CARROLL: Saying a prayer for all of us

Almost every Wednesday evening I attend the Lewiston Kiwanis Club. It is a gathering of men and women from Lewiston and across Niagara County who come together to serve the community.

Like most service clubs that I have visited, every formal Kiwanis meeting begins with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer. As I am usually the only clergyman in the room, I have become the “designated prayer.”

Members of Kiwanis represent a host of religious backgrounds and some have no specific faith at all. What brings us together is a believe that there are those in our communities who need a boost if they are going to be the best versions of themselves and the conviction that those of us who can make a difference should.

I count it a blessing to pray for this group every week. In Lewiston they traditional offer a prayer at the end as well as the beginning of each meeting so I am doubly blessed. While it might seem a challenge to pray in a group of mixed faiths and traditions it really hasn’t been difficult for me. It’s quite simple. I Pray the way I always pray. I am a Christian, and officer (Pastor) in The Salvation Army and my fellow Kiwanians don’t expect me to be anything else. When I am praying for them I am asking God to bless them.

Even if they don’t believe in God or understand Him exactly the same way they appreciate my intention. In 15 years of full-time ministry I have never had someone ask me not to pray for them regardless of their personal faith or non-faith.

A couple of weeks ago during our weekly meeting I sat a table with some of the younger members. One of my tablemates confessed that having me at the table made it a little awkward.

I guess one is supposed to be on their best behavior when the pastor sits at their table. I wish someone would share that with my kids …

When the meeting was over and I was asked to pray. I prayed for my ‘uncomfortable friend.’ I mentioned him as a joke hoping to make him a little more comfortable with me. (It’s ok, God has a sense of humor too. He invented it) However, after I mentioned my friend by name two unexpected things happened.

First, he was bombarded by concerned people who wanted to know if he was all right. Second, my friend pulled me aside and thanked me for my prayer.

Jeremiah 29:7 says: “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.” We may disagree on a lot: faith, politics, sports, even food but we can find common ground. We can come together for the sake of off our city, for the sake of our county. If it prospers, we all prosper.

I plan to continue to pray the way I pray without adapting or watering it down for the people around me. I also plan to pray for my city of Niagara Falls the surrounding communities.

I will pray that you prosper I will pray for your families and if you share specific needs with me, I’ll pray for them too. I also plan to pray for those who disagree with me. I want the best for all. And I hope you will pray for me as well.

Major Stephen Carroll, Jr. serves with his wife Major Delia as the Commanding Officers of The Salvation Army Niagara Falls Corps. If you want him to pray for you specifically, he can be reached at Stephen.Carrolljr@use.salvationarmy.org.