Lisa Hall, center, of Holly Springs, N.C. prays at the National Day of Prayer gathering in Raleigh, N.C., on May 4, 2017. RNS photo by Yonat Shimron

Believers in the power of prayer gather at state capitols for annual rite

RALEIGH, N.C. (RNS) While President Trump used the National Day of Prayer to issue an executive order on religious liberty and huddle with religious leaders, ordinary Christians gathered outside state capitols, churches and civic venues for a more familiar rite.

It included appeals for forgiveness, calls for healing, a recommitment to faith and, generally, lots and lots of prayer.

The 70-minute service on the lawn behind the state Legislature in Raleigh drew a few hundred Christians. They clustered before a worship band that played familiar contemporary Christian songs: “Lord, I Hear You” and “10,000 Reasons.” On three occasions they locked hands to pray in small circles and then bowed their heads again as a dozen state legislators and Christian clergy took turns offering prayers from the podium.

“I’m a believer in the power of prayer,” Lisa Hall of Holly Springs said at the conclusion of the service. “God wants his people to come before him to pray for our nation. This is one of the few times we can come together across denominations and races. It’s a beautiful thing.”

In Washington, it was a highly partisan day with the vote in the House of Representatives to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

But there was very little politics at the Raleigh event and no mention of the president by name or of specific political platforms.

Legislators and clergy used sectarian Christian language throughout:

  • “Remind us that you are the way, the truth and the light,” said state Rep. Rena Turner.
  • “Thank you for what you did on Calvary’s cross over 2,000 years ago,” said state Rep. Garland Pierce.
  • “We know we are made whole by the blood of the Lamb,” said the Rev. Dumas Harshaw of First Baptist Church on Wilmington Street in Raleigh.

At an evening event in Washington, Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of the Rev. Billy Graham, was expected to lead prayers at an event in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.

Elsewhere, the American Humanist Association and other secular allies celebrated a day of reason where they rallied  for the separation of church and state.