For decades, people have come together on the first Thursday in May to pray for leadership in government, military, news media, business, education, church and family.
National Day of Prayer events in the Yakima Valley have included breakfasts, luncheons with speakers and evening gatherings for prayer and celebration. No one will attend events in person this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s likely the first time an outbreak has impacted the day so broadly since Congress established it in 1952.
Instead, this year’s event will involve what many churchgoers have already embraced out of necessity — a live-streamed worship and prayer service, set for noon to 1 p.m. that day.
Organizers and participants will go live on the Yakima Valley 24/7 Prayer page on Facebook and Yakima Foursquare Church YouTube channel. It begins with worship, followed by local leaders sharing and praying on government, first responders, health care, business, education, family and faith before concluding with live worship.
During and following the online event, which is being broadcast from an undisclosed location to ensure people don’t gather and potentially endanger their health or that of others, viewers can post prayer requests in the chat window.
“Hope is the key theme,” said Dr. Dennis Crane of The Well Church of Yakima. “When everybody feels shut in, there is hope.”
Crane, who has organized and led several National Day of Prayer events with Andy Ferguson, lead pastor of First Baptist Church, said those events have been about trying to connect the church with the needs of the community.
“Our committee has been working for several years on a citywide event or events,” Ferguson said. “In addition to that, many churches have also had their own services or opened for people to come in and pray. So there’s always been a multitude of different activities going on.
“That’s why we felt like we had to do something even if it was less than in the past in terms of people getting together. ... I actually think we’ll have a great attendance online.”
Shawn Niles, pastor at Dad’s House and the restaurant owner known to many as The Fat Pastor, will emcee the National Day of Prayer event. Daniel Sutton is handling camerawork and Facebook promotions with Matt Brown, media pastor at Yakima Foursquare Church.
“People are going to be interacting during the livestream (with) chat. We want to hear people’s responses to what the leaders are saying,” Crane said. “We also want to know what areas people are needing prayers. We are going to have a time of prayer after the program. ... What are the uncertainties they are facing that they would like to have prayed over together?”
As Ferguson said, they believe God has solutions for every problem, including the pandemic, and can go to him in prayer.
“We are appealing to our sovereign heavenly father at this time of great concern and unrest to ... see the hope we have in him for all things (and share) that hope with others,” Ferguson said. “We don’t need to be crazy; we don’t need to be fighting with our neighbors; we don’t need to be panicking. We don’t need to be scared.”