TYLER, TX (KLTV) - This Thursday, May 7th, is the National Day of Prayer. It is a tradition started in 1952 by President Harry Truman. Many communities across East Texas will be holding their own local events. In Tyler, mayors for the past 18 years have put their name to a prayer breakfast on that day.
For people of faith you need not go much further than the day's headlines: H1N1 Flu fears sweep the country, the worst recession in decades, war in Iraq and attacks in Afghanistan. There seems plenty of reasons to stop and pray.
"I think a focus on prayer once a year gives us a chance to really re-focus on our faith as a community," said Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass.
The mayor has chosen to continue an 18 year Tyler tradition, sponsoring a prayer breakfast on the National Day of Prayer.
"I thinking focusing on prayer and starting your day there and especially starting in now, where we are in our economy, where we are in our epidemics or pandemics or whatever is going on at the moment it is only more important that we focus on prayer in our life and how that centers us as people," said Bass.
For whatever reason, this year there has been a bigger buy in from churches than ever before.
Central Baptist Senior Pastor Kimi Beckham has been one of those helping to pull the event together.
"I think, our country is having a national debate, and it's a debate over whether we will be a secular country or a spiritual country," said Beckham. "The question, we say national day of prayer, but to me it's a question not a statement. And the question is, is God welcome here?
The format of the meeting changed in recent years. There will be no speaker or preacher at this year's breakfast, only a program designed specifically to pray.
"I hope it sends a message that we have a strong faith community and that we have God as a foundation in our community," said Beckham.
While there are so many issues we cannot control Pastor Beckham says there can be a unifying power in this kind of prayer that can help a city begin to resolve issues that it may not always want to talk about.
"We have this tremendous community of faith," said Beckham. "This is a very 'church' community. People go to church. But we have the same divorce rate as any other city. This is a very church community but we have alcohol problems...but they are usually in private. We don't deal with those things. We act like everything is okay. We have our struggles with racial conciliation that is kind of kept quite. But when we get together to pray and say we really need to get a hold of God, we need to come together. I think there is power in that and I think there is opportunity for people to say let's get to the stuff that really getting to us. And I don't know we will ever do that if we don't humble ourselves."
The Tyler mayor's prayer breakfast is May 7th at Harvey Convention Center. Breakfast begins at 6:30. The prayer program starts at 7. There is no admission fee, but an offering will be taken up to cover expenses.