Local officials, church leaders gather for annual prayer breakfast

Thu, 05/21/2009 - 3:35pm
By: Ben Nelms

It comes but once a year, but for some in the Christian community it holds relevance to local communities and to the nation. More than 70 elected and appointed officials, along with ministers from Fayette and Coweta counties, community members and church members attended the 16th Annual Fayette Community Prayer Breakfast held May 7 at Grace Church as a part of the National Day of Prayer.

Grace Evangelical’s Community & Global Ministries Pastor Mike Stachura explained both the beginnings of the local event and its ongoing significance through the years.

“It started with a number of the churches in the 1990s getting a vision for the National Day of Prayer. We had youth rallies in Fayetteville and nights of prayer. One of the things that was special was that we invited the elected and appointed officials to come for the breakfasts. They couldn’t make it at mid-day because they were all busy,” Stachura explained.

“So this has become a unique opportunity, not for them to give a speech, but for people to actually get to know them and pray for them. And so what’s happened is, leaders who cannot often in public say ‘I need your prayer support’ can come here where we’re praying for issues and for the families of elected officials. These are things they cannot talk about publicly, but are willing to talk about here. None of that ever leaves this room. So why prayer? Things can be shared in prayer that are never going to get on the radar of the press or the radar of public speeches. These are people who know how to talk to God and God’s going to listen to these prayers.”

Near the beginning of the prayer breakfast, the Rev. Ed Johnson from Flat Rock A.M.E. noted in prayer the significance of the occasion and the ramifications of prayer and faith to the nation. In that prayer, Johnson asked that national leaders receive wisdom, clarity and foresight through the Holy Spirit. He prayed for those serving in the military, for those suffering and those enduring financial hardships and for the economy to rebound and regain stability.

“Bless those who don’t have the presence to do right,” Johnson prayed. “And remove the things that separate us.”

Commenting on the prayer breakfast, Sharpsburg’s Grace Comunity Church Senior Pastor Tony Mirabella said he appreciated the stand taken by so many officials who were willing to participate in the event.

“I think this is a great idea for the elected and appointed folks to get together and be willing to take that stand in this day and age,” Mirabella said. “I really admire the ones that were there.”

Stachura after the prayer breakfast explained the switch to having essentially private conversations and prayers among the small groups at the individual tables rather than prayers in front of the entire assembly.

“This is so energizing. What we find over and over again is that people who come in, people who are elected officials, don’t posture, they really are relaxed here, they talk with each other, they meet in setting that aren’t normal. And a lot of the people here are members of the community. A lot of them are pastors,” he said.

“The conversational approach around the tables is key. The elected officials talk about areas where they are thankful and areas where they need prayer. There’s a lot of prayer that takes place. That’s one of the key changes in the format. Rather than having public prayers up in the front we do it at the tables,” Stachura said, adding that the more private, group prayer format began about 10 years ago.

“It really changed the nature of (the prayer breakfast). Another thing that changed is the growing part of the African-American churches. I decided several years ago that this wasn’t something that we here at Grace Church should be doing alone, and invited several of the African-American churches to come and co-host it. Ed Johnson has been a terrific partner, and Melvin Ware and Jerome Drakeford. These guys have been terrific.”

Nearly two dozen churches and ministries were represented at the meeting. Along with the community members present, the event was also attended by Superior Court Judge Johnnie Caldwell, Peachtree City Municipal Court Judge Stephen Ott, Fayette County School Board member Marion Key, Fayette Probate Judge Ann Jackson, Sheriff Wayne Hannah, Fayetteville Police Chief Steve Heaton, Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, Tyrone Councilman Eric Dial and Fayette County School Superintendent John DeCotis.

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