Under the shade of trees, a large crowd gathered on the downtown Gainesville square around noon on Thursday, May 3, for the 2018 National Day of Prayer. After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing along to “God Bless America,” the guests formed groups at stations around the square.
Each station was led in prayer by a different community member and was focused on a different topic in society: media, business, education, family, church, military, life and government. Guests spent a couple of minutes in prayer at each station, and as a bell rung, they moved on to the next.
Some of the guests were there after also taking part in a prayer breakfast at the Gainesville Civic Center earlier Thursday morning.
Businesses, churches and organizations from around Hall sponsored tables and filled them with people to hear Dean Sikes, an author and speaker who has been all across the country encouraging young people. But for the day of prayer, he was there to use his experiences to encourage an audience a little older than he is typically in front of.
“You have a part to play in this thing called life, and prayer is a critically important aspect of this,” Sikes said. “There's no way to do what we do without the power of prayer.”
Just hours later, some of those same people, along with many more, gathered on the square to continue praying.
“Prayer, to me, is everything,” said Tracy Passmore, a Greater Hall Fellowship of Christian Athletes area representative and prayer leader at the education station. “Before we do anything, we have to soak it in prayer.”
As guests walked from station to station, they heard prayers from Chris Pope, a former pastor at Trinity Baptist Church, who led the church station. They also heard from Tim Watkins with the radio station Victory 91.5 at the media station and Jimmy Hernandez with Milton Martin Toyota at the business station.
Hernandez thanked God with prayer by voicing his appreciation for businesspeople in Hall “submitting their business” to God and for using their businesses to “maximize” his kingdom.
Watkins prayed for the media and people in Hollywood to use their platforms to “serve and love” God.
Ralph Ratliff, an Oakwood resident, was in attendance at the gathering with his wife and said praying for the community and country as a whole “is important because it’s the one thing anybody can do.”
National Day of Prayer was a new experience for some, though. Joyce and Jerome Hoffer were traveling through Gainesville on their way back home to Minnesota. They heard about the gathering and decided to check it out, even though they had never heard of it before.
“I thought it was very unique, very interesting,” Joyce Hoffer said. “I think that God listens to prayers, and the more that gather and pray together is a more profound prayer. I think the nation can handle all the prayers that can come its way.”