National Day of Prayer

Community comes together

by W. Winston Skinner


Wayne and Stephanie Fagerstrom pray with Jimmy Patterson, pastor of First Baptist Church of Newnan, for the Coweta County Commissioners and for sheriff’s and fire department workers. 

When Tamarkus Cook’s oldest son was 9 months old, he began to cry.

Cook had been picking up the boy, who is now 3 years old, every time he cried. His wife had warned him not to pick the child up again at night so the baby would learn to sleep through the night. With his wife’s words in his mind, Cook went into the nursery.

His son lifted both arms to be held. Cook sighed and said, “She did not say I couldn’t get in the crib with you.” So the grown man climbed into the crib with his son, and together they went to sleep.

That, Cook said Thursday, is a picture of prayer. “Prayer is not about being removed from what you’re going through,” he told the Kiwanis Prayer Breakfast for the National Day of Prayer. Prayer “allows someone to get in with you, even if He doesn’t get you out,” Cook said.

Cook was the keynote speaker for the annual breakfast, held this year in the fellowship hall at First Baptist Church of Newnan. The prayer breakfast and a noon rally at the Greenville Street Park were the main local observances of the national prayer day.

A prayer by Anne Graham Lotz, this year’s honorary chairman, was also shared at the dedication of a bench at Lake Redwine Plantation.

“What a great message,” Kiwanian Billy Perkins said after Cook completed his homily. “Prayer is the answer, and we need more of it in this country and in our lives.”

About 85 people attended the breakfast.

Gregg Katz, worship and arts pastor at Four Corners Church, sang during the program. He also commented on the significance of the event, with Cowetans “coming from some different denomination ... can come together this morning to worship together a great God who sent his son to die for our salvation.”

Cook, the pastor of St. Smyrna Baptist Church, spoke on the key to an answered prayer. He gave examples of people who kept praying about a concern over several years. “They refused to stop praying. They refused to give up. There is a direct connection between being positive and praying,” Cook said.

Jesus’ words about offering “peace that is not of this world” is to the kind of peace the disciples had in the midst of the storm. “Even when the waves were over their heads, they understood that what’s over their head is still under Jesus’ feet,” Cook said.

“Whatever is beyond your reach and control – there is nothing that is too hard for God,” Cook said.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructed to ask and it will be given, seek and find, knock and it will be opened. “Jesus opens our text by saying ‘ask.’ Prayer will not work for you if you will not pray,” he said.

In too many instances, the phrase “I’m praying for you” has “become a formality,” Cook said. “It has become something that has become as easy as saying ‘hello.’”

When people take time to pray, they give God “an opportunity to move on your behalf,” Cook said. “If you want God to increase something in your life, ask Him. If you want God to heal you, ask him.”

Cook related the powerful experience of being at a prayer service at Cancer Treatment Centers of America “in a roomful of men and women who are dealing with one of the most vicious demons in life.” Some had been told there were few options, but they were there believing “God can and God will turn things around,” he reflected. He said the Greek word for “ask” in the Sermon on the Mount carries the concept of demanding. “If God is our father, then we can demand of him what we desire of him and – if it is within his will, he will provide it,” Cook said.

He also talked about seeking and knocking. “We seek when we need or want something of value,” Cook said. “Jesus is saying to us this morning that when you seek God for answers, you’ve already found the answers. … There’s not a single thing Jesus cannot solve if we will let Him solve it.”

Cook told the story of visiting his grandmother at her rural Coweta home. He knocked for several minutes before she came to the door. He then discovered the reason for her delay – she had been preparing a bountiful breakfast for him.

“I’m glad I didn’t give up. Who was on the other side of the door was so important that I needed to see her,” he said.

“We have to ask God with respect in our asking. You’ve got to give God time. Prayer’s not always an immediate thing. God is not our personal genie,” Cook said.

“You’ve got to give God time to move on your behalf,” he summarized.

“Prayer teaches us patience. Part of the problem with the world today is that we are not patient,” he said, acknowledging himself as part of the “microwave generation.”

“Sometimes praying can be painful. It’s painful to ask God to meet your need and it seems he’s not meeting it,” Cook said. “God’s delay is not a denial.”

The prayer rally at the downtown park drew a large crowd. Proclamations by the City of Newnan and Coweta County were presented. There also were prayers for city officials, county officials, the Coweta County Board of Education and local educators, national leaders, the military, the judiciary, the media, the business community, churches and families.

In 1952, President Harry S. Truman signed a bill proclaiming a National Day of Prayer, and the observance was assigned to the first Thursday in May in 1988. This year’s theme was “One Voice, United in Prayer.”

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