This week’s National Day of Prayer could be even more meaningful than typical as the nation comes out of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last year, many people of faith found themselves not only longing to spend time with family and friends, but also longing to worship and fellowship with their church families and their faith community,” said Cumberland University Professor Kent Hallman in an email. “I can imagine this year’s National Day of Prayer will be like a family reunion for many people of faith.”

Hallman is teaches sociology at Cumberland and is an ordained minister. He said prayer, and public prayer, is important to people across the globe.

“Worldwide, billions of people experience faith and prayer as their primary source of inspiration, hope and encouragement,” he said. “Worship has never just been a private matter, but often something to also be expressed in public and enjoyed in fellowship with others. In the Christian tradition, for example, the Lord’s Prayer was designed to be prayed with others: worshipers invoke “our Father” as opposed to “my Father.”

Beyond the individual, community prayer can serve reinforce faith, patriotism and shared humanity.

“It is a chance for people of diverse and multidenominational backgrounds to unify around a common core of belief in God, the power of prayer and love of country — even love of each other,” Hallman said. “This manifests most strongly on a local level, where leaders and members of various denominations reconnect with each other each year, as if to say, ‘despite our differences, we are family and we need each other’ because ‘faith need not divide us, but can unify us, we are all in this together.’ ”

Thursday will marks the 70th National Day of Prayer, and Wilson County’s local event will be 7 p.m. at Love’s Way Church in Lebanon.

“We invite everyone who has a heart to pray for our county, state and nation to join us,” Wilson County National Day of Prayer Chair Ronda Wehby said.

For this year’s observance, Wehby said, the National Day of Prayer theme is, “Lord pour out your live, life and liberty,” from 2 Corinthians 3:17 NKJV, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

State and community leaders such as state Sen. Mark Pody, state Rep. Clark Boyd, Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, Sheriff Robert Bryan will be in attendance.

The origins of the day have a Tennessee connection. It was February 1952, during the height of the Korean War, when the Rev. Billy Graham raised the idea of a day of prayer. His call was heard by U.S. Rep. Percy Priest of Tennessee, and was picked up by hotel magnate Conrad Hilton and U.S. Sen. Frank Carlson of Kansas. The legislation was signed into law later that year by President Truman.

Wehby encourages Wilson Countians to attend and and invite family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, church members and others to join in as well. Children are also welcomed to attend; however, no childcare will be provided. Love’s Way Church is located at 310 Coles Ferry Pike in Lebanon.

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