Lifting up the nation in prayer

About 200 gather in Westminster to praise God, offer petitions


Wearing a bright yellow T-shirt with National Day of Prayer printed in bold black letters, Marsha Reinhart joined about 200 others to pray yesterday at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster.

Those wearing yellow shirts were interspersed through the noontime crowd among others clad in business suits, hospital scrubs and mechanics' uniforms. Nearly everyone had affixed an "I prayed" sticker to their outfits.

"It is a great day to come out and spend time praying with others across the nation," said Sharon Reede of Boring, who accompanied about a dozen home-schooled children from four families.

Reinhart, who organized Carroll County's first observance of the National Day of Prayer 15 years ago, has seen the event grow from a few people praying at a small monument to the hundreds spread across the museum grounds for the event marked throughout the country on the first Thursday of May.

"I have worn overcoats and carried umbrellas, but most often, like today, we have sunshine," she said.

The growth in participants recognizes "the need for God in our lives," said the Rev. David Sulcer, pastor of Westminster Church of God. The event "brings cohesiveness and supports the values that made us who we are as a nation," he said.

The throng filled park benches and folding chairs or leaned against towering trees in full bloom. They intoned familiar Scripture verses along with speakers and shouted resounding "Amens."

"We come in the name of every church and every house of worship to become beacons of hope in the midst of a flood of people looking for truth and hope," said the Rev. Bill Thomas, pastor of Sonrise Community Church in Westminster. "We need to be lighthouses of love."

They prayed for the country and President Bush, who has said that the prayers of the nation sustain him.

Vicki Mattingly of Finksburg, who centered her prayers on her son Chris, an Army sergeant preparing for a fourth tour of duty in Iraq, said, "The country needs a lot of prayer for a lot of reasons."

Lisa Mish of Westminster underscored that remark: "Do we ever. ... "

Prayer leaders struck an ecumenical theme, occasionally voicing petitions in Spanish and Hebrew. The crowd prayed without reservation, thanking the Almighty for the freedom to worship, the sunshine and the unity of the day.

"This is one day when we don't have to be politically correct in what we are praying," Reinhart said. "We have free rein to express our faith and show unity of spirit. This is not the church of Westminster or the church of Carroll County. It is not a building. It is people together in prayer and that is why I keep coming."

At key moments, Philip Restivo blew a shofar, a trumpet made from a ram's horn that signaled battle for the ancient Hebrews.

"I could pray alone at home, but here there is power in unity," Restivo said.

The crowd was frequently on its feet with arms raised. They clapped, swayed and sang rousing hymns, offering spontaneous words of gratitude and supplication. Throughout the one-hour service, the laughter of children on a field trip to the museum played in the background.

"It is neat hearing children laughing and playing," said John Mike Myers, the event's emcee. "It must be what heaven is like."

In a final benediction, Wayne Gadow, the event chairman, asked the crowd to "take the prayers that went on here today and multiply them so they are salt and light in this community."

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