The Summit County church community has spent a year building a firewall of prayer around Summit County and there are plans to continue the intercession in the new year.
“We believe that Summit Ablaze needs to be our key annual prayer initiative. It has done more than ensure that someone is praying for Summit County every day. It has helped connect churches and ministries through prayer,” said the Rev. Mark Ford, executive director of Love Akron.
Love Akron, a nonprofit organization that works to unite the Christian community, launched the Summit Ablaze prayer initiative on Jan. 1, 2012, by handing off a prayer torch at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Fairlawn. Throughout the year, the torch was passed each week from ministry to ministry, where leaders had committed to a week of prayer for the people of Summit County.
On Sunday, representatives from those 52 ministries gathered at Akron First Assembly of God Church to celebrate a year of success and to galvanize for 2013. During the service, a special prayer for peace and healing was offered for the community of Newtown, Conn., where a gunman opened fire at an elementary school earlier this month, killing 20 children and six adults.
“After a tragedy, people seem to turn to prayer. Prayer vigils seem to be one of the first responses — they bring people together to support each other and they offer people a chance to reach out to something bigger than themselves,” Ford said. “Summit Ablaze gives us a chance to support each other and seek God’s guidance and will for our county, its leaders and its people.”
The prayer initiative is rooted in the biblical passage of Jeremiah 29:7 that reads: “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (NIV). Its name was derived from prayer being symbolized by fire throughout the Bible.
The prayer torch, which has become the symbol of the initiative, spent a week in the small prayer chapel at Haven of Rest Ministries Inc. Employees and long-term residents at the Akron-based mission, which serves the homeless, added special prayers for the county to their daily routine.
“It was a perfect fit for us because we always start our day at the mission in prayer and people go into the chapel throughout the day to pray,” said the Rev. Jeffrey Kaiser, executive director at Haven of Rest. “The great thing about Summit Ablaze is that it gave us a chance to be part of a bigger prayer community. I believe God hears our prayers and answers them, so this can only help to make our community stronger.”
Like Kaiser, Margot Fuller believes Summit Ablaze can positively impact the leaders and people of Summit County. Fuller organized the initiative’s inaugural week of prayer at St. Luke’s. Her plan brought volunteers together to pray with a focus on seven areas — religion, family, government, business, media, arts and entertainment, and education.
“We used what is called the seven mountain strategy, participating as intercessors for those seven areas of influence in our society. As the church, we should be praying to ask God to forgive us for not being the people he has called us to be and praying for his blessings on the different areas of influence in our lives,” Fuller said. “It was such a great experience because it brought everybody together, from the children to the seniors. And it encouraged us to become the hands and feet that bring solutions and transformation to our county.”
Love Akron is looking for ministries and churches to commit to one week of prayer for the county during 2013. Each prayer torch host will determine the amount and method of prayer. The goal, like in 2012, is to have the torch travel across the county. To join the prayer movement, call 330-384-8124 or email email@example.com
The Rev. Kent Jarvis, senior pastor at Akron First Assembly of God, said the prayer torch was a source of unity when his church hosted it in May.
“Even though we have calls to prayer at various times in our church, there was something different about Summit Ablaze. There was this attitude of unity that flowed throughout our church, when we had the prayer torch,” Jarvis said. “People knew they were participating in something that was larger than our church community. There is no doubt that we will participate again, praying for God to do what only God can do.”
For more information about Love Akron, visit www. loveakron.org.
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org