ALPHARETTA, Ga. – The National Day of Prayer (NDP) is a nondenominational call to community action backed by the overarching power of prayer, said NDP organizer Kirk Driskell.
He and wife Deena Driskell organized a May 1 dinner at the Metropolitan Club to bring together 300 community and business leaders to educate them on the power of prayer, make them aware of needs in the community and mobilize them to action for a day of service.
“We wanted to gather the people together to honor the day. We also talked with Mayor David Belle Isle to begin to meet the needs of the city,” Driskell said.
“Behind the dinner though is the mission of the National Day of Prayer,” he said. “That is to create a movement of passionate, fervent prayer partners who will unite neighbors to focus on the needs of the community and change the city.”
To help in this endeavor, Driskell brought in keynote speakers Jim Reese, president and chief executive officer of Atlanta Mission, and 24-year-old Gerald Fadayomi, the northeast area director of teen initiatives for the Metropolitan Atlanta YMCA. They gave their personal testimonies on the power of prayer in everyday life.
“Jim Reese was able to share his wisdom of experience about his work in the trenches. Then Gerald was an example of the impact the YMCA and other organizations are making,” Driskell said. “It was great to see what happens when you get it right.”
Fadayomi has overcome difficult personal trials as a teenager who lost first his father and then his mother. He makes no secret of how it was his connection to the YMCA that gave him a path to success.
Reese is a successful businessman who was chief financial officer of HoneyBaked Ham and CCCi. He served as a division vice president of Frito Lay and was CEO of Randstad North America. But he gave all that up to be head of the Atlanta Mission, that city’s largest and longest-running provider of services to homeless men, women and children. It provides emergency and temporary shelter and aids in recovery programming and job attainment while housing and feeding some 950 people a day.
“Six years ago, I would have said no way would I run the Atlanta Mission,” Reese said. “I had never done anything in mission ministry.”
A former chairman of the elders at Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, he felt God’s calling to completely change his life.
“I went through a process where I felt God said, ‘Be fully dependent on me.’ Then I realized I had spent my life building teams. This would be no different,” Reese said.
He has never looked back on that decision.
“I hope I had half the impact on the Mission that the Mission has had on me,” he said.
The need for a National Day of Prayer is to remind people they need a relationship with God, one that is built on a dialogue with God through prayer.
Perhaps too often, people see prayer as based on reaction to the world – what Reese called “circumstantial prayer when the alarm goes off.” That’s when it is time for some to pray.
He prefers “relational prayer,” which is spending time with God. It is about keeping your strength when you really need it.
“Don’t lose heart. Keep the faith even in bad times. Prayer helps you do that. I want God in my life every day, so I pray,” Reese said. “It’s because God loves me, and to be in a consistent relationship with God, you have to be consistent in prayer.”
Fadayomi is a young man in an important position for the YMCA. Listening to him for five minutes, it is easy to understand why. He is a communicator who connects with an audience.
“In the past year, he has affected the lives of 2,000 teenagers in the Alpharetta area,” said Ed Isakson/Alpharetta YMCA Director Scott Doll. “He is a gifted youth leader with a capital ‘G,’ leading them through action, interaction and deeds.”
Fadayomi had every reason to fail in life. He grew up without a father. He lost touch with his mother and was living at a neighbor’s house. He says there is one reason he did not end up murdered like four of his friends or committing suicide like a fifth friend before he was 22. That was the YMCA.
“A lot of people drive around today with a GPS in their car so they can get where they want to go. I’m here to tell you the YMCA is my GPS,” Fadayomi said.
Belle Isle is a close friend of Driskell, and he wanted to be involved in National Prayer Day in Alpharetta not as mayor but for his own personal commitment.
“This is not an official city event, but Ken and I know a lot of leaders in the community, and I wanted to help him pull this off,” Belle Isle said. “I hear of people praying for the country, praying for our troops, but who is praying for Alpharetta?
“So that was the genesis for this. So we came to the church leaders last year to bring them together. This year, we wanted to include more prayer teams for our city’s first responders and our leaders,” Belle Isle said.
Other groups prayed for the schools and teachers, the YMCA and nonprofit organizations.
“At the park, we prayed for families and marriages,” Belle Isle said.
Then on Saturday, May 3, they put action in those prayers. Volunteers engaged to help organizations in their community. Some 300 people participated.
“The way I look at it, don’t pray for something if you’re not willing to get off the couch,” Belle Isle said.