Community members unite on National Day of Prayer

ALBANY — They sought shade from a toasty noon-day sun, but the faithful in southwest Georgia gathered to pray at the downtown Albany-Dougherty Government Center Thursday, celebrating together the 73rd annual National Day of Prayer.

"From our military, to our police, to our Sheriff's Department, to the Marines at the local base, our government leaders, our families ... they all need our prayers," said Larry Price, the volunteer chairman of ALDON — the Albany Dougherty National Prayer Committee — which sponsors the event locally. "Through prayer, we build a better relationship with God."

After Price's opening remarks and music led by the Rev. Charles Jones, Pastor Keisha Cory of Hope City United Church in Albany, retired Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steve Kitchens and First Methodist Church of Albany Senior Pastor Jim Morrow offered brief messages built around the event's theme: Lift up the word, light up the world, taken from 2 Samuel 22:29-31.

"Be in a lifetime of daily prayer," Cory encouraged the crowd of more than 100. "When we go up the mountain to pray, we bring His light down."

Kitchen spoke of the blessings derived from a life of servanthood.

"Death and darkness are defeated by light and life," he said. "Serving others provides a true sense of meaning in life. By lifting others up, we become something larger than ourselves."

Morrow encouraged those gathered to rely on the power of God.

"God can do what we can't do," he said. "God can be where we can't be. He is powerful, and His way is perfect."

Those who came to pray generally sat on benches on either side of the Government Center's plaza, squeezing in to share what little shade was available. But no one seemed to mind the heat.

"I love the energy here; everyone is so nice," 17-year-old Iyana Knighton, a Turner Job Corps student who recently started an internship with Dougherty County Public Information Officer Phyllis Banks, said. "It's such a welcoming atmosphere."

Mark Bulloch, the pastor of Pine Bluff Baptist Church in south Albany, said he attends the National Day of Prayer event every year.

"I feel like our nation needs to pray more than ever," Bulloch said. "And this event is important to our community because it draws awareness to Christ, and we're a nation founded on Christian principles."

Following the speakers' messages, the attendees broke up into small groups of five to 10 and prayed together.