CEDAR CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox joined local leaders of different faiths in a special community prayer event Thursday night.
The hourlong program, titled “In Unity and Faith: A Community Prayer Gathering,” attracted a crowd of a few hundred people who sat on the grass of Cedar City’s Main Street Park and listened to inspirational words and music. The event was hosted by the Cedar Area Interfaith Alliance.
During his remarks, Cox talked about faith and the power of prayer.
He related a personal anecdote, sharing an experience he’d had while on his family’s farm with his younger brother, then about 10 years old. The tractor they’d been using had broken down and wouldn’t start.
“I said, ‘Well, before we go get Uncle Ron to fix the tractor, maybe we should just say a prayer,’” Cox recounted. “So I asked him, I said, ‘Well, why don’t you say it?’ And so my little brother said, ‘Okay,’ and he prayed. He just said, ‘Heavenly Father, we’re thankful for all we have. And thanks for this farm. And we really need to finish this job, so please bless this tractor that it will start.'” And closed in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Cox said in that moment that he had a terribly thought: he didn’t actually believe the prayer would work, and he might’ve damaged his brother’s faith my making the request.
With his brother waiting for him to start the tractor, Cox said he “just closed my eyes and I said a little prayer myself.”
“I said, ‘God, I don’t think this is going to work. But he does. So please make this start.’”
At that point, Cox said, the tractor promptly started and they were able to finish their task.
“I realized what the scripture meant when it talked about having the faith of a child,” Cox said. “I realized that his faith was stronger than my faith. Even though I had been out preaching the gospel to people, he believed more than I did. And that changed me at that time. I realized then never to doubt, and to always believe. And so whenever I run into a tough stretch, whenever something’s going wrong, I remember that and I reach out and ask for help.”
Cox then spoke of the prolonged drought that Utah and other Western states have been experiencing and said he and other officials asked the public to conserve water, and the response was positive.
“We’ve conserved more water this year than any year in our state’s history,” he said. “Everyone responded and did their part, which I think God cares about. … He wants us to rely on him, but He also wants us to work and to do our part.”
Still, Cox said, that wasn’t quite enough, so he called for people of all faiths to pray for rain.
Although Cox said the request was met with some derision on social media, many people willingly agreed to join in the effort, including those of Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths.
“And then it rained, and it rained, and it rained,” Cox said. “Some of you had a lot more faith than some others. It was a miracle. It was one of the wettest late summers we’ve ever had in our state. And if your basement flooded, I’m so sorry. That was certainly not the intention. But it just confirmed to me what I learned on that tractor on that farm that day, and that is that there is a God who knows who we are and He cares about us.”
Cox concluded by saying prayer helps unify communities.
“In a time when we’re so divided, I believe that prayer and our combined faith can unify us and bring us together,” he said.
“What you are doing here tonight, coming together as a community of different faith backgrounds, is far more important than anything I will ever do as governor,” he said. “This is what makes our country special. This is why our country was founded, so that we could worship how we want, where we want and when we want, and that we can do that as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Music for the event was provided by the Presbyterian Church Praise Team, with the crowd joining in singing both the opening and closing numbers, “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America,” respectively.
In addition, a youth group from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sang “We Believe” before the three centerpiece prayers that followed.
Each of the three successive prayers had a different focus, with the first being a prayer for families, the second being a prayer for the community and the third being a prayer for the nation.
In his prayer for families, Pastor Richard Brown of the Red Hills Baptist Church invoked the words of the Biblical prophet Joshua: “Choose this day, whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
“God, we pray for our children,” Brown said. “Give them courage to stand for what is right, because they see our example, as parents, standing for what is right, even when it’s uncomfortable, even when it is dangerous. God help our kids to see that and to learn from them to follow our example.”
In her prayer for the community, Melanie Whitney of the Baha’i faith read aloud a message of inspiration written by Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i movement.
“O Lord, bestow Thy gracious aid and confirmation upon this just government,” she said. “This country lieth beneath the sheltering shadow of Thy protection, and this people is in Thy service. O Lord, confer upon them Thy heavenly bounty, and render the outpourings of Thy grace and favor, copious and abundant. Suffer this esteemed nation to be held in honor and establish it to be admitted into thy kingdom.”
Tyler Romeril, president of the Canyon View Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then prayed that the citizens of the nation would be blessed to live up to the “divine expectations” that have been placed upon them.
“Bless us to be kind, generous, loving and wise,” Romeril said during his prayer.
“How thankful we are to live in a country where others want to come,” he added. “We ask Thee to bless that that as refugees interact with communities that they will feel welcome, they will have neighbors that love them, that will be able to meet their needs, and be kind to them and help them belong.”
Romeril also asked for the Lord to bless the leaders of the country, both current and future, to be “humble and “God-fearing,” and he made a plea that divisiveness could end and harmony prevail.
“Bless us to live the teachings of loving our neighbors and forgiving our enemies and turning the other cheek when injured.”
Romeril also asked that the COVID-19 pandemic could come to an end “and that the division it was caused can cease, that this country can heal.”
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