By Kara Witherow, Editor
In the pre-dawn hours of Monday morning, Oct. 19, 115 people poured into Park Avenue United Methodist Church’s sanctuary to pray. Another 160 or so watched via livestream, worshiping and praying from their homes.
More came the next day. And the next. And every day since.
They’re taking part in the church’s 21-day prayer initiative, “Talk. Listen. Move,” which began Oct. 19 and runs through Nov. 8.
The timing was purposeful, said Rev. Jimmy Towson, senior pastor at Park Avenue UMC in Valdosta.
“With what we’re seeing in our country right now we felt the call to pray.”
Meeting at 6 a.m. Monday through Friday, at 9 a.m. on Saturdays, and at 8:55 and 11 a.m. on Sundays, the three-week prayer initiative was inspired by 2 Chronicles 7:14. Apolitical in nature, it’s a call for revival and for all to acknowledge their need for God, Rev. Towson said.
“The main thing is to get people to pray and to call for peace in our world and in our country as we approach the election and move past it,” he said. “We’re asking God to move and for an awakening of our country, to return back to him. We pray for our leadership – locally, in the state, in the country, and around the world – that God would use this to awaken us and revive us.”
The morning prayer services include a time of worship, teaching, individual prayer, and corporate prayer. During the three weeks the teaching has focused on how to pray, how to listen, and how God uses prayer to move people out into the community.
“It’s a very holy experience for all of us. It’s a meaningful time of prayer,” Rev. Towson said.
For several months, Eleanor McGowan, who attends Park Ave. UMC with her husband, retired pastor Rev. John McGowan, has prayed for the nation and the election. She’s grieved by the polarization and divisiveness she’s seen.
“I have prayed that during this time we would become one nation under God. That’s been my prayer,” she said.
The prayer initiative is a purposeful way Christians can obediently unite, she said.
“God’s word tells us to pray,” she said. “God can heal our land without our prayers, but He gives us a directive and wants us to be a part of it.”
Through this three-week focus on prayer Rev. Towson hopes lives will be transformed and the congregation and those involved will make prayer more a lifestyle.
“One of the things I’m praying God will do with this is to move us from a people who ‘ought’ to pray to people who ‘want’ to pray,” he said. “I also pray that we would clearly see a move of God like we haven’t seen before. That may be in individuals, that may be in our community or in our church body, or it might be through the election or what’s happening in our country right now, but I pray we would see a move of God.”