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Local religious leaders weigh in on governor's day of prayer

Brandon Paykamian • Oct 9, 2019 at 8:00 PM

While not much appears to be formally planned for the occasion in Northeast Tennessee, some local religious leaders have praised Gov. Bill Lee for asking the state to pray with him on Thursday.

Lee recently signed a proclamation declaring Thursday a statewide “voluntary Day of Prayer, Humility and Fasting.”

"Prayer strengthens our families, and it strengthens our communities,” the governor said in a Sept. 18 Twitter video announcing his plans. “It strengthens our relationship with our neighbors; it strengthens our relationship with God himself.

“We invite all Tennesseans to join with us in their homes, in their communities, in their places of worship, to fast and to pray for God's favor and blessing on the people of Tennessee."

Milligan College President Bill Greer said that while the Christian institution isn’t holding any events on Thursday during fall break, he supports the governor’s declaration.

“As president of a Christian college, I am pleased we have a governor who is bold enough to call on the people of the state to pray for Tennessee,” he said. “I appreciate the approach he’s taken, that he’s doing it and that it’s not a government mandate.”

Ed Wolff, a local Lutheran minister who also describes himself as a “progressive activist” said “no prayer can hurt,” but believes bringing the state together is about more than just prayer. Some Tennessee progressives have criticized the governor’s proclamation as a gesture against secularism.

“It can’t do any harm,” he said. “Talking to God any time is healthy, but if we really want to follow God, it takes more than having an announcement of a day of prayer.

“Prayer is always good, but it takes more than prayer — we’ve got to sit down and talk to one another.” 

Aaron Murphy, a senior pastor with Thankful Baptist Church and CEO of Good Samaritan Ministries, said he agrees with the governor’s proclamation. He said prayer “brings unity” to the local community.

But Murphy, who leads a charitable ministry, also said prayer alone isn’t enough.

“Prayer changes things. Prayer invites the presence of God to inhabit our lives, and his presence brings peace, and we need that more than anything,” he said. 

“I think prayer should lead to action. We can spend a lot of time praying about something, but there’s a followup to praying,” he later added. “There’s a time to go from talking to doing.”

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