embarks on capitol prayer tour
W. Kennedy (8/29/04)
Few people nearing
retirement age are eager to accept a yearlong venture fraught
with unknown challenges, spiritual and otherwise.
J. Phillip Epperson,
who turns 65 next month, is an exception.
Epperson and his wife
of 38 years, Vicki, will begin a one-year prayer odyssey on September
11 in Springfield, Ill., that will take them to the steps of every
state capitol in the country.
The couple will conclude
their journey September 11, 2005, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
In between they will be praying from 1-2 p.m. every Thursday afternoon,
except for Thanksgiving and Christmas week — from Augusta,
Maine, to Honolulu, Hawaii, from Tallahassee, Fla., to Juneau,
Prayer Across America campaign (www.prayeracrossamerica.org) is
no lark. Epperson, who served as senior pastor of the Stone Church
in Palos Heights, Ill., for two decades, says the Holy Spirit
stirred him to undertake the prayer campaign before the terrorist
attacks of 2001.
“God is America’s
only protection,” says Epperson, who is now president of
Helping Neighbors Worldwide Ministries based in Oak Forest, Ill.
“The only way He will do that is through the church. The
only way the church can do it is through prayer and the Word.
Prayer stirs up a reverence for God, a holy fear of God and a
sense of who God is.”
The Eppersons will
take the 17,000-mile expedition in a recreational vehicle, hoping
Christians will meet them at the capitols of their states. Each
week, the hour will kick off with a blend of patriotic and Christian
songs, followed by prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessings,
repenting for sins, a call to return to the Lord, plus prayers
for wisdom for national leaders and awakening in the church.
“The spirit of
prayer is the first to leave the church,” Epperson says.
“Those who try hard to pursue God keep the spirit of prayer
Epperson is obtaining
state permits to make sure officials aren’t caught off guard
in case crowds are large. In Illinois, for instance, four churches
have committed to sending a busload of congregants.
aren’t what’s most important to us,” Epperson
says. “Even if it’s just my wife and me, we will pray
the prayers God has given to us.”
congregations and parachurch ministries are helping the Eppersons
meet their $125,000 budget. Springfield, Mo.-based evangelist
Owen C. Carr, who has known Epperson for a quarter century, is
a vocal supporter.
Epperson talks about calling people to prayer he leads by example,”
Carr says. “I pray for God’s blessing upon him in
this adventure of faith as he calls our nation to prayer one state
at a time.”