People young and old prayed for the nation and the community of Roswell Thursday on the lawn of the Chaves County Courthouse in observance of the National Day of Prayer.
For a little more than an hour, area pastors and civic leaders led the crowd in nondenominational prayer, spoke about the importance of God in public and private life, sang gospel music and read proclamations from the federal, state, county and city governments designating May 7 a National Day of Prayer.
The event was one of 34 throughout New Mexico and many across the nation to coincide with the National Day of Prayer, according to the website of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.
National days of prayer and fasting have been designated in times of uncertainty and tragedy throughout America’s history, starting in 1775 when the Continental Congress declared a time for prayer during the forming of the nation, the website states.
Congress passed and President Harry S. Truman signed a bill in 1952 spearheaded by hotel tycoon Conrad Hilton and Kansas U.S. Sen. Frank Carlson that called on the president to designate one day a year “other than Sunday” as a National Day of Prayer. The law was amended in 1988, designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer.
Prayer is something that was central to the lives of many in attendance.
“It’s as important as breathing,” Nancy Wagley of Roswell said with laughter when asked about how important prayer is for her.
Wagley and her husband Joe were among the people gathered in front of the courthouse as a group of four young musicians performed from the courthouse steps.
The Wagleys attend Gateway Church International in Roswell and Nancy Wagley said the Christian faith in Roswell is strong.
“We have a lot of Christians in Roswell praying for our country,” Wagley said.
Pastor Mark Green of Harvest Ministries — a service organization that provides food and ministers to the homeless — said his organization has organized the event in Roswell since 2004. He said the National Day of Prayer brings together all of the churches in the area, all driven by a love of God.
“Anytime you get a bunch of pastors together and churches altogether in unity, good things are going to happen,” Green said before the speaking began.
Every year, the National Day of Prayer has a theme. Last year, the theme was unity. This year there were two themes: pray for America and love one another.
Green told the crowd that oftentimes people want to pray, but the act of love is what can make things happen.
“So, well a message of love one another might seem simple or even simplistic, but when loving God and loving one another is lived out, it is sometimes the most challenging thing we can do,” Green said.
Pastors and speakers each said a prayer for different areas of life in the community. Chaves County Sheriff Mike Herrington prayed for those in law enforcement, and said he prays that not only for those who put on a badge to stay safe, but that they establish a relationship with God.
Herrington said his years on the force have shown him that a bond with God, coupled with the support of family, can help sustain those in law enforcement and make them better at doing their jobs.
“So, with God and great family, the police officers can become even more productive within our community,” he said.
Devin Graham, chief of the city of Roswell Fire Department, said he feels moved to pray for all first responders both as fire chief and as a member of the community.
Speakers also prayed for those in the areas of the judicial branch, the hungry, hurting and addicted; education and families; unity; and church leadership.
Fourth- and fifth-graders from Gateway Christian School stood on the steps of the courthouse and performed Christian themed songs for the crowd. Ryan Balderama, youth pastor at Waymaker Church, praised the young performers for their energy and talents.
“And something that I love about our God, is they (young people), don’t get a junior Holy Spirit, they get the fullness of who he is,” he said.
The crowd and speakers alike, though, prayed for issues and populations beyond Chaves County, with some leading the crowd in prayer on issues ranging from “unborn children, to the Middle East and those persecuted throughout the world for their faith.
And there were also prayers for others to turn to God and keep his message alive.
“Our job is to populate Heaven and plunder Hell, use us to do it, each and every one of us, so that God be the glory in Jesus’ name, amen,” Pastor Robin Cox of Christ’s Church said to the audience.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.