National Day of Prayer: It's a reminder to pray more often

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A couple holds hands as they pray at their table on the National Day of Prayer for the community service held at Greenville Street Park in downtown Newnan.

By W. WINSTON SKINNER
winston@newnan.com
A nationwide day set aside to pray is a good thing, but one day a year is not enough.
Bishop David Epps of the Cathedral of Christ the King near Sharpsburg made that point at the annual breakfast held by the Newnan Kiwanis Club in observance of the National Day of Prayer. In a time when “many in power” may see prayer as quaint or irrelevant, “the tendency is to pull back,” Epps said.
“That doesn’t lead to great leadership That doesn’t lead to men and women becoming warriors in their generation,” Epps said.
A few seconds or minutes daily for prayer — even a day set aside for the practice — is not sufficient. “It’s time for a lifestyle of prayer,” Epps said.
About 50 people attended the event. “This is one of my favorite days of the year,” said Charles Wyrick, chairman of the club’s human and spiritual values committee. He said he loves to see “different parts of the body of Christ come together to worship.”
Epps, a military veteran and chaplain as well as a minister in various capacities for more than 35 years, was the keynote speaker at the prayer breakfast in the parish hall at First United Methodist Church in downtown Newnan.
Epps began his talk with references to Paul’s command to the Thessalonian church to “pray without ceasing” and a passage from Luke about Jesus spending a whole night in prayer.
“It’s a fair question to ask. How much do we pray?” Epps asked. He said there are prayer seminars, teams, ministries and chairmen. “But,” he said, “how much do we actually spray?”
Epps related the results of a study that showed evangelical Christians “when you combined daily prayer and daily Bible reading... spent an average of 30 seconds a day.” He sarcastically noted pastors “fared much better” with about two minutes daily.

“Is is any wonder that there seems to be a sense of spiritual anemia?” the bishop asked.

He said that times of disaster fill churches and urge people toward prayer. “In normal times, we don’t seem to do too well when it comes to prayer,” Epps observed.

That is not the ideal set for believers in the Bible. Epps used David, the shepherd boy who became a warrior and a king, as his example.

While David filled many different roles, he was – at heart – a warrior. “There are many people who can rise to the occasion of being a warrior,” Epps said.

He said “most of the people in the military are not necessarily warriors at heart” but individuals who “rise to the occasion” and then “go back to the settledness of life.”

There are exceptions. Epps said he knows a man who was first a Navy Seal and then a Ranger and Green Beret. When the Gulf War started, the man went back to military service and has been in either Iraq or Afghanistan “for 10 solid years,” Epps said.

“He’s a warrior. That’s what he wants to do,” Epps said, adding the same could be said of David.

He related the biblical story of David slaying in the Philistine giant Goliath when other – more seasoned – fighting men were afraid to step forward. “When David slew Goliath, the entire Israelite army gained confidence and chased the Philistine army from the field of battle,” Epps said.

David “had nothing to recommend him – no record, no pedigree, no resume at all,” Epps noted. “How is he able to rise to the occasion?”

Epps postulated that the answer to David’s ability can be found in David’s own testimony in the Psalms. In Psalm 34, David stated that God’s “praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

“David had always been one who was praying in the fields,” Epps said. He noted accounts of David retrieving a lamb after it had been taken in the mouth of a lion or bear. When a lamb is taken into the jaws of a huge predator, a normal person “checks the lamb off the inventory sheet,” Epps said.

“Most people consider that the end of the story,” Epps said. David did not. He pursued the predator and killed it. “Even as a shepherd, David was fearless.”

The source of that strength came from David’s continual connection to God through prayer. David’s Psalms are “filled with praise... filled with gratefulness,” Epps said. “He is always seeing the good that God has brought to the earth.”

Negative people have “almost no ability to inspire anyone,” Epps said. “Such persons bring other people down.” Yet people “we can only describe as losers” “gathered around David, were inspired to do great things by him and “become known as David’s mighty men of valor,” Epps said.

David could inspire because he was a man of prayer. His power came from his being “in awe and in reverence of God,” Epps said.

David could be “a notorious sinner,” Epps said. “Yet, he remains throughout his life a man after God’s own heart. How is that?”

Again, Epps cited “fervent prayers” as the overriding source of David’s personal resilience. “David was a man who above all loved God. He was a relentless man of prayer.”

David became “the greatest king to ever sit on the throne of Israel” because of his reliance “on divine blessing and authority” and his doggedly seeking God throughout his life.

“If ever there was a time in the history of our nation that such mean and women – of passion, of courage, of leadership, of commitment – a time when such men and women are needed, it is today. It is not a time for 30 seconds for prayer or for two minutes of prayer. It just won’t do,” Epps said.

Nate Russell, associate pastor at Zion Hill Baptist Church, brought the invocation. Jose Santos, pastor of Iglesia de Dios Puerta al Cielo, gave the benediction. Kerry Moore, associate youth director at First Methodist, sang two songs.

Deputy State Treasurer Mitch Seabaugh led the pledge to the American flag. Epps was introduced by Newnan City Councilman George Alexander.

Wyrick welcomed public officials at the breakfast – including U.S. Magistrate Judge Russell Vineyard, Seabaugh, Sheriff Mike Yeager, Alexander and Peggy Murphy from the Flint River Council, Boy Scouts of America. Murphy brought a display about religious emblem programs.

Jessica Santos of Iglesia de Dios Puerta al Cielo spoke briefly about One Harvest Ministries, a program similar to the former Angel Food Ministries, that is getting started in Coweta County.

Wyrick had past and present military personnel and pastors stand – with each group receiving applause. He also recognized Kiwanian Allyn Bell and his committee who handled preparations of the breakfast served at the event.



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