Local celebration of National Day of Prayer set May 4

Sometimes nonbelievers have approached Pastor Dennis Chasteen and sincerely asked if God truly answers prayer. With the Bartholomew County celebration of the National Day of Prayer approaching, Chasteen recently answered from a countrywide perspective, and hearkens to when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of prayer and fasting in March 1863 amid the Civil War.

“America is the only nation I know of to have rebuilt itself within a decade after a national war,” Chasteen said. “Less than a decade after the war, we were as economically strong as we were before that war. That’s never happened anywhere else in the world.

“So that is a time when God has answered prayer.”

Chasteen, lead pastor at Hope’s First Baptist Church, is also among organizers of the interdenominational Bartholomew County one-hour celebration for the annual National Day of Prayer, observed at 6:30 p.m. May 4 at The Commons in downtown Columbus. The gathering has been celebrated nationwide since an act of Congress in 1952 and in Columbus since 1992.

This year’s theme is “Pray Fervently in Righteousness and Avail Much.” This is from James 5:16b, which reads, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

Pastor Adam Carrigan, the coordinator who is pastor of Bethel Baptist Church locally, mentioned that some of the focus will examine different elements of that Scripture.

“The larger context of that passage talks about the confession of sin, persistence in prayer, and it kind of presumes unity in seeking out one another and praying for one another,” Carrigan said. “And it says that the prayer of the righteous man availeth much, so it’s important to have personal holiness.

“And it talks about an effective prayer, which is that one that works — in other words, a doing prayer. And there’s a passion to it as well.”

A mix of clergy and lay residents will lead such prayer components at the event. Local singer/guitarist Dale Sechrest, who leads worship at Hope Moravian Church and at Sandy Hook United Methodist Church, will provide contemporary music that is still being selected.

“I’m only guessing here,” Sechrest said, “but I would think that the song ‘Way Maker’ would fit, and maybe the English/Hebrew version of ‘How Great is Our God.’ We did that a couple of years ago and the participants really enjoyed the opportunity to sing in both languages.”

The service also will include a new element that was added to last year’s event that unfolded at Donner Park amid COVID concerns: Holy Communion. Attendees also can take advantage of time during the service’s “soft ending,” as organizers are calling it, to seek out individual prayer for themselves from clergy and others.

Chasteen summarized the date simply for those unacquainted with the gathering that once attracted an estimated 1,000 people locally in the 1990s.

“The National Day of Prayer is a time of inviting God into the public conversation,” Chasteen said. “And it’s our celebrating the national legacy of seeking God.”

Chasteen mentioned that such a concept is especially significant in today’s world.

“I think some feel that the idea today is that God is being pushed out of the public forum,” Chasteen said.

Chasteen pointed out that this special day allows God added visibility from the church house to the statehouse, because formal prayer unfolds at every state capitol building annually on the first Thursday in May.

“Think of that as inviting God back into the public conversation,” Chasteen said.