Folks take time to pray |

Folks take time to pray

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune
Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily TribuneKen Ralls, right, from South Lake Tahoe, prays with more than 40 others Thursday during National Day of Prayer outside the Douglas County Lake Administration Building.

Think of the importance of Earth Day to an avid ecologist, and you have the significance of Thursday’s 50th annual National Day of Prayer to an everyday believer of faith.

Just ask South Shore man Leonard O’Malley, who joined 41 residents and an estimated 3 million more Americans to acknowledge the observance established by President Harry Truman.

At the Douglas County Administration Building at Stateline, stickers declaring, “I prayed,” were handed out after the short ceremony. O’Malley turned it down because it’s already such a big part of his life.

When asked what he prayed for, he said, “To be more Christlike.”

“There’s so much deception these days. Once you know His principles, you get to know Him as a person,” O’Malley said.

Many prayers were shared in the assembly, now in its 10th year locally. They range from our personal relationships, children’s respect, local government guidance and a moral awakening.

“I hear more prayers for peace now,” Rev. Robert Orr said.

Orr, a pastor at Tahoe Community Church and one of the organizers of the local observance of the Day of Prayer, noticed twice as many people as the year before at the prayer vigil.

It’s unclear whether the surge in the attendance is due to the weather or a recent resurgence in prayer.

Orr wanted to believe the latter.

He’s already seen more people joining his Baptist church since Sept. 11, but the attendance has slackened as people have become somewhat complacent about acting on their faith, he said.

“We need things like this to bring the focus back,” Orr said. “It’s amazing that whenever we have a national crisis, the first thing we do as a nation is pray.”

On the day of the terrorist attacks, the church was packed. Even though the church attendance has dropped, Orr said he understands the reasons.

“We’re so busy, we get caught up and forget the Scripture,” he said. But even the Bible brings a reminder to its pages: “Be still and know that I am God,” Orr quoted from Psalms.

Revs. John Grace and Francisco Hernandez said it’s difficult to say what the parishioners at St. Theresa Catholic Church pray for because it’s such a personal act.

“Very few people vocalize their own special intentions,” Grace said.

Grace, a longtime South Shore priest, said he has a list to choose from and often gets a reading of what his flock is looking for in a message.

The messages have changed through the years.

“There’s a big evolution taking place in the Catholic church. In the old days, it was the priest’s job (to set the message). People more and more are getting involved and taking responsibility for their own lives,” Grace said.

“We’re not trying to give all the answers,” Hernandez said.

And as the evolution has slowly filtered through the Catholic religion, he has found “people more willing to be open to the word of God.”

Hernandez said he was surprised President George W. Bush told Americans to go back to the shopping malls instead of their churches in his post-Sept. 11 speech.

At St. Theresa’s, the two priests said they’re encouraged by the church’s renewed outreach.

“People are beginning to realize the way to the solution is to turn back to the churches,” Grace said.

Rev. John Bane of Our Lady of Tahoe Catholic Church said he’s also observed the Catholic Church emerging from its shell, with some people choosing to turn to other means of practicing faith.

“People have also found more prayer and spirituality these days, not organized religion,” Bane said, objecting to “fire and brimstone” sermons. “But organized religion, when done right, takes care of big needs — the sense of belonging and sense of acceptance.”

According to a recent poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, nearly six out of 10 Americans think the strength of society is based on the religious faith of its people.

But while most people believe that religious faith underlies America’s strength, very few see faith as a prerequisite to being a good citizen. About 84 percent say a person can be a good American without religious faith.

Two-thirds of its citizens consider the United States to be a Christian nation.

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