Prayer is a powerful force. Since 1775, when the Continental Congress called for a time of prayer for guidance in forming a new nation, our country’s leaders have asked people to pray for divine wisdom and protection.

Congress established a National Day of Prayer in 1952, and President Ronald Reagan signed an amendment to that law in 1988 setting the annual observance for the first Thursday of May. In 2006, for the 55th year, heads will bow on May 4.

This year, instead of a single service on the steps of the county courthouse, there will be two opportunities for the community to gather for prayer.

This year’s theme is “America, Honor God.” The National Day of Prayer Guide states, in part, “Today the need for prayer is as great as ever. Our nation again faces battlefields, along with an epidemic of broken homes, violence, sexual immorality and social strife. As heroes of our nation did in the past, we must again bow our heads in prayer. We must ask the Lord to bless our leaders with wisdom and protection, and that we will have the fortitude to overcome the challenges at hand.”

Both local prayer sessions Thursday will be held in Chisholm Trail Hall at the Simmons Center. A complimentary continental breakfast will start the day at 6:45 a.m. Carlene Edwards will provide piano music during the prayer breakfast.

At 7 a.m., Dale Rochell, master of ceremonies, will welcome those attending. Dr. Bill Edwards will voice the opening prayer.

Following the Pledge of Allegiance, Ryan Hitchcock, minister of music at First Baptist Church, will offer special music. Jack West, former Dallas Cowboy, will lead the call to prayer, after which there will be time for prayer — silent and aloud — around the individual tables.

At 7:35 a.m., Master Officer Audrey Clark of the Duncan Police Department will sing “God Bless The U.S.A.” Dee Bowen, Stephens County District 3 commissioner, will give the closing prayer. Rochell will close the service at 7:45 a.m. with thanks to all participating.

At 11:45 a.m., Don Creel, master of ceremonies, will welcome those attending the midday prayer session. Special music on tape and by Unity Quartet — Linda Cornforth, Linda Brinegar, Randy Mitchell and Dennis Johnson — will open the session. Although there will not be a meal served, those attending may take a sack lunch, if they desire.

Tim Finkle will give the opening prayer. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, Unity Quartet will sing again.

John Brock, executive director of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, will lead the call to prayer.

Prayer time will once again be allotted for those around the tables, after which all will rise and sing “God Bless America.” Gene Brown, newly installed mayor of Duncan, will offer the closing prayer.

Creel will dismiss the service at 12:45 p.m.

Members of the Christian Business Men’s Committee will host both services.

First Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV) says, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kinds and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

In past years, individuals in the community were chosen to lead special segments of prayers for the nation and governmental leaders, media, churches, military personnel, families and schools, but this year, more time will be allotted for private, silent prayer at the tables during the two services, and those who wish to pray aloud may do so, said former Police Chief Dale Anderson, a member of the Christian Business Men’s Committee.

“It’s still important to pray for those areas, but there are many other needs in the world today that need our prayers, too,” Anderson said. “Some people are not comfortable praying aloud in public, so we set aside plenty of time for silent prayer, too. We encourage people to join in prayer, not for this day alone, but every day.”

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