In thousands of cities nationwide people gathered at churches, town halls and other places to celebrate the 63rd annual National Day of Prayer.
Southwest Florida was no exception as nearly 1,300 people gathered at the Harborside Event Center in Fort Myers for the 2014 Community Prayer Breakfast, where attendees went to pray, eat, listen to music and hear one of the biggest voices in conservatism.
Cal Thomas, national newspaper columnist and frequent guest on TV shows, was the guest speaker, where he discussed his life, career, the circumstances behind his embracing of God and where our nation is headed and why it needs God more than ever.
Cal Thomas, national newspaper columnist, makes a point.
The event, moderated by Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson, also featured musical interludes from the Fort Myers Mastersingers, prayer and scripture readings from area clergy, and numerous guests.
But Thomas was a high point as he made people laugh and think throughout his 30-minute speech, starting with his opening remark, "Fellow sinners"
Thomas said America is in trouble because it has exceeded its boundaries is regards to the Constitution, the economy, looking to yourself first and not the government, as well as moral boundaries.
"For those under 40, a sinner is a diagnosis applied to us before we became dysfunctional, and unlike before we went to God for forgiveness, we turn to Oprah and Dr. Phil," Thomas said, to great laughs.
Afterward, Thomas articulated his views further, saying the media has much to do with the nation losing its moral compass.
"My parents' philosophy of inspiration followed by motivation followed by perspiration has become envy, greed and entitlement," Thomas said. "We used to applaud hard work and punish sloth. Now it's the reverse."
Thomas told the story of Abraham Lincoln, who made a proclamation that was a precursor to the National Day of Prayer, and of King Solomon, and warned what happens to nations when they forget God.
Thomas spoke of his career with NBC and how it became essentially, his god. That is, until he was fired in 1973.
Thomas said he was invited to a prayer breakfast, then to a Bible study, where there were influential people.
"I discovered things about God and, more important, things about myself," Thomas said. "I found God was holy and I was not and I realized I was a sinner and that God defines love. He is love."
He committed his life to God, "and my career went in the tank," Thomas said, adding that he decided to send a column he wrote to the New York Times as a lark. It was published, and thus began a career as one of the most-read columnists in the nation.
"There are all these things we attach to God. He wants none of that. He wants you, and he has a plan for you, that is energized when you come to him on his terms," Thomas said. "If you seek him, he will find you."
Thomas said the real danger is indifference to God, rather than opposition, and that we've become divided in cliques rather than living as individuals.
"We tend to worship the mighty dollar. Prosperity can be a good thing or a bad thing," Thomas said. "There's all kind of conflict between and these divisions are weakening us. People around the world see this, especially the bad people who want to harm us."
Many in attendance were inspired by everyone involved.
"What a great way to see the community come together and worship," said County Commissioner Brian Hamman, whose district includes Cape Coral. "Cal's message was right on track and kept us engaged. It's important to pray for our leaders to make the wise decisions."
"It was wonderful, it reminds us of all the wonderful things in the world," Shell Factory owner Pam Cronin said. "We should have a day of prayer every day to remind us of what's important."
"The speaker was phenomenal. Faith hasn't been lost, especially not in my home," said Arvella Clare, a Cape Coral resident running for school board. "We have belief and we stress that with God's grace, everything is possible."
Other invited guests included BOCC chairman Cecil Pendergrass and Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott.
Christian Television (CTN10) will rebroadcast the breakfast Saturday at 8 p.m. on Comcast channel 10, Dish Network channel 49 and in hi-def on channel 439.