Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 6, 2009
Prayer can lead to 'extravagant changes' in city
Georgia pastor to headline mayor's breakfast with plea for prayer to alter civic life
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON – An incident in 2002 seemed to answer the mayor of Griffin’s question, “Does anyone believe in prayer?”
Facing a three-year drought and with only 12 days of water left in the city reservoirs, the small city of Griffin, Ga., faced a potential crisis. Church members responded by praying for rain. Their prayer meeting lasted for hours. The rain started that night and poured down for seven days, making headline news across America.
Led by pastors Clay and Sabrina Padgett, from the Crown Center Church International, the Griffin-Spalding Watch & Pray was formed. The organization works with the city government, city planners, police department, fire department and Church leaders to combat crime and substandard housing.
Padgett will lead the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast at the Shaw Conference Centre, April 21, 7:30-9 a.m. The annual event allows churches, ministries and businesspeople an opportunity to show their appreciation and support to pray for Edmonton’s mayor and civic leadership. This year’s theme is Praying Back Crime.
“We will share some of the things that can be done between churches and other people coming together to pray,” said Padgett. “Government leaders and spiritual leaders can come together and have an impact on their community. Working together, they can reduce crime, do away with a lot of the social problems, and actually change the whole atmosphere of the city.”
Reducing crime through the power of prayer is exactly what happened in Griffin.
Some of the changes over the past seven years include the elimination of prostitution, transformation of slum areas, decrease in high school dropout rates, neighbourhoods cleaned up by volunteers, less racism, increases in property value and a significant reduction in homicides.
“We had an extremely high murder rate. We were having anywhere from seven to 15 murders a month in Griffin, which is a small town. There are only 15,000 people in the city and 85,000 in the whole county,” said Padgett.
“What we found out is that Doc Holliday, the shoot-‘em-up cowboy murderer, this was his hometown. The city was sort of celebrating that he was born and raised in Griffin.
“We began to pray against that spirit of murder and against the spirit of celebrating this murderer. Almost overnight, murder stopped in our city. We went about 32 months without having another murder.”
POWER OF PRAYER
After one year of prayer, the community’s crime rate dropped by 35 per cent. The turnaround was so startling that the police chief called it a miracle from God, and gave all of the credit to the power of prayer.
“Everything that we take on to start praying about, we see an instantaneous and dramatic change take place,” said Padgett. “We’re not a perfect community by any means. One thing we do know for sure is that God is really bringing people together.”
At the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, Padgett will suggest that city leaders pray for extravagant changes. His second recommendation is that citizens, politicians and Church leaders pull together as one strong, coalesced force.
“What I find is that everybody is really eager to come together and make a difference, but no one ever takes the first step. I hope I can be a gentle push to get the clergy and the city leaders together, and start making an impact on the community,” he said.
Of course, Padgett faces ongoing skepticism. When he has done door-to-door surveys around Griffin about the effectiveness of Watch & Pray, some people have laughed in his face and said nothing will ever change, and prayer won’t make a bit of difference.
He tells the skeptics that it already has.
“There are a lot of people, if Jesus came down himself and appeared in the city, they still wouldn’t come out and be a part of it.
“I tell people not to be discouraged because everybody in the community doesn’t want to come out and pray. You can just take a handful of people, a couple hundred, whatever you can, and those people can have a major impact on a community.”
The tendency is that when a prayer movement starts in a city, others see the positive results and decide to join in, he said. One group will take care of the hungry, another the homeless, another working in the schools.
“All of a sudden people start coming out of the woodwork and begin joining forces with you. The momentum begins to grow,” said Padgett.