Area residents gather to celebrate National Day of Prayer

Friday, May 2, 2003

Whether it's the war in Iraq or Afghanistan or the threat of terrorism, the signs are obvious: prayer is essential.

Or is it? asked Pastor Gary Brothers of Cape First Assembly of God in Cape Girardeau. Brothers spoke during the noon "prayer on the square" service for the National Day of Prayer on Thursday.

"Does prayer have any value? Does it make any difference when we pray?" he asked. His answer: yes.

Thursday was set aside as a day of prayer and fasting as the nation's believers gathered to pray for peace, reconciliation, renewal and wisdom for leaders. The National Day of Prayer has been observed for more than 50 years. Flags were placed outside many businesses in Cape Girardeau and Jackson in honor of the day.

Brothers said that prayers are essential because God promises to listen and heal the land and because prayer has a purpose, which is to bring about God's kingdom.

It doesn't matter how mighty the armed forces are at protecting our safety or how great our economy is, America is great because prayer works, Brothers said.

If God always heard and answered Jesus' prayers then why wouldn't he listen to his other children's prayers, he said. "Because my prayer and your prayer are not insignificant, our prayers do make a difference."

And it was the prayers of others that helped strengthen Bekki Cook during her tenure as Missouri's Secretary of State. Cook urged a gathering at the Mayors' Prayer Breakfast to show by their prayers and actions that they are worthy of being called God's people.

Cook was the featured speaker during the breakfast at the Osage Community Centre in Cape Girardeau. About 500 people attended the morning event, and another 75 gathered inside the First Presbyterian Church in Jackson when rainstorms forced the outdoor service inside. The noontime service was planned for the steps of the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse.

Cook said that Americans are blessed to live in interesting times but that those times also bring with them some responsibilities.

'Let us do justice'

"Let us do justice to the poor and the powerful the same," Cook said. "Let us pray not to oppress the weak at home or abroad." Americans are blessed to live in interesting times "and blessed because we can make a difference."

"We have the opportunity to do great things as citizens of the greatest and most-powerful country in the world." But as believers, Americans shouldn't see any separation between their self-interests as citizens and the interests of God's people, she said.

"All people are God's children," Cook said. "The children of Syria, North Korea and China are loved by God just as he loves all our children in the United States."

While there are challenges and opportunities to face in the world and community, the message of God is always the same: to love your neighbor, live righteously and do justice to all people, she said.

Americans are great people not just because of their nation's military might but because they help the helpless.

When Americans do justice to the poor and the powerful, it makes the world a safer place, "not just for ourselves but because God made that so," Cook said.

While the military often gets credit for the fall of Iraq's regime, it is because of prayer that there were few civilian casualties, the safe return of prisoners of war and soldiers missing, said Jim Bollinger of Jackson.

Bollinger's sons are both military reservists. His son, Levi, is scheduled to help in the rebuilding of Iraq. "For those that remain in Iraq, we pray that they would be protected," he said.

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