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Prayer bands bring faithful together in a social setting
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Gainesville Prayer Band 60th Anniversary

When: 3 p.m. Saturday with the Rev. Rodney Lackey

Where: Antioch Baptist Church, 1010 Mill St., Gainesville

More info: 770-536-4864

Women's prayer band

A prayer band doesn’t play the piano or have a drummer, but its spiritual harmony is as soul-stirring as any gospel.

It’s not a new idea, either. People have been praying together in groups since Biblical times. And lately, prayer bands, tight-knit groups of people coming together for prayer, have been growing in popularity. There are even websites and Facebook pages dedicated to recruiting more people into the bands.

The Rev. Isaac Whitehead of First Baptist Church said it is powerful to come together and pray.

"I think there’s strength in unity," Whitehead said. "... We can come together in a collective effort to call on God to help guide us and lead us, and I think that speaks to our willingness to have a good relationship with one another."

Locally, the Gainesville Prayer Band, is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and still going strong.

The Gainesville Prayer Band meets once a month early Sunday mornings, praying for the community, families, friends or victims of natural disasters. The focus of the meeting is prayer and praise, and followed by testimony and music.

"We’ll have our meeting on Saturday with the Rev. Rodney Lackey," Ruby Brawner said. "We’ll be singing traditional hymns and anyone is welcome."

The group was organized in 1950 by Blanche Alexander and started with humble beginnings. Meetings were held in her house Saturday nights. Later, they visited different churches to pray.

Traditionally, "prayer bands" were common in African-American churches. When Brawner took over the group in 1983, her plan was to break racial barriers and meet in local white churches, along with
traditionally African-American churches.

"I was persistent; after I got in one door, I would try another until we had (six) white churches," Brawner said during a 2007 interview with The Times.

The first historically white church to allow the group to meet was First Baptist Church in 1995. Today, the Gainesville Prayer Band divides its time throughout the year between six historically black churches and six historically white churches.

The Rev. Shawn Gray, pastor of Gainesville Bethel Church of the Nazarene, said he has been a member of the prayer band for about four years.

Gray has been a part of another prayer band in another city, and said this group is definitely unique.

"We come together to pray for the community, to pray for each other and to simply petition God for direction and to help us in everyday decisions. And it has been worthwhile," said Gray, who has been a member of other prayer brands in other cities. "... We are all from different denominations — some are Baptist, some Methodist and I’m Nazarene."

Brawner did expand the horizons of the Gainesville Prayer Band but prayer bands can be found all over the United States and throughout the world in countries such as China and India. A large church in New York called the Brooklyn Tabernacle also focuses a large part of their ministry on prayer.

The groups are even popping up at universities. A group of college women began a group at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, where they have taken the idea to another level.

Each Tuesday, they hold prayer meetings but also strive for academic excellence and Christian characteristics in the members’ personal lives.

"When you band together, you can just lean on each other," said Malinda Watkins, 22, a member of the executive board on the Women’s Prayer Band. "I’ve really learned that there’s something called corporate anointing and when you come together, God said if two or three people, touch and agree then he’s in the midst and he’s there. Just knowing that when you pray, he’s hears you and so over the years I’ve been able to develop more faith. I know that prayer changes things, and I know when I pray, God will move.

The Women’s Prayer Band was started on the UCF campus in 2001 by Tekoa Summers, a student who, at the time, couldn’t find a Christian organization on campus for women.

The power of praying in mass creates a significant spiritual bond with God and a special bond with others that pray, Watkins said.

"Then there’s a whole lot you learn about spiritual warfare, commanding the atmosphere and changing your day by praying in morning and could set the tone for the whole day," Watkins said.

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