COVINGTON, Ga. — As the annual legislative prayer breakfast went on Friday morning, Judge Samuel Ozburn became increasingly riveted by a Bible passage from John chapter 17.
“The longest prayer Jesus prayed in scripture is found in John 17,” Ozburn said. “And it wasn’t about prosperity. It wasn’t about other things. It was about unity — about believers in Christ being united.”
Ozburn said that to the crowd of more than 70 who attended the annual prayer breakfast hosted by the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs of Covington. He said it after keynote speaker Buddy McElhannon challenged the crowd to “do something to make an impact” that helps heal the divisiveness that’s permeated our country’s political climate for a while now.
After the event was over, Ozburn continued to share his John 17-inspired passion in one-on-one conversations with any and every one who would listen. This year’s prayer breakfast wasn’t a new thing, as it first began in January 2006. But Ozburn said it was a must for this year’s gathering to be intentional about centering prayer once again.
“I definitely felt like we needed to get back to prayer,” Ozburn said. “Last year we had the DOT president here, and we talked a lot about our bridges and roads, and it was good. But we didn’t talk much about prayer. Specifically prayer for unity.”
Ozburn pointed to the drama in Washington D.C. regarding Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s bid for speaker of the House as an example of how political divisiveness as gripped the nation. At the time of this publication, McCarthy had lost 11 votes in the house this week which has caused another round of polarizing political opinions to swarm.
“You see what’s going on in Washington right now,” Ozburn said. “And a lot of the polarizing stuff we see in our nation flows down hill from there.”
Locally, Ozburn, a senior judge on the Alcovy Judicial Circuit, sees something potentially different.
“I want this community here in Covington and Newton County to be known as people who care for each other and respect each other and work together to solve their differences and not promote division,” Ozburn said. “We don’t all have to be the same or think the same in order to be united and be respectful of each other and have civil discourse.”
Both Ozburn and McElhannon echoed similar sentiments Friday as McElhannon, a noted Christian relationships blogger and author, challenged the audience full of some of Newton County’s foremost leaders, to reverse the tendency of allowing politics to inform our faith.
“In this time of political turmoil, coarseness, meanness and worse, where do you find your hope,” McElhannon asked. “Let me give you a hint. Someone once said your salvation doesn’t arrive in Air Force One, and a perfect world won’t come through the ballot box. But a better world is possible if all our actions, political and otherwise, flowed downstream from our Christian convictions and not the other way around.”
For Ozburn, it’s no coincidence that the ability to start the year off with a prayerful focus of unity presented itself in this year’s event. In fact, Ozburn says there’s no better time than now for Newton County to get really intentional about making unity more than just a talking point.
“I think it’s at a pivotal time for us because, things are changing in our community and things are going to continue to change,” he said. “The longer we go without addressing the need to work together, the harder it’s going to be. You can look now, and it’s kind of like the east side of the county against the west side of the county. Red vs. Blue, and a lot of times you think, if we can just sit down and say how can we work things out for the good everybody instead of me winning and you losing, we’d be much, much better off.”