“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Inscribed on the statue of liberty
A nation of independent thinkers, adventurers, entrepreneurs and lovers of freedom, America consists of every stripe and color of humanity. It is this diversity that makes America strong and unique, full of promise and potential. Sadly, these differences that should make our country stronger also divide us and throw up barriers between people and communities — even churches. Ask most Americans if this is their dream for their country and their children and the answer will likely be “No.” Yet here we are, divided by race, denominations, socio-economic status and more. It is hard to believe that this is what is right for America and her citizens. Jeremy Wright and Craig Morrison don’t believe this is America’s destiny. Neither do the 15,000 or so participants in the As One Prayer Walk on April 11. Thousands will gather at Festival Park for a prayer walk through downtown Fayetteville. There are no dividing lines here. Everyone is welcome.
“We decided to call this the As One Prayer Walk because it is all inclusive,” said Event Spokesperson Jeremy Wright. “We are separated enough already. We want a movement that looks like the body of Christ should look.”
Judging from the response, Wright and Morrison are not alone. Busloads of people are scheduled to come from Georgia and Florida and requests for lodging information have come from Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Clearly, there are many who consider America worth their time and prayer.
“The park opens at 9 a.m. There will be music and singing. The prayer walk starts at 10 a.m.,” said Morrison. “For the participants, this will be a silent walk, but there will be pastors and chaplains at every station praying aloud.”
The stations are scattered throughout downtown and include the Veterans Memorial, where participants will have the opportunity to pray for service members and their families; veterans and their families; and military leaders.
The next stop is Fayetteville City Hall to pray for local leaders and also state and national leaders.
The walk stops at the Cumberland County Detention Center to pray for persons incarcerated and their families.
At the Market House the prayers are for racial diversity and for all racial barriers to be broken down.
Educators, students, teacher and the homeless will be the focus when the walk stops at the Headquarters Library.
As the walk returns to Festival Park, the focus turns to spiritual leaders. Singing and a short praise and worship ceremony rounds out the walk.
“The walk is about two miles. For kids or people who would like to participate but cannot walk that far, we have a station in Festival Park they can come to and pray and participate in the prayer walk that way,” said Morrison.
The As One Prayer Walk is about more than just one day of prayer, though. While it is a celebration event, this is about a bigger movement to bring God’s people together to make a difference in the world around them. Breaking down the walls that divide them is just one piece of the equation.
“This really is a unifying event,” said Wright. “I was at McDonalds on Skibo Road earlier this year. I am a black guy, but I saw an older white couple come in wearing the As One T-shirts and I had to go over and talk to them. We were automatically united because of our shared experience.”
Morrison shared a similar story. “About two months after last year’s walk, I was at the mall and saw someone wearing an As One T-shirt. I went over and said ‘Hello,’ and it was like we were family. We shared stories and I introduced them to my family. This is what we want to see all over. It is all about relationships.”
There are indicators that change is on the horizon and that barriers are falling down.
“God’s people know what we should do but it doesn’t always happen that way,” said Wright.
It seems that more and more, local pastors are inviting each other to visit and preach at churches throughout the community. They are building relationships between the congregations. Organizations like Operation Inasmuch and Habitat for Humanity have always brought people together, but Wright and Morrison see God working here, too, and in a very personal way.
“One of our church partners donated an acre of land. We donated it to Habitat for Humanity. They are going to build four homes on that land. It is all interconnected,” said Wright. “We were praying about how to make a difference, someone else was praying about what to do with this plot of land, people at Habitat were praying about building homes for families and families out there were praying for a safe place to live. It all came together because of prayer.”
“Operation Inasmuch started here and has gone around the world,” said Morrison. “People are working together, people are coming together and doing good in the name of Jesus.”
Most any believer will testify to the power of prayer, and the same is true for Wright and Morrison and the other initiatives they support.
Walk the Halls is a another silent prayer initiative that takes place the day before school starts. Participants walk through the schools and pray for the students, teachers, administrators and for the entire campus.
“Two days before Walk the Halls, we only had two campuses to pray for,” said Wright. “Within just a day we were able to add more and more campuses and on the day of the event, we had 13 campuses. We will be doing it again when the year-round schools start in July and the traditional schools start in August.”
With the As One Prayer Walk just around the corner, on April 11, there is still time for pastors to register their churches or register to pray at one of the stations. There is time for individuals to plan to attend. T-shirts are available at the website www.asoneprayerwalk.org. Morrison encourages all participants to purchase a T-shirt not only as a show of unity on the day of the walk but as a way to stay connected throughout the year with others who participate in the event. Visit the website and follow the As One Prayer Walk on twitter, Facebook and instagram.