Times Square prayer rally to draw thousands Sunday

Think of Times Square and the first image to come to mind is likely a mass of humanity crammed together to watch a crystal ball’s descent usher in the new year. There’s kissing and hugging and then a quick dispersal into the unlimited choices of an evening in New York City. The same view many Americans watch only through their television sets was seen by pastors and staff at Times Square Church on West 51st Street at the hub of all Broadway has to offer. The thought, which came to senior pastor Carter Conlon and others, was why not try to populate the square not with partygoers, but with ordinary people gathered in prayer? Out of this Prayer in the Square was created. This Sunday, Sept. 20, Christians from around the New York area and other corners of the country will gather from 3 to 4 p.m. Eastern time for an hour of song and praise. “On New Year’s Eve when you look out over Broadway you see the multitudes,” Times Square Church associate pastor Neil Rhodes explained. “You don’t need New Year’s Eve to get people to come together in the name of Christ to pray.” By design this will be the third and final year of the rally, which may seem unusual considering its growth. Rhodes said between 8,000 and 10,000 people attended in 2007 and 18,000 came in 2008. Based on pre-event commitments between 30,000 and 50,000 are expected this year. Additionally, more than 350 churches have indicated they will be taking part via Webcast along with several universities and youth groups. There is also a special online youth prayer rally before the main event and a fast which has taken place. “This is truly an opportunity for people praying in a cross-cultural and cross-denominational sense,” Rhodes said. “The one important thing that unifies us all is the fact that we can all pray. Some pray loudly, some play quietly, but we are all praying.” Each year’s rally has had a theme. The first year, still being mindful of 9/11, was praying for public safety officials and leaders. From that first service Rhodes recalled a poignant moment where God’s presence was clearly felt. “The first year there was an amazing hush,” Rhodes said emotionally. “This is Times Square. You have cabs honking, buses moving, people talking just a lot of general noise. There was a moment that first year where an amazing quiet settled over the whole audience, and at that particular moment everyone knew God had shown up. “The testimonies we received were quite amazing. People stopped and bowed their heads and put their hands up and began to pray, even people who were in nearby stores or were passing by. We heard afterward many stories from people taking that experience and going back to their churches to reignite weekly prayer meetings. That is the impact we’re hoping for.” Last year’s theme focused on the integrity of prayer and its necessity as a cornerstone of the Christian faith. This year will focus on admitting to God wayward behaviors, particularly in light of the recession and some of the actions on nearby Wall Street which triggered the current crisis. “As we’ve seen with the economic crash as greed has swept through Wall Street, just as Daniel recognized what the Lord gives us, we ask on behalf of our nation for the Lord to forgive us.” Little information is being given on particular speakers or musicians performing on purpose. The intent focuses more on the message of 2 Chronicles 7:14. “We could fill the place with people if we had certain people here, but that’s not the point,” Rhodes stressed. “This is about integrity and the need to come before God.” Rhodes stressed the event, whether attended in person or online, is not about his church but about returning to one of the most basic elements of the Christian faith. “Christians everywhere have realized that having another seminar or DVD about what we believe isn’t the answer. The real answer is when you believe that before Jesus Christ every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess (Isaiah 45:23). When we pray, God answers.” Link: Prayer in the Square: http://www.nycprayer.org/

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