Uniting in and through Prayer
My dad had a stand-by joke about prayer that he repeatedly told in various forms for 28 years as a Clark County Commissioner. It never failed to bring the house down with laughter. So, naturally I stole it when I became Mayor. “I was recently asked to speak at the southern Nevada Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast,” I quipped during my first State of the City address, “only to find out that I was voted by local religious leaders as the mayor most in need of their prayers.” And, of course, with the proper pause and smirk on my face, the audience roared with laughter once again. Then they promptly went out and told their friends, “Mayor Woodbury doesn’t have a prayer of getting re-elected!”
I have always admired public servants like my dad, Duncan McCoy, and Joe Hardy who don’t take themselves too seriously and are quick to poke fun at themselves. It reminds us that the people who serve us are never bigger than the offices they occupy. And that none of us is so smart or gifted that we can solve all of our local or world problems on our own.
That’s a big reason why, all jokes aside, true prayer is no laughing matter. Through prayer, we petition deity for divine help to understand and accomplish things that we don’t have the power to fully comprehend and do on our own.
So, I always felt inspired when the pastors, rabbis, and lay people from Boulder City’s many local churches and faith-based organizations would come and pray for us and our community at the commencement of every City Council meeting. Jason King, Kurt Hedlund, Debra Downs, David Graham, and Sandy Johnson were among the regulars who gave the invocation when I served on Council. Salvation Army representatives often prayed for us as well. Occasionally, when the scheduled ecclesiastical leader failed to show up, staff members like Scott Hansen would volunteer to pray. And once in a while, I had the privilege of praying as well.
Each of us had different religious affiliations and sometimes none at all. Our moral beliefs, practices, and perspectives differed, too. And, as you might expect, we each had our own unique style of praying. But that diversity is one of the top reasons why each prayer was so endearing to me.
Each in his or her own unique way supplicated the Almighty for hope and help. For wisdom and the spirit of understanding. For civility and brotherly kindness. For collaboration and better solutions to issues and problems. They prayed that reason and the best interests of everyone would be served. For guidance and protection. For strength to meet our heavy responsibilities. For our own welfare and the welfare of others. And for prosperity.
In addition to asking for providential assistance, each petitioner also expressed heartfelt gratitude for our successes, peace, health, and the many other blessings we enjoy as citizens of Boulder City. Every one of them spoke with reverence and respect. I felt their sincere humility and love for our community. And I deeply appreciated their role in helping us unite in
faith and gratitude for the blessings we need and the bounty that has already been bestowed upon us.
Working (and in this case, praying) together to find unity in our diversity is exactly what good government is all about. Unity isn’t uniformity. Even in the same church or religion, our individual beliefs aren’t all exactly aligned. But despite our differences, we unite to find common ground.
I feel the same way about southern Nevada’s Mayors Prayer Breakfast. Modeled on the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., it’s an important community-building event that has brought together political, religious, business, and youth leaders in celebration of our unity and diversity for over 65 years. Our own Gard Jameson is one of its organizers and biggest proponents. Typically held the week before Thanksgiving, approximately 450 high school students, including half a dozen or so from Boulder City High School, join southern Nevada’s mayors and community leaders in an intergenerational event that celebrates the gift of prayer and encourages all of us to find creative solutions to the challenges our communities face.
My prayer today is that we’ll continue clinging to traditions like these and never let them die. Thank you to all who graciously petition on our behalf at the beginning of every City Council meeting. And to so many others who do so silently and anonymously at other times and in other places. There’s power in prayer. Especially in collective and unified prayer. I know that’s true. And I’m so grateful to join with you as we petition and reap the benefits together.