"We feel very strongly that we're at a time in our nation and our world that everyone believes we need prayer," Edwards said. "Our congress and our president have recognized this for quite some time and they have established a National Day of Prayer where United States of America -- all across this great nation in every state -- officers, leaders, people are pausing to say, 'How much we need God,' hence a National Day of Prayer. In this area, we are very blessed because we have been doing this now for many, many years and every year at the Bartow County courthouse, scores and scores of people get together to pray for our world, our nation, but more important for our immediate community.
"Last year we had the largest gathering in the state of Georgia for a National Day of Prayer event. Over 1,000 people gathered at the courthouse steps. This year we're expecting even more. The significance [of this] is that in this community virtually all the churches are coming together. Whatever the denomination, they are coming together and crying out to God."
Prior to the public program on Thursday, area ministers will gather in prayer at 11 a.m. inside the old First Baptist Church, 112 W. Cherokee Ave. in Cartersville. Afterwards, the activities will move outside at noon to the steps of the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center at 135 W. Cherokee Ave., where the public will enjoy a community choir and have the opportunity to partake in a group prayer and pay tribute to the county's public safety personnel, many of whom will be in attendance.
For David Franklin -- associational missionary for the Bartow Baptist Association and a member of Bartow's National Day of Prayer committee -- the ministers' gathering was one of the most memorable features of last year's event. As the ministers walked together toward the assembled crowd at Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center, some individuals began to weep and cheer at the sight of their unity.
"There's an incredible energy when [ministers] get together because all of us are working for the same person, for the same cause," Franklin said. "While a guy on one side of the county may not see the guy on the other side of the county on a regular basis because we've got a big county, there's something special about getting together and standing shoulder to shoulder with other guys that you're on the same team with.
"This [type of gathering] is fairly unusual. This is not happening in every place. As a matter of fact Bartow County -- we've got people calling us asking, 'What are you doing? What's happening there?' ... because other people recognize that there's a huge need and a huge value for the team to get together and pray like we're doing here."
Created by a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress in 1952, the National Day of Prayer was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman and is recognized annually on the first Thursday of May. To commemorate this effort, local government officials will be playing a key role in Thursday's observance. In addition to the event being held at the courthouse, Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown as well as the mayors of local municipalities have signed a proclamation to mark its significance.
After the noon offering, the National Day of Prayer event will wrap up at the Cartersville High School stadium at 7 p.m. The program, which is expected to draw about 4,000 people, will be headlined by country singer Josh Turner, who also will be sharing his testimony with his wife, Jennifer. Open to everyone, the gathering will highlight the youth in the community, with several providing music and testimonies relating to the evening's theme -- "I am Second."
"The world tells a teenager, 'You're supposed to be self-centered' but God says, 'No, you're not supposed to be self-centered, you're supposed to give yourself away.' ... The challenge [is] out there for everybody to say, 'You know what, I need to be second because Jesus needs to be first,'" said Franklin, adding teenagers who want to be a part of the event, need to gather between 6:15 and 6:30 p.m. at the CHS football practice field. "It really is a generational community event but there will be a slant and focus on what God's doing with these teenagers."
For more information about the National Day of Prayer programs, call The Church at Liberty Square at 770-382-9489.