million attendees and 30,000 observances across the country, this event is a chance for believers to express their Judeo-Christian faith to the world.
Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, TX, will serve as the 2015 honorary chairman and give the keynote address at the national observance in Washington, D.C., which will be held at the Cannon House Office Building. While prayer will also be lifted up throughout the entire state of Mississippi, an NDP event in Jackson is scheduled for May 7.
Starting at 10:30 a.m. at the Mississippi State Capitol, there will be a time for children to pray over the state’s public safety officers and law enforcement officers. Families will also enjoy picnic lunches. From 12 to 1 p.m. the National Day of Prayer event will take place on the south steps of the Capitol as thousands lift up their prayers of healing and protection over their government, city, and community. Mississippi governor Phil Bryant and his wife will give the NDP proclamation. Mayor of Jackson Tony Yarber and others will also lead in prayer along with Vision United Ministries leading worship. Children will then release prayer balloons, followed by tours of the state capitol. Guests are invited to bring a lawn chair or blanket. In case of rain, the Jackson observance will be held in the Rotunda.
“This year we are excited to have a time of prayer by children from across Central MS for our Public Safety Officers,” said Cathy McCraw, member of the MSNDP task force. “We prayerfully ask people to come and participate in this year’s event. We believe that the prayer that goes forth on May 7 will be a watermark in our lives as we appeal to Heaven for one another, our city, state, and nation.”
There is also a NDP event scheduled for 12:15 p.m. in Clinton in front of Clinton City Hall. While exams will be coming to a close for Mississippi College and many will have headed home by May 7, MC students are urged to either find an NDP gathering in their area or create their own. “We need volunteers to go into their county or city and create their own gathering,” said Brown. She encourages people to not just pray with those they know but to “move out into the area.” “It’s a great gateway to reach out to people in businesses or in the community without focusing on a certain agenda. We are simply praying for our community,” she said.
Those who are wanting to head up a NDP event in their own city are advised to post their event on the National Day of Prayer website so that others in the area will know about it. “Even if it’s just a small gathering, we want to know what ‘s happening across the state,” said Brown. “And we also send free resources and support throughout the year.”
Some hold gatherings with churches, youth groups, or schools the Wednesday night before as a way to prepare and rally for the next day of prayer. Brown said that the goal is to get more of the younger generation involved and create a “unity of the spirit” by people of all ages praying and gathering together.
Brown added that the NDP should be something that Christians celebrate continuously. “We are going to be standing in the presence of the Lord that day and exercising our freedom of religion,” she said. “It’s once a year, but it doesn’t have to be once a year.”
As the NDP event in Jackson draws nearer, volunteers are needed to help make it a success. Approaching churches in the area and inviting them to participate is a big way to help. There are also needs for volunteers who can assist with children’s activities, blow up balloons, set up and clean up for the event, and more.
To learn more about The National Day of Prayer, find an event in your area, or register your own event, visit nationaldayofprayer.org. For information about the Jackson Prayer Observance or to volunteer, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.