Beckley faith leaders and elected officials are urging West Virginians to follow Gov. Jim Justice's call to pray today for the end of COVID-19. 

During a press conference on Tuesday, Justice asked state residents to pray. 

"In my world, I look to God every single day," Justice said. "But if there is any time that is a special time that we really need to all be looking to God, it's in this situation — a pandemic that's nothing like any of us have ever witnessed."

Many Americans are concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed thousands around the world and has forced Justice to close schools, casinos, salons, dining rooms and other non-essential businesses, in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. 

Around the world, COVID-19 is causing death, sickness, fear, economic strain and a lack of medical equipment and protective N-95 masks for workers.

The elderly are at special risk of dying from the disease.

West Virginia, like much of the rest of the world, is suffering a severe shortage of masks and equipment.

And on Tuesday night, the Department of Health and Human Resources reported 39 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, nearly twice as many as the day before.

Paul Chapman, senior pastor of Beckley Praise Church, urged those in southern West Virginia to pray today that God will spare the state from a massive outbreak of the virus, to pray for those who have the virus, to pray for those who are in grief or fear and to pray that COVID-19 will not increase beyond what our medical facilities can address.

 "Dire circumstances point to our need for divine help," said Chapman."Times of crises, whether our state or our nation or as individuals, (point those) who may never have prayed before to turn to God and pray.

"The key for our prayers to be effective is found in Chronicles 7:14: 'If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land,'" Chapman quoted. 

Temple Beth El President Tom Sopher urged Temple Beth El members and everyone else to pray today.

"I encourage everyone to say a prayer to God for the sick and to keep the coronavirus far from our area and everyone we love," said Sopher, who represents Ward I on Beckley Common Council.

Pope Francis has asked all Catholics around the world to pray today in their own time zones at noon, and St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church priest Rev. Paul Wharton reminded Catholics of the call to prayer.

"I'm encouraging my parishioners to come together in prayer," said Wharton, adding, "Not 'come together,' but to pray at the same time."

Many pastors are now live-streaming church services to encourage social distancing while keeping church members connected.

Wharton said he has been sending regular emails to parishioners to offer encouragement and that he posts to www.sfccwv.org.

"I try to be very encouraging," Wharton said. "I remind people of what we believe and who we believe in, and not to lose sight of the fact that we can always count on God."

Those who would like guidance on praying at noon may visit the St. Francis website to find written prayers.

"I post some beautiful prayers that have been written down through the centuries, a few poems and, of course, some Scripture readings," Wharton said. "I even bring in some humor. 

"It will only take 15 minutes — if you're a slow reader."  

KassiJo Farris Floyd, youth pastor of United Methodist Temple in Beckley, has been asking her flock to pray every day at 1 p.m. since COVID-19 began to disrupt the community. She urged them to pray again today.

"We may be going through something dark, as a country, a state and a city," Floyd said on Tuesday. "We all experience dark days, and those dark days may last weeks. Or months. Or years.

"But if you know the story of Good Friday, the day Jesus gave his life for yours, you know there is good news, friends.

"Friday is dark, but Sunday is coming," Floyd said.

She reminded local residents that Christ gives peace to all who call on him.

"Let me leave you with assurance that he is the only one who can give you peace," she added. "His word says in John 14:27, 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.

"I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.'"

Mayor Rob Rappold, a St. Francis de Sales parishioner, said he recommends prayer as a part of everyday living.

"Before I get out of bed in the morning, I pray for a number of things, and it gets my day off to a good start," he said. "I recommend this practice, from a personal perspective."

Dr. Ayne Amjad, a local physician, also encouraged individuals to pray on a personal level.

"Say a prayer in your heart to God to keep us all safe through this time and keep us strong and healthy and to get through this time together," Amjad said on Tuesday.

At-large Councilwoman Sherrie Hunter, who also attends St. Francis, said prayer, along with social distancing, hand washing, and self-quarantine, can help "flatten the curve" of the virus spread in West Virginia.

"Prayer isn't a tangible thing, but the power of prayers can be realized, far and wide," said Hunter. 

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