Churches pray for the nation

Larry McCollum kneels in prayer Jan. 19 during Calvary Baptist Church’s prayer day.

In response to the Jan. 20 inauguration, some churches in the area offered prayer days where community members were welcome to sit in the sanctuary and pray for the well-being of the country.

Calvary Baptist Church in Lenoir City hosted prayer day 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Jan. 19 in preparation for Inauguration Day. The sanctuary was open to the public and a special service took place at 8 p.m. hosted by the Rev. Joseph McGaha, pastor.

McGaha said the nation’s struggle since March against coronavirus and the present division inspired the effort. He said he hoped the effort would bring “calm to the chaos” and “some peace in the midst of a storm.”

Most of the day’s action was in the early hours, even before 8 a.m., he said.

“There have been individuals who have never been to Calvary Baptist Church but had decided, based on what we were doing, to come and spend time in prayer,” McGaha said. “That encourages my heart to know that people from Loudon County, from Lenoir City, have felt the need to come and pray. Again, that’s part of the reason why we did what we did today.”

McGaha had a number of specific petitions as part of his prayers.

“Praying for unity in our country, praying for peace, praying for families that are struggling, businesses that are struggling, and certainly praying for the health of those that are affected by COVID-19,” he said. “Praying for the divisions that exist within our land to be healed so that there will not be political, racial or social divisions that are so prevalent now. That those areas could be healed in our land.”

McGaha anticipates more prayer days will be hosted by the church during the year since the Bible commands believers to “pray without ceasing,” he said.

Gwenn Skinner, church member, worked a one-hour shift to greet guests as they entered the sanctuary.

“Our nation as a whole, I was just sitting here thinking, to be quite honest, the church should be full of people right now praying,” Skinner said. “… I can remember the older people talking about how during World War II everything was so bad, and they were so worried and everything that people flocked to the church and just prayed really hard because, for one thing, their sons and daughters were there, especially their sons. … They trusted God so much.”

Skinner said because most church buildings are locked during the day, people should take advantage of such prayer days.

Central United Methodist Church in Lenoir City opened its doors on Inauguration Day to provide members a place for focused prayer, the Rev. Scott Layer, pastor, said.

The idea to host the prayer day sparked from a member’s request to use the church’s new prayer room.

“We had a person in our congregation whose son was going to be deployed to Washington, D.C., and she requested to come in during the inauguration so she could come in and pray for our country and pray for her son,” Layer said. “We thought that’s a great idea. There are others who are concerned about our country, and we as a church have been trying to grow and provide opportunities for people to grow in prayer. We thought, ‘Let’s make a prayer guide for people, and let’s provide an opportunity for those who would like to come to pray and enter the building to do that’.”

Central has been closed for in-person services in recent weeks due to coronavirus concerns. Layer gave participants the choice to join in prayer in person or online.

“We told them to contact us, so we could send them the prayer guide, and then we had the worship center open,” he said. “We had a number of people come at different times. It was a come-and-go kind of experience. We also posted on our Facebook page for everybody to take one minute to pray for our country, and we had a picture of our altar table there. We tried to provide several different ways for people to engage and just pray for our country during this time of anxiety.”