Gloria Flores came to pray — big.
“Politics is horrible; everything going on in the world is horrible,” Flores said as she settled into a folding chair at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in downtown Fort Worth, host of the National Day of Prayer for Tarrant County. “I want to pray for the world.”
The gathering was among thousands across the country taking part in the ritual, established in 1952 to bring Judeo-Christian voices together on the first Thursday of May each year. The theme of the 64th National Day of Prayer is “Lord, Hear Our Cry.”
Events were scheduled across North Texas, from Grace Covenant Church in Arlington to Southlake Town Square.
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In downtown Fort Worth, the attendees were few at first, many just finding their way from Burnett Plaza Park after the threat of rain forced organizers to go to Plan B.
The two-hour program, which counted close to 200 believers by the midway point, was full of prayer and singing praise to soulful piano support — except for Amazing Grace, which was performed on bagpipes.
“Our goal is to get as many churches and as many community leaders involved as possible,” said Vicki Phillips, director of the Tarrant County prayer day organization for the past three years. She said that with terrorism in the world and at home — like the attack in Garland on Sunday — the need for a unified voice and resolve has never been greater. “That’s the reason we’re working very diligently in Tarrant County to develop a strong community network of people working together to pray as well as to do community services,” she said.
In south Arlington, prayer traffic was slow at Grace Covenant Church. Members of the 20-year-old nondenominational church on the south frontage road of Interstate 20 came throughout the afternoon to pray, but few visitors did.
“This is the first time we have tried a more formal way of doing this,” said Mary Smith, who waited in the foyer to greet guests coming to pray. She said she figured more churches were taking the formal National Day of Prayer in hand themselves this year, since fewer municipal observances seemed to be scheduled.
“Our prayer group started meeting two years ago,” Smith said, “and this is an outgrowth of that, to mark the National Day of Prayer.”
She and members of her prayer group took charge of keeping the sanctuary open and publicizing the event online. They were also mentioned on religious radio stations. But attendance was lower than hoped for.
“The rain kind of scared people away too,” she said. “We’ll get better at this.”
To the north, during one of three small National Day of Prayer events on the steps of Keller Town Hall, the 2015 prayer emphasized the theme of coming together.
“This city needs unity,” said Dennis Serratt, interim president of the Greater Keller Chamber of Commerce. “Businesses, churches, city and schools working together for a better community.”
Keystone Church Pastor Brandon Thomas recited the national prayer of 2015 late Thursday morning, echoing Serratt’s focus on unifying the town.
“I believe we can do something really special here together in this city as we unify under the banner of God and the banner of loving one another,” Thomas said before the prayer.
But the event felt less than inclusive to Zachary Moore, a humanist leader hoping to see more faiths involved with the local event.
“I’m a little dismayed,” said Moore, of Keller. “It looks like Keller is endorsing Christianity. … I brag to my friends about how welcoming Keller is, but this seems to be against that.”
Mayor Mark Mathews said that Keller churches were contacted and invited to participate and that any faith would be welcome but that there aren’t any registered religious organizations in Keller other than Christian ones.
First United Methodist Church of Colleyville rolled out its portable prayer labyrinth Thursday afternoon.
“I have always been fascinated with the labyrinth,” Senior Pastor Mike Dawson said of the 108-pound hand-painted canvas. “It’s a chance for healing.”
In addition to making the labyrinth available, the sanctuary was open for prayer.
Visitor Cheri Spurlock came by with her 5-year-old granddaughter, Jocelyn, to walk the labyrinth.
“I wanted to say a prayer for our nation,” Spurlock said. “We need God’s help. Man is not up to the job.”
Despite bouts of on-and-off sprinkling about 250 people flocked to Southlake Town Square for prayer.
The gathering featured members from the community including the city, school and local pastors and clergy.
“It’s awesome just to see the bonding between local congregations,” said Clayton Reed, Southlake Baptist Church lead pastor. “We live in a city where the mayor and superintendent of the school district pray together for our city: That’s incredible.”
Churches represented included Gateway Church, White’s Chapel United Methodist, The Hills Church, St. John the Baptist and Grace Community Church.
The hourlong event included prayers for the country, local marriages and the decision of gay marriage being reviewed by the Supreme Court, children and abortions, churches and plenty of worshipping.
Eric Cole of Keller attended with his family.
“We came to pray for our city, community and country,” he said.
Six-year-old Sophie Cole’s favorite part was worshipping.
“I like the songs,” she said.
The main event
At the downtown Fort Worth program, Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks, who delivered a resolution of the Commissioners Court recognizing prayer day, started by noting the passing of former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright on Wednesday at age 92.
The Fort Worth Democrat, who served more than 30 years in the House, did so “unselfishly, ably, passionately and with great vision,” Brooks said.
Outside the main room, several youngsters were busily collecting note cards, each containing a handwritten prayer of a child at the event, and stringing them to helium-filled balloons that would be released later.
“Please help everybody to get beder,” one scribbled note read. “And Plese let me love you more than I do. And help me to act like you.”
Robin Moore said the children’s prayers are especially moving to her. She and other moms traveled from Springtown with members of Trail Life USA and American Heritage Girls, who worked the balloon table. Their organizations bill themselves as faith-based alternatives to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America.
“The heart of a child is so pure,” Moore said. “As adults, we get bogged down in the details. When kids pray, it’s usually down to brass tacks. They cut through the nitty-gritty and say what is important.”
Staff writers Mark David Smith, Shirley Jinkins, Dustin Dangli and Marty Sabota contributed to this report.
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641
By the numbers
Prayer is a daily ritual for many Americans. More than half of Americans said they pray every day, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, while 23 percent said they pray weekly or monthly and 21 percent said they seldom or never pray. Women are more likely than men to pray every day (65 percent compared with 46 percent), and older people are more likely than younger adults to say they pray daily (60 percent compared with 45 percent).
Source: The Washington Post