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Students organize school prayer

Thursday was to have been an otherwise normal day of classes at Lakeland High School.

But as students and teachers began arriving around 7 a.m., they were met with an unusual sight: A small group of their friends and colleagues was gathered around the flagpoles, heads bowed in prayer.

In observance of the National Day of Prayer, one Lakeland sophomore, Chris Whiting, had put out the word that he would be standing boldly for his faith at the entrance to his school. By the time the school day started, about 15 students, faculty, parents and friends had joined him there.

“We just came up with the idea to do this,” he said. “I was raised (to value prayer), I guess.”

Whiting and his mother, Mary, had talked earlier this week about the National Day of Prayer, and he decided Tuesday that he wanted to organize an observance at his school. By Tuesday night, he had set up an event invitation on Facebook, he’d sent text messages to all his friends and the word was beginning to get around. On Wednesday, he received permission to post flyers around the school.

“I think in my eyes — and I’m sure in the Lord’s eyes — it’s huge,” said Win Anderson, Whiting’s youth pastor at Family Harvest Church. “It’s huge, because you guys are being bold in your faith.”

At Whiting’s request, Anderson joined the group outside the school to lead a short time of devotion and a series of prayers.

“This is huge,” he repeated. “When Chris called me, I said ‘YES!’”

Anderson said the fact that the youth were willing to make such a public profession of their faith indicated “a love for God, a conviction for the truth” and an understanding that “these freedoms we have can’t be taken for granted.”

Acknowledging the controversy surrounding this year’s 59th annual observance of the National Day of Prayer — a federal judge has ruled that the government’s endorsement of the event is unconstitutional — Anderson encouraged the students attending the prayer circle at Lakeland to continue to be bold.

“They can never take our prayer from us,” he said, even if free speech and other basic American freedoms one day come under attack.

“Everybody needs prayer,” student Cierra Eley said prior to the event.

Her sister, Tierra, agreed. Both attend Family Harvest, along with Whiting, and were among the first at Lakeland to join Thursday’s prayer circle.

“I just thought it would be a good idea for everybody to be here to pray for the stuff that’s going on in our country,” Tierra Eley said.