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Bush declares Sept. 16 national day of prayer, asks Americans to pray for nation

WASHINGTON (BP)–As the nation unites for the daunting challenge of assisting Hurricane Katrina survivors, President Bush is calling for a national day of prayer and remembrance Friday Sept. 16.

“Throughout our history in times of testing, Americans have come together to heal and ask for strength for the tasks ahead,” Bush said during remarks on hurricane relief Sept. 8. “… I ask that we pray — as Americans have always prayed in times of trial — with confidence in His purpose, with hope for a brighter future and with the humility to ask God to keep us strong so that we can better serve our brothers and sisters in need.”

In response to Bush’s request for a national day of prayer, the National Day of Prayer Task Force is stepping up to promote awareness, Terrell Mayton, head of marketing and communications for the organization, told Baptist Press. The task force has no official relationship to the Sept. 16 day of prayer, although it is working to promote participation.

“We’re encouraging people to do things like ring their church bells [at noon Sept. 16], keep their car lights on throughout the day, display the flag at their home, gather at their workplace to pray during their lunch time, gather at their churches or places of worship for [prayer] and support our leaders as they make some very difficult choices as we provide aid and comfort to these people who have gone through this awful natural disaster,” Mayton said.

The personal relationship with God through prayer is a very important part of the recovery process, he said, and even surpasses the need for food and water.

Shirley Dobson, chairwoman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, called on Americans to pray for all those affected by Katrina.

“As the devastation from Hurricane Katrina escalates, we at the National Day of Prayer Task Force want to express our heartfelt sympathy to the families and communities affected by this catastrophic event,” Dobson said in a Sept. 6 news release. “The initial disaster, followed by the resulting floods and now shortage of water, food, medical supplies, shelter and other necessities, has been difficult to witness and in turn, comprehend.”

Dobson listed several prayer requests:

— For the safety and health of the hurricane victims.

— That God will give the rescuers the physical and spiritual strength required to do their work.

— For patience for those anxiously waiting to hear from family members or for word on their homes and neighborhoods.

— For problems to be solved in peace and for order to be established in the midst of chaos.

— For the relief organizations involved, that they will receive enough supplies and funds to address the needs before them and that they will get the supplies distributed quickly and efficiently.

— That citizens will selflessly open their hearts and homes to the victims.

“By uniting in prayer as a nation, we can avail ourselves of the wisdom that only God provides,” Dobson said. “By petitioning Him for mercy and grace, people everywhere can be a very real and necessary part of the hope and healing. Through prayer, we can access the power of God Himself.”

Bush also announced two steps he is taking to cut through the red tape that has prevented some needy citizens from receiving aid in a timely fashion. Federal officials are in the process of giving every household a debit card worth $2,000 in emergency disaster relief, he said, to be used for immediate needs such as food, clothing and personal essentials.

Also, the government is working to ensure that those people who received federal benefits prior to the hurricane can continue to receive them now that they are displaced and have lost all necessary documents.

“We will start by granting evacuee status for all of you who have lived in counties that have been declared disaster areas,” Bush said. “We know that many of you no longer have the legal documents or the records to prove your eligibility for the benefits you’ve been getting. We understand that. And so with this evacuee status, you will be able to register for your benefits without many of the traditional administrative requirements for verification and enrollment.”

Bush also said he would work with Congress to reimburse states that are taking in hurricane evacuees because their budgets are strained and they “should not be penalized for showing compassion.”

“We have much more work to do,” he said. “But the people who have been hurt by this storm need to know that the government is going to be with you for the long haul.”

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  • Erin Curry