Members of different faith groups gathered together to pray, sing and worship Wednesday evening in observance of the National Day of Prayer.
According to Chaplain Linda P. Walton, adviser of Utah Valley Interfaith and chair of the National Day of Prayer, approximately 10 of the 40 religions present in Utah Valley were represented that evening.
“There are a lot of people who aren’t aware there are Hare Krishnas, as well as 30 other religions, in the valley,” she said. “It’s a good experience for those who choose to be involved.”
Walton spoke about charity at the event. She began by inviting the audience to look at the back of the program that was handed out, where 10 different religions’ statements of “the golden rule” were transcribed. She emphasized the similarities among the different religions and the common desire to do good.
“We can disagree and fight and not want to be around each other and dislike each other, but we don’t want to do that,” Walton said. “We decided that it would be really nice to find some things that we can agree upon.”
Brigham Young University President Kevin J Worthen was the keynote speaker of the evening. He spoke on the significance of prayer in connection to the night’s theme, “Love Our Enemies.”
“It’s a time for people of many faiths to come together to raise our thanks, praise and commitment to God with request that God grant us the strength, courage and wisdom to do those things that truly make this nation great,” he said.
President Worthen described the mandate from the Bible to “love your enemies” as being one of the most difficult commandments to keep, but one of the most important. He further illustrated the significance of prayer in relation to this commandment by using examples from American History, including anecdotes about the Civil War, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the wooden steamboat Sultana explosion in 1865 that killed more than 1,500 of her 2,500 passengers.
“What does prayer have to do with this?” President Worthen asked. “Maybe nothing at all. Or maybe everything. I am quite confident that many survivors of the Sultana had friends and family praying for their well-being. … I’m even more confident that at least some of those survivors uttered earnest and heartfelt prayers.”
President Worthen added that prayer is not only to petition God and to find strength for oneself but also to transform others. He stated that prayer has the ability to transform human weakness into glorious opportunity.
“The very question ‘does prayer work’ puts us in the wrong frame of mind. Work? What do we mean by that? We say it as if it were magic or a machine, something that functions automatically. Prayer is not just a request for God to bless us; it is a personal contact between ourselves and God,” President Worthen said.
President Worthen concluded by saying that prayer leads to action.
“Did prayer affect the outcome of the Sultana disaster? We can’t be sure. But I strongly suspect it did. If nothing else, it softened the hearts of those who rescued their former enemies as they realized, consciously or otherwise, what God would have them do,” he said.
When asked what he wanted people to take away from his speech, President Worthen said, “Prayer changes us and should cause us to act to do something and be something better.”
National Day of Prayer has been formally recognized and observed since 1952 and is annually celebrated on the first Thursday of May.