|By Lori O'Brien|
SPRINGFIELD Sixteen pastors from area churches will be leading individuals in prayer for our nation, cities and communities on May 4 on the steps of City Hall.
The Rev. John A. Richards, Senior Pastor of Christian Life Center, Assembly of God, is the Springfield coordinator for the National Day of Prayer, observed on the first Thursday of May.
"Diversity and unity characterize this time of prayer," said Richards during an interview with Reminder Publications. "People of all ages will be praying in Spanish, Russian and English."
The National Day of Prayer tradition predates the founding of the United States when the Continental Congress issued a proclamation setting aside a day of prayer in 1775. In 1952, Congress established an annual day of prayer and, in 1988, that law was amended, designating the National Day of Prayer as the first Thursday of May. The annual event is intended for all people of faith to pray to the God of their understanding.
"There is a tremendous need for people to realize that God will honor our country if we honor Him," said Richards. "Our nation has a Christian heritage. Tolstoy said, 'Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.' Therefore our mission is to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer."
Richards explained that the goal of the annual event is toward mobilizing the Christian community to pray for America and its leadership in the five centers of power church, education, family, government and media. He encourages area residents to attend the hour-long event which begins at 7 p.m.
"Our cities in the Pioneer Valley and every facet of our country need praying people," he said. "Springfield is confronted with so many challenges that only God can change. Regardless of current issues and positions, prayer produces unity."
Along with Mayor Charles Ryan, there are more than 25 people actively involved in the local gathering, according to Richards.
"Although there is some music and some people giving short introductions regarding the focuses of prayer, the emphasis is on prayer," he added. "We gather together not to just talk about prayer but to actually pray."
This year's theme is "America, Honor God," and is based on 1 Samuel 2:30 "Those who honor me, I will honor."
Richards said he hopes the lasting impression for individuals attending the gathering will be to create an awareness and urgency to pray to God for our Pioneer Valley cities and leadership.
"I am hoping this time of praying will be ongoing throughout the year in our homes and churches," he said.
For more information on Springfield's observance of the National Day of Prayer, contact Richards at (413) 782-7171 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.