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For National Day of Prayer events, Arkansas pastor says focus will be unity

by Francisca Jones | May 2, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.
Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church, leads service in June 2016 at Cross Church Pinnacle Hills in Rogers.

The Rev. Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, plans to call for Americans to come together and pray for the country during the 2018 National Day of Prayer observance Thursday.

The theme for this year's National Day of Prayer is "Pray for America -- Unity." Floyd, who was appointed president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force in August, said the day's theme was inspired by Ephesians 4:3, which encourages peace through making an active effort to maintain unity.

"When you look at where the nation is, it's divided," Floyd said. "It's filled with disunity everywhere."

Floyd said he believes Americans are experiencing a growing interest in spirituality, and that with a "major need" in terms of faith in the country also comes the need to combine forces for peace.

"We need to issue a strong forward call that America needs to come together -- that we're better together than we are apart, that a house divided cannot stand," Floyd said. "And we need to understand that [the same is] true for a church, that's true for a family, it's true for business, it's true for the state, it's true for the nation.

"We just need to really come together, and the only one who's going to bring us together is God himself."

This year's event marks 30 years since President Ronald Reagan signed into law in 1988 the designation of the National Day of Prayer to occur on the first Thursday of each May. President Harry S. Truman signed the first National Day of Prayer proclamation in 1952, and every president since has signed proclamations for the day designated for Americans to pray.

During last year's event, according to the National Day of Prayer website, more than 2 million people took part in more than 30,000 prayer events in all 50 states. Eighty countries also recognized the day in some form.

This is not the first National Day of Prayer event of which Floyd has been a part. He led a prayer at last year's national observance in Washington, and he was present in 2016 and 2017 during his two consecutive terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

As president of this year's National Day of Prayer, Floyd will lead several events in Washington, including a dinner today for about 350 people at Washington's Museum of the Bible. The dinner will feature a question-and-answer panel discussion with evangelical leaders, including Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of the Rev. Billy Graham and the current chairman of the National Day of Prayer; the Rev. Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in California; James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; and Dobson's wife, Shirley Dobson, who chaired the National Day of Prayer from 1991 to 2016.

Floyd will speak Thursday morning at a National Day of Prayer gathering for about 200 guests in the White House Rose Garden, before presiding over the national observance at 6:30 p.m. in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall.

Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference president the Rev. H.B. Charles; National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference president the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez; and Going Beyond Ministries co-founder Priscilla Shirer will be among the leaders featured at the national observance. The observance will be televised on TV networks Daystar and God TV and will be livestreamed at nationaldayofprayer.org.

The Thursday evening observance will be the culmination of Day of Prayer events nationwide.

In Arkansas, some of the larger events will include mayors' prayer breakfasts Thursday. Springdale's will be from 6-8 a.m. at First United Methodist Church. Breakfasts will be held at 6:30-8 a.m. at the Four Points Hotel by Sheraton in Bentonville and at 6:30-8:30 a.m. at Cross Church Pinnacle Hills in Rogers.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is to speak at the Rogers event.

Little Rock's Immanuel Baptist Church will host the organization One Voice's Regional Night of Prayer at 7 p.m. Thursday. "Hundreds of people from dozens of churches" are expected to attend, according to Immanuel's website. Other organizations to be included are City Church Network of Arkansas and Arkansas for Christ.

One Voice hosts two to three prayer events a year. For the Rev. Bill Elliff, teaching pastor of The Summit Church in North Little Rock, Thursday's prayer event will not be just a prayer for unity, but a call for spiritual awakening in America in a time of "great cultural change, great transformation and just the feeling of a lot of broken lives."

Elliff, who is also the church director of the nationwide initiative devoted to church unity called OneCry, said that among the "despair and hopelessness" in the nation, "particularly among followers of Christ," comes a positive side: it makes people turn to God.

"God has never one time -- when the people came to Him in humility and repentance, he's never resisted that cry," Elliff said. "I think Thursday night we'll see that joy. I think there will be a lot of heartfelt, deep prayers as we've seen at past events. ... And so we're really seeking to enter into the presence of God and cry out to him, that he would do only what he could do.

"We hope people will just come out and be a part, and will be glad they did."

Metro on 05/02/2018

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