Lloyd Benson II’s message to others Saturday morning at the State Capitol steps was clear: “Stop complaining and pray.”
The phrase was imprinted on a T-shirt Benson was wearing.
He said he made the shirt to tell people both to pray and to take action against social issues such as crime and poverty.
“We don’t want to just complain about the crime, the education, the government, the politicians, but instead let’s pray for our politicians, and then not only pray but put our prayers to actions,” he said.
Benson and more than 100 others prayed for social healing during the World Link of Churches and Ministries’ 12th annual “Save Our Cities Now!” prayer initiative.
The event, which claims to be apolitical in nature, is organized by Benson’s father, the Rev. Lloyd Benson Sr., chief apostle of the World Link of Churches and Ministries and pastor of Cathedral World Worship Center on McCann Drive.
The group prays on the Capitol steps every year for community leaders and elected officials, Benson Sr. said.
“Our main purpose is bringing a biblical and spiritual solution to the problems and the social ills of our cities — any area of government, residents, education, economy, even a reduction in crime,” he said.
The crowd, some from across the nation, gathered at the Governor’s Mansion at 8 a.m. before marching to the State Capitol for worship.
The marchers carried signs with messages such as, “This state belongs to God,” while others carried life-size crosses.
Shawn Rice, 64, of Great Lakes, Ill., along with his son and a family friend, hauled a wooden cross with “Jesus loves you” engraved on it.
Rice said he has carried the cross in many different states in the past 20 years, including California, Oregon, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Rice, wearing a “Jesus loves you” hat, said he carries the cross to tell others they must work hard toward salvation.
“Just because you’ve confessed with your mouth, doesn’t mean you’re saved,” Rice said.
“It’s not just a confession from the mouth. It’s also believing in the heart.”
Clouds threatened rain as the prayer session began.
But as the group kept praying, the clouds opened up just enough for some sunshine to sneak in.
“Lord, we thank you for holding back the rain and allowing your sunshine to reign,” state Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, D-Baton Rouge, said in a prayer delivered before the crowd.
Several state legislators, including Broome and state Reps. Patricia Smith and Regina Barrow, both D-Baton Rouge, joined in the praise of God at the Capitol.
In addition, Baton Rouge Metro Council members Donna Collins-Lewis and Ronnie Edwards and Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan Sr. shared their words of praise, along with Gerry Lane Enterprises Vice President Eric Lane, who represented the business community.
“We ask all of you to continue to pray for the businesses,” Lane said aloud.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Jefferson told the crowd that prayer and unity can help a city fight crime.
“The more we pray, the less we prosecute,” he said.
After the public officials spoke, members of the clergy delivered a series of impassioned speeches praising God and asking for his grace.
At the end of the event, Benson Sr. told the crowd that prayer has “always been the answer” to society’s woes.
“I believe that today, that God has heard our prayer,” Benson said.