Utahns to unite in faith on National Day of Prayer

Published: Wednesday, May 1 2013 9:05 p.m. MDT

“What do people of faith do in a world that seems to be more chaotic, more out of control than ever?” Harter asked. “It seems to me that the best thing we can do is come together, support each other, pray for each other and focus on what we can agree on.”

In his mind, this extends beyond those who are gathering in Park City. “This is a national event,” he said. “At the same time we are meeting, people are gathering in other locations all around the country. We’re all kind of doing this together even though we’re not in the same geographic place. We’re connected to each other through our prayers. And I think that means something — to us, and to God.”

One unusual element of the Park City observance is the participation of local law enforcement and fire officials, as well as local legislators.

“We tell them, ‘Thanks for what you do for us. Now, what can we do for you? How can we support you with our prayers?’ ” Harter said. “Then after they tell us, we say, ‘OK, you’ve heard what the needs are. Let’s get together and pray.’ And we pray for everything and everyone we’ve been asked to pray for. We have a list and we pray for each name and challenge on the list.

“I think there’s something really powerful in that,” Harter concluded. “It’s like we’re saying to these public servants, ‘We may disagree on some things, but we can come together as one to pray for you.’ ”

In Provo, the Utah Valley Ministerial Association is holding its annual National Day of Prayer observance at 7 p.m. at the Heritage School Auditorium. In addition to it being a spiritual experience, UVMA chairwoman Linda Walton sees the event as an opportunity for education and the enhancement of interfaith understanding.

“Much of religion is culture,” said Walton, who is a chaplain at Utah Valley University. “There are diverse rituals, all kinds of symbolism and different ways of praying. Events like this give you an opportunity to experience those differences in a non-threatening way. And once you get past the different forms of prayer, you realize that it doesn’t matter if you kneel or stand or lay prone on your stomach. What matters is, what am I really thankful for? What am I scared about? What am I worried about? And you focus on that instead of a form of prayer that may be different from your own.”

Not all local churches are involved in National Day of Prayer observances. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn’t participate officially, although individual Latter-day Saints may choose to take part in local services (Scott Palmer, president of the LDS Church’s Park City Utah Stake, will present a New Testament reading during the Park City service, for example).

“The National Day of Prayer is not widely observed in the Episcopal Church,” said the Rev. Canon Mary June Nestler, executive officer of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah. “But there may be local churches that choose to participate, and that is fine with us. We certainly have no problem with it.”

That is because “praying for our country and for our leaders is part of our liturgical tradition.”

“We pray for our leaders and for our government as part of our worship,” the Rev. Nestler said. She pointed out passages in “The Book of Common Prayer” that invoke prayers for “our president, for the leaders of the nation and for all in authority,” as well as “for this city, for every city and community, for those who live in them.”

“Every day there’s a service at one of our churches where those prayers for the nation are given,” the Rev. Nestler said. “So every day is a Day of Prayer for us.”

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