Prayer day switches mayors' gathering to evening

Thursday, April 4, 2002

NEW OPTION

By Laura Johnston ~ Southeast Missourian

Organizers considered several options before deciding to make changes to the National Day of Prayer events in Cape Girardeau and Jackson, Mo. During its seven-year existance, the observance has included an early-morning prayer breakfast and a noon service at the courthouse lawn.

Instead of the Mayors' Prayer Breakfast held on the first Thursday in May, this year people will gather for a Wednesday evening service at the Osage Community Centre. Youth will gather at the same time for a similar service at a location that has not yet been determined.

A noon service still will be held at the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse in Jackson, Mo.

The change is a little risky, considering that the prayer breakfast had become a tradition, said Sherri Mehner, who with her husband, Jack, organizes the event each year.

But it should give more people a chance to participate in the prayer services, she said. And some churches have agreed to cancel their own services in favor of attending the community prayer service.

The "Evening with the Mayors" service will begin at 6:45 p.m. on May 1 and includes music, prayer and a speaker, Jennifer Kennedy Dean from Blue Springs, Mo.

The national theme is "America United Under God," based on Psalm 46:1.

Shutting down services

The Rev. Mike Woelk of Livingway Foursquare Church said he's been surprised by the positive response the change has received. Some have even speculated that the Osage Centre wouldn't be big enough for the crowd, he said.

"Prayer is important in the community," said Woelk, whose church will cancel regular Wednesday services for the community event.

"We'll put down our own agendas and pray together," he said.

To make sure that more people are involved in the prayer activities, Mehner is adding another element to the observance. It's called "Pray It Forward" and involves public Scripture readings and prayer at locations around the county.

Mehner had heard about Bible-reading marathons where people gather at the same spot in a city throughout the week preceding the prayer observance to read the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. She had considered that, but also thought about a prayer walk where people move through neighborhoods or business districts praying for those places.

Both were good ideas, but Mehner kept praying about what to add to the community observance here. Eventually the idea came to her: Pray It Forward.

"We'll do something bigger than for ourselves and do what God's word says," she said. "We can take it into our cities and spread healing and blessing. All those are things we need from God."

So instead of recruiting volunteers for a Scripture-reading marathon, Mehner is hoping people will step forward to pray.

She has compiled a list of possible prayer locations and Scripture applicable to each site. "We hope people will take a few moments on the National Day of Prayer to go to a specific location and pray," she said.

Each person can choose their location and time for the prayers. Those who are interested can call Mehner to find out locations. But if someone has a specific place in mind where he'd like to pray, that's fine, too.

"It's pretty simple, really, and we're just trying to get people involved and get them to pray on that day," Mehner said.

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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