National Day of Prayer draws hundreds in F’ville

Tue, 05/06/2008 - 4:32pm
By: Ben Nelms

National Day of Prayer draws hundreds in F’ville

It was electric, but it had nothing to do with storm fronts. It was transcendent, but it had nothing to do with mysticism.

It was unashamedly Christian. It was Fayette County’s observance of the National Day of Prayer held May 1 at Fayetteville’s Villages Amphitheater, where more than 800 gathered to uphold and express their belief in the message of Christ.

And though the evening was spent in the language of song and word and prayer, even more of it, much more of it, was voiced in a language without words.

Billed as the Southern Crescent Prayer Walk Explosion, organizer Barbara Swafford left no room for mistake on the intention behind the event.

“We’re here to change the course of history,” Swafford proclaimed from the amphitheater stage. Her words were followed by a thunderous applause from the ranks of the children and teenagers and young and older adults that filled the amphitheater. “We’re all as close to God as we want to get. Sometimes we have something in the way. God loves us more than we can know.”

Though perhaps by nature it could be called an observance, the first-time inspirational event was more akin to a true transdenominational celebration. The evening began with several numbers by Tyrone’s Bill Drake Band, followed by words from local author Clint Byers.

“Tonight is the night to express how you feel about God,” Byers said. “We want to experience His will for the Earth.”

Taking the microphone later, Swafford spoke about the vast distinction between forgiveness and unforgiveness and how the latter can destroy lives and futures. She spoke of the need for repentance and for the human need to receive God’s love. And she spoke of the stark difference between religion and Jesus.

“God wants us to live like princes and princesses,” Swafford said, noting how silly it might look as she donned several pieces of wedding attire to symbolize the church’s position as the bride of Christ. “Jesus is about intimacy. Religion doesn’t work. It’s a total disaster. Religion makes us try to measure up or give up. Jesus people talk about what Jesus has done and what He’s going to do.”

The evening’s celebration saw people praying, dancing and singing, and as the afternoon gave way to night, there was no absence of tears of joy and appreciation that filled the amphitheater, amidst the chorus of song and the testimonies that dotted the landscape of faith that was evident there.

One of those testimonies came from a man named Mohammed, who less than two years ago converted from Islam to Christianity. Reading from Isaiah, he asked those in attendance to join him in prayer for the 2.6 billion Muslims around the world.

“Jesus is the only way to salvation,” Mohammed said as he prayed.

Person after person took to the stage as the evening progressed, leading the mass of people in prayer for nearly every cross-section of society. Some banded together in small groups while others prayed from their seats and still others made their way to the area in front of the amphitheater stage.

They prayed for marriages and child-rearing, for men and husbands, for women and daughters, for education, for local, state and federal government, for the media, for the arts, entertainment, fashion and sports and for business, science and technology.

Perhaps as touching as any of the many prayers offered that evening was one from a young woman praying for the unborn in America that will be aborted.

“We pray for the speechless who cannot cry out,” she said as she and a friend knelt on stage, sobbing. Their tears and prayers stood in stark opposition and defiance to the pervasive conventional world-view in America that upholds “a woman’s right to choose” and the government-imposed support for the 35.5 million abortions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that occurred between 1973-2003. “We have to choose life and we have to choose You.”

As the event continued, Swafford’s friend Faith Allen noted Barbara’s efforts to put the event together and the support of her husband Steve.

“This was birthed from a vision for people,” said Allen. “She began by walking around her church praying. She had a vision and she has a heart for prayer.”

It was an extraordinary occasion for someone who has never put together any type of event. Yet according to Swafford, she did nothing, nor does she want the credit. She maintains that the whole thing rests with those who made their way to the amphitheater that evening and, more importantly, to God.

It was just a little event by most standards. But by the standards of faith, hope and love, it was completely remarkable.

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