Pausing for a time of prayer

Local school choirs sang praises to God and to country and community leaders offered up prayers and words of wisdom from the Washington County Courthouse steps Thursday afternoon in observance of the National Day of Prayer.

Over 200 community members, local officials, and pastors gathered at noon on Putnam Street in honor if the event, celebrated yearly on the first Thursday in May.

“It’s been our privilege and our priority to have prayer in a public gathering,” said Rodney Lord, an event coordinator and pastor of Valley Harvest Church in Marietta.

The theme for the 62nd annual National Day of Prayer was “Pray for America”, and more than ever people are feeling a desire to do just that, said Lord.

“The problems, the challenges in our nation have become so obvious anymore,” he stated.

Speaking to the crowd, Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz reiterated that the National Day of Prayer may be more important than ever.

“Everything seems so negative. Our state and national leaders are not talking to each other, or at least not listening to each other,” he said.

Many of the recent tragedies, such as the Newtown, Conn., school student shootings or the events in Boston, could have been avoided if people talked and prayed with one another more often, speculated Lorentz.

In honor of the event, Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews and the Washington County Board of Commissioners presenting proclamations recognizing the day.

In addition, the Elementary and the Ensemble Choir from Wood County Christian Schools sang songs from the courthouse steps, including “Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho” and “God Bless America”.

A variety of community members spoke at the event, including Keith Malone, who prayed for members of the military and their families.

“I pray that this event may encourage us to be more prayerful, especially at this time for the safety of our military and the safety of our nation,” he said.

Malone, whose daughter’s fiance was recently killed in Marine training exercise, recalled praying for the young man’s safety the evening of the tragedy.

“I thought I was praying for his physical safety. While the answer to that was no, the answer to his spiritual safety was yes,” said Malone, who emphasized that 21-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Josh Taylor is now waiting in a better place.

Other speakers shared verses and prayed for health care issues, the responsible use of natural resources, students, and more.

Marietta resident Jack Hansis has attended National Day of Prayer celebrations for two decades and can remember courthouse gatherings that ranged from four people to the large crowd in attendance Thursday.

“In my daily life, I seek God’s guidance, and I pray for each one of my guys’ safety,” said Hansis, who is a captain in the Marietta Fire Department.

According to the National Day of Prayer website, nationaldayofprayer.org, in 1952 a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Harry Truman, declared an annual national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Ronald Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May.

Morgan County, Parkersburg, Newport, Williamstown, and other communities across the nation also celebrated events marking the National Day of Prayer Thursday, said Lord.