About 85 Kenai Peninsula residents of all ages joined their prayers for the nation, its people and leaders with others across the state and country Thursday as part of the 52nd annual National Day of Prayer.
The local event was held at noon outside the Legislative Information Office on Main Street Loop in Kenai. The event began with Mark Jonas of the Kenai Messianic Fellowship sounding a shofar, a Hebrew instrument used since biblical times to summon people to battle or meetings.
The event proceeded with the Pledge of Allegiance led by a group of Soldotna home-school students, the singing of the national anthem by Barbara Johnson and a proclamation given by Ed Oberts, assistant to Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley, for Bagley declaring May 1, 2003, as a national day of prayer on the Kenai Peninsula.
Several area religious leaders then spoke on the themes of righteousness, the nation and sin in accordance with this year's National Prayer Day's theme, from Proverbs 14:34, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people."
Ben Eby defined righteousness as "right standing before God it's that easy." He encouraged participants to pursue righteousness and carry the sentiments expressed in Thursday's event throughout the year.
"This is a beginning today for the next year that we continue to pray day after day," he said.
Bob Deardoff, speaking on the topic of nation, asked people to pray that God give wisdom to President Bush, Congress and the Supreme Court. He also prayed that God bless the people serving in the armed forces and local police officers and firefighters.
Rick Cupp spoke about sin and prayed that God grant forgiveness for the transgressions of the nation.
"We have at times been a violent people, consumed with pride," he said. "We thought we could control everything around us, and we have in our greed neglected so many who have hurt."
Kenai resident Barry Eldridge read the 2003 Prayer for the Nation, written by Dr. Luis Palau, honorary chair of the 2003 National Day of Prayer. Eldridge also asked the crowd to pray for the families who have relatives serving in the armed forces and for the people of Iraq.
"They have lost some of their family members, too," he said.
The event was organized by Love INC. During the service, Janine Espy, executive director, handed out prayer post cards with the names of local, state and federal leaders for people to pray for. The cards could then be sent to those people so they would know they've been prayed for.
"You might get the president, you might get the police chief (on your card)," Espy told the audience. "It's just a real privilege to just take that person and pray for them. That will be a real encouragement for those people as we do this."
The event ended at 12:30 p.m. with the singing of "God Bless America," led by Dan Thornton.
According to Espy, this is the fifth local event held in conjunction with the National Da of Prayer. The format has differed in the past. Having a lunchtime gathering was meant to be convenient enough to allow many people to come.
Espy said she was pleased with the turnout.
"It's really neat to have so many children here this year," she said. "I like to have a mixture of ages, so that means it was a success."
Cupp, who is the minister at the Kenai Fellowship Church, said he enjoyed seeing the diversity of the crowd, since it was an interdenominational gathering.
"It's a time to see some faces you don't normally see and pray for them," he said. "We all know we all pray in our homes and churches, but it's really beautiful to see people pray. ... With all our men and women over in Iraq and Afghanistan, it seems more important to pray."
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