If the prayers from everyone involved in the National Day of Prayer observances that took place across the country last Thursday, May 4, were as fervent as those sent up from Cornell Torrence Gymnasium in Atmore, then there could be a national revival on the horizon.
A smaller-than-expected crowd of about 150 men, women and children gathered in Escambia County High School’s gym for one purpose and one purpose only, to pray. They prayed for guidance and repentance, they prayed for local, state and federal government. They prayed for the church and for the military. Prayers were offered for the family, for the education system, for the media and for business.
Pastor Ted Bridges was facilitator for the event, and 16 other ministers took part. Leading various prayer sessions were: Robert Heard; Kelvin Williams; Michael Wilson; Willie Hawthorne; Justin Morse; Amos Smith; Cornelius Phillips; Harold Askew; Darryl North; Coleman Wallace; Sinclair Forbes; Arnold Hendrix; Don Davis; Gene King; Bernard Bishop, who also delivered the benediction, and Jim Thorpe, who also offered a prayer of repentance.
Members of Cub Scouts Pack 275 presented the colors, then the assembly recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mayor Jim Staff issued a proclamation that included historical facts such as that the Continental Congress proclaimed the first National Day of Prayer in 1775, that in 1952 Congress decreed that a day be set aside each year for such an observance, and that in 1988 there was a further Congressional act that designated the first Thursday in May as a period of nationwide prayer.
A bit of ancient history was inserted into the program when Willonette Hammonds blew an extended note on a shofar, a trumpet, fashioned from the horn of a ram, that was used by Biblical-era Jews in their religious ceremonies and as a call to battle.
Following the introductory actions, attendees broke up into groups and prayed at the various stations set up for the different institutions and entities previously mentioned. After the group prayers, Christian speaker and trumpeter Dietrich Bondurant blew a series of notes to indicate the time for Bible reading.
Individuals throughout the gym, some assigned specific verses and others who chose theirs at random, began reading Scriptural passages. Many read quietly to themselves; others read aloud. Most stayed in their respective seats, but others walked off to be alone as they read.
Bondurant then played an instrumental version of “How Great Thou Art,” which became a vocal rendition when the crowd, on its collective feet with the hands of several persons raised toward heaven, joined in on the last chorus. He then accompanied the group in “To God Be the Glory.”
Bishop then closed the event with a prayer during which he asked that the show of spiritual enlightenment “continue from this day forward, from hand to hand and heart to heart.”
The crowd size was affected by heavy rains that fell throughout the day, followed by winds that gusted up to 25 mph as the event, which was moved inside due to inclement weather in the past, got under way. Staff said those in attendance should have come away with a peaceful, easy feeling.
“I think it gets better every year,” he said. “The praying is always good. I know the weather kept some folks away today, but the weather is what put us inside here. Like I said, it just gets better and better.”