Thursday’s national day of prayer events in Tyler featured a diversity of attendees, bringing truth to the theme, “One Voice: United in Prayer.”
“The day of prayer is recognized nationally, but each and every day is a day of prayer for us,” Mayor Barbara Bass said. “Australia leads other countries in prayer for us. It reminds me how much support we have, and how important prayer is.”
According to information at the 23rd annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in Tyler, there are 42,000 prayer gatherings across the United States. Other countries are beginning to participate, such as England and Australia.
The annual prayer event traces its roots to a 1775 call to prayer by the Continental Congress, asking the colonies to pray for wisdom about forming the United States.
According to the national event’s website, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of “humiliation, fasting and prayer” in 1863. By 1952, President Harry S. Truman signed a joint resolution by Congress to declare a national day of prayer. Each year, the U.S. president signs a proclamation to pray on the first Thursday in May, which became the official day of observance in 1988. In 2013, all 50 governors signed a similar proclamation.
This was Mayor Bass’ last time to lead the event as mayor, and she was recognized at the end of the program by the event’s steering committee, and church and synagogue leaders.
“This is not something she does to check off the list, she truly cares about this event,” David Stein, a member of the committee, said.
The prayer breakfast is funded by community members’ donations, not by the city, Mayor Bass said.
Kim Beckham, member of the committee, remembered a time when Mayor Bass was pressured to cancel the event, but she refused.
“She’s as tough as a diamond,” he said. “She said, ‘You can sue us, but we’re having this event.’”
The event featured speakers who translated from English and Hebrew as well.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to stand with you today in prayer,” Rabbi Alan Learner said. “Our strength and courage comes from the God of all creation. Although we may have different faiths, we can be united in prayer for our country, our military, our government.”
At the prayer on the square event downtown, people even attended from outside of Tyler.
“I came to join with others in recognizing God as our strength,” Paulette Berry, of Lindale, said.
Elected officials and religious leaders prayed on the square from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“I’m thankful prayer is not just something in our history, but something we do today,” state Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, said.