During National Day of Prayer Thursday, Chris Whiting, Dylan Teager, Win Anderson and Mark Holland, of Family Harvest Church, exercise their free speech rights to bring prayer and songs of praise to Lakeland High School.
During National Day of Prayer Thursday, Chris Whiting, Dylan Teager, Win Anderson and Mark Holland, of Family Harvest Church, exercise their free speech rights to bring prayer and songs of praise to Lakeland High School.

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Praying for the nation

Published 10:56pm Thursday, May 2, 2013

By R.E. Spears III and Matthew Ward

Residents of Suffolk joined other believers from around the nation on Thursday for the National Day of Prayer, meeting in venues large and small to raise their voices in supplication to God.

Hundreds gathered at the National Guard Armory for the Suffolk Leadership Prayer Breakfast, where they heard from about the power of faith and prayer from a panel of civilian and military leaders and watched a presentation by professors in Regent University’s Theatre Arts department.

Scot Lahaie and Eric Harrell presented a scene from the play “Freud’s Last Session” that portrayed a fictitious discussion on faith between Dr. Sigmund Freud, an avowed atheist of the early 20th century, and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis.

The keynote speaker for the event was Sally Lloyd-Jones, an author of Christian books for children.

Other presenters spoke to the power of prayer in their lives and their communities.

The event “speaks volumes about community prayers and community leadership,” said Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Brian D. Beaudreault of the Joint Force Development Directorate in Suffolk, who noted that he had personally experienced the power of prayer while serving in Iraq.

“I’ve never prayed as hard or as often in my life,” he recalled. “God was present and accounted for in our company.”

Film producer and director Olcay Balitatli, a former Muslim, described his conversion to the Christian faith following the 9/11 attacks on America. He said he had seen Jesus Christ in a dream and set out to learn more about Him when he came to the United States.

“It’s because of His amazing grace that I am saved,” he said.

Across town, at Lakeland High School, four members of Family Harvest Church gathered beneath the flagpoles at 7 a.m. to pray for school and community leaders.

Win Anderson, a youth pastor, and Mark Holland, of the church’s men’s ministry, along with recent high school graduates Dylan Teager and Chris Whiting, sang songs of praise as the first busloads of students arrived for classes.

“We’ve been gathering at the pole for several years now,” Holland said. “It’s just to reach out and let people know that this is still a free country, and we can still preach Gospel.”

Anderson reflected, “Personally, it’s to be able to come here and pray over the school and the students and the faculty, and pray for their efforts and that God would lead them and meet them where they’re at.”

National Day of Prayer is one of two occasions during the year when the church prays outside Lakeland High’s front doors, Anderson said. See You at the Pole is celebrated in the fall.

“It’s kind of like at the beginning of the school year, then at the end of the school year, we take the opportunity to do this,” he said. “Right now, we feel like a lot of the godly heritage is diminishing.”

A few students, after filing past the group of worshippers and into the school building with the rest of their classmates, returned outside and joined in.

According to Dylan, a recent graduate of Virginia Beach’s Frank W. Cox High School, U.S. Supreme Court cases in 1962 and 1963 that halted state-sponsored prayer in schools have led to poor outcomes for students and communities.

“The whole aspect of being a student changed,” he said. “The crime rate went up among kids under 20 and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) increased.

“(Prayer) seemed like it was something that really helped the students stay focused and gave them something to hold on to.”

Dylan said he understands the power of prayer on a personal level, having come from a non-Christian household with an absent father and alcoholic mother.

After finding church in his senior year, “things got so much easier,” he said.

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