Area people bow their heads and pray while seated in a pew at a local church prior to the pandemic.

ASHLAND Christians in Ashland are organizing to be part of a prayer movement across the nation where thousands are expected to lift up repentant cries to God.

The event, called The Return, will be Saturday, Sept. 26, in front of the bandstand in Central Park. It will take place between 3 and 5 p.m. with eight Christian leaders in the area praying over specific areas.

Johnny Riley, a former Southern Baptist pastor and a former hospital chaplain, is leading the local organization and will be the emcee. At the same time it is going on in the park, The Return will be ongoing in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall.

Instead of traveling to D.C., Riley thought it would be good to offer the local Christian community the chance to pray for the country during the difficult days of the coronavirus and less than two months before the general election on Nov. 3.

Riley said it is a non-denominational event with everyone welcome to come and pray. There will be some praise and worship music beginning at 2:45 and between some of the eight prayers on the band stand. Mainly though, he said, it was a chance to fall down and pray before Almighty God.

“We’re trying to get the word out to all the churches in the area,” Riley said. “We’re not so much worried about the size of the crowd but the heart of the crowd. We need people who are concerned about the community and who want to bring us back to God. I think it’s hard to look at what’s going on and not think that we don’t need a new experience.”

The Return is based on 2 Chronicles 7:14 which reads: “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.”

Riley said it’s clear that our land needs healing but it’s not going to happen without a repentant spirit. “We need to acknowledge that we’re going wrong as a nation and we need to repent,” he said. “We need to ask God to transform our community and bring us back to Him. It takes us doing what we’re supposed to do first.”

Those who are lined up to pray include:

• Marty Gute (model prayer)

• Rob Hale (prayer for humility)

• Stanley McDonald (prayer for turning away from evil)

• Kevin Harrison (prayer for repentance)

• Amy Compston (prayer for those in need of help)

• Dusty Howard (prayer for the salvation of many)

• Johnny Riley (prayer for transformation)

• Desmond Barrett (prayer for God’s people to take action)

• Lee Watts (“Kairos”)

Riley said the organization has permission from the city to have the prayer service and they have a contingency plan in case of bad weather. The event will be moved to Thrive Church on 15th Street.

Ryan Biederman and Kerry Beach will be among those performing special music.

Those who attend will be asked to social distance and facemasks will be available.

For information about The Return, visit

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