This year’s observance of the National Day of Prayer, to be held nationwide on Thursday, May 7, will be remarkably different than any other in its 69-year history as people participate via computers and smartphones instead of at local parks and on courthouse lawns.
For 26 years, Delaware County has held its celebration at Rose Tree Park in Media. But this year COVID-19 has forced the NDP Delco Task Force to switch from a physical gathering to a virtual observance where folks can join in from the comfort and safety of home.
“We’re excited,” said Mike Hewes of NDP Delco Task Force and a parishioner of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Morton. “We had to make changes. We had a large team of people helping us out. I’m interested in the changes that will make a positive impact.”
The task force includes almost 40 people from churches of various faiths in the county. Traditionally, it starts planning the local celebration a few months in advance but this year the group came together in October to begin preparation for the 2020 National Day of Prayer. The organizers could not know everyone’s lives would change dramatically in just five months.
The group met, planned and prayed as the months came and went but when the coronavirus impacted society in March, a backup plan came into play with weekly conference calls.
“I was confused,” said Patti Bruno, co-director of NDP Delco. “The virus was here. God raised his team for a time like this. He is raising an army of leaders. Revival is coming through this coronavirus.”
The first conference call took place on March 23. At the time, there was hope that social distance orders might be lifted by May 7 and there would be an opportunity to celebrate in person. The task force prayed for that to happen but as days and weeks went by the likelihood decreased and it was time to make the decision to go virtual for the first time ever. The day would not be cancelled.
“This is a first, totally unprecedented,” said David Buffum, also of NDP Delco. “God is the same. Prayer is the same. So because God is the same, our 2020 Day of Prayer will be as amazing as always. We will miss the park, the sunshine and the intimacy that comes with hugs, handshakes and smiles of togetherness. But the ultimate process is to worship the Lord and then encounter God in prayer as we pour out our hearts to him and ask him to bless and heal the world.”
After making the call to go virtual, the task force worked to get word out to the churches including the Catholic parishes in Delaware County. By working with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for the New Evangelization, word of the event reached parishes in other counties of the archdiocese.
Approximately 300 people came to the celebration last year at Rose Tree Park but by inviting people to participate from home, especially in these hard times, organizers are hoping to surpass 1,000.
The theme for the 2020 National Day of Prayer is “Pray God’s Glory Across the Earth,” a reminder to put God first and love him above all things as the First Commandment says.
“God is to be praised at all times, in all situations and in all places,” said Msgr. Ken McAteer of St. Ephrem Parish in Bensalem, Bucks County. “It’s always been the prayer of the church that we become one in Christ across the whole earth. Everyone, everywhere should honor and praise God.”
As always, prayers will be offered for individuals, families, churches, schools, colleges, the government, first responders, the military, businesses and the media and entertainment industry. The NDP aims to remind everyone of their need for God’s help, more than ever during the pandemic.
“My hope is that people will be more comfortable talking about God and talking to God,” said Gabrielle Bruno, co-director of NDP Delco.
The Delco Task Force is asking for the public’s help in making the day even more special. One of the best advantages of this new way of observing the day is that there is room for everyone to take part in the celebration with prayers of their own. It is not limited to clergy and church personnel.
Anyone wishing to share a prayer video may sign up at where they may do so via iPhone, tablet or computer with an unlimited number of people. Those uncomfortable with being on camera but wishing to take part may also go to the website and the task force will help them find a creative way to be involved.
“My hope is that putting this online and seeing so many styles of prayer will help people grow their relationships with Jesus in a comfortable setting,” said Gabrielle Bruno. “We have the freedom to talk to God anytime.”
Msgr. McAteer, who participated in last year’s Delaware County celebration for the first time, put together a video in the parish convent chapel. In addition to two prayers for an end to the pandemic, he included the following prayer:
“Direct, O Lord, all our actions, by your holy inspiration. Carry them on by your gracious assistance, so that every prayer and good work of ours may always begin from you and by you be happily ended. Through Christ, Our Lord, Amen.”
Participation in the day itself can be done by visiting the NDP website and Facebook page on May 7 at 11 a.m. where prayer videos will be shared all day. Audio participation for the event is also available by calling 425-436-6328, access code 371899#.
Not all celebrations will take place during the day. In the evening, the national observance will be livestreamed from 8-10 p.m. on the NDP website as well as Facebook Live. Television viewers and radio listeners can catch the broadcast on GodTV, Daystar, NLC, Moody Broadcasting and Bott Radio Network.
Local organizers hope that on May 7 people will come together and set the tone for an increase in the number of participants in physical prayer events when they can happen again.
“It is my fervent hope that all Americans, young and old, have a personal, spiritual awakening because of the ominous worldwide disease and economic paralysis we are going through,” said Buffum. “This pandemic is a man-made disaster. But God in his grace can use what is intended for harm and turn it around to accomplish some good.”
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