Just as in years past, they came Thursday from all walks of life — all ages, denominations, ethnicities and resumes — to gather on the Bulloch County Courthouse lawn for prayers for the nation to observe the National Day of Prayer.
Sixty-six years in existence, the National Day of Prayer was held in Statesboro for the 16th year. With each year, the number of bodies dotting the courthouse square has escalated, but so too has the sense of urgency in the tone of those speaking and praying.
With the theme “For Your Great Name’s Sake,” based on Bible verse Daniel 9:19, the event was opened in prayer by the Rev. Craig Tremble of Second Saint John Missionary Baptist Church.
Tremble prayed: “We’ve come here just to tell you thank you. You’ve been a mighty God. Look upon our nation, our leaders. Give us your help and keep your hand on our lives as we strive to live in love and peace and harmony.”
Coordinator of the local event and pastor of Cornerstone Church, Ed Neubert, read from a proclamation dated March 30, 1883, during the event. President Abraham Lincoln, author of the proclamation, said: “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God.”
The proclamation continues with Lincoln’s words: “Let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the divine teachings that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessings no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace.”
Neubert pointed out that Lincoln’s words are unfortunately still true today as our nation seems divided in many ways.
“I’ve believed for a long time that prayer is the answer to everything,” he said.
Dr. John Waters, First Baptist Church senior pastor, offered a prayer for confession of sin.
Waters prayed in part: “Almighty God our Father, you alone are the hope for our future and the refuge we seek. We confess the sins of our nation and those of your people. We pray for our nation, asking for your favor in letting the church, the people of God, shine brightly in a world filled with darkness, hopelessness and sin.
“You have called us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world in this nation. Forgive us when the lifestyles of believers are not remarkably different from our unbelieving neighbors and friends, and forgive us for not demonstrating what a life of repentance, humility and servanthood look like.
“Forgive us when the seeds and thoughts of racism have festered within the walls of a local church, and forgive us for not demonstrating to the unbelieving world that all nations, ethnic groups, minorities and cultures are one in Christ, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.
“Cleanse us, renew us and restore us, by your grace and for the great name of your son, Jesus Christ. May we indeed be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, starting in the nation and spreading to the ends of the earth.”
Neubert challenged those in attendance to pray without ceasing.
“May that become our lifestyle until we meet again next year,” he said. “It changes a nation when we have a people of prayer.”
Joe Conyers, worship pastor at Believers Church, provided spiritual and patriotic music.
At the close of the event, participants were asked to form small groups to pray aloud and silently for the nation and community. Some held hands, some stood close together and some sat on the ground — but all lifted prayerful pleas.
Anne Allen, member of the Archibald Bulloch Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, voiced a prayerful reminder: “May every day be a national day of prayer in our hearts.”