Prayer makes a difference, Gail Miller tells interfaith audience at breakfast

Pastor Joe Doherty, president of the St. George Interfaith Council, visits with keynote speaker Gail Miller during the National Day of Prayer Breakfast, St. George, Utah, May 10, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — “Prayer is important because it makes a difference,” Gail Miller told those gathered at the St. George Interfaith Council’s annual National Day of Prayer breakfast.

Keynote speaker Gail Miller during the St. George Interfaith Council’s annual National Day of Prayer Breakfast on the Dixie State University campus, St. George, Utah, May 10, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Speaking to an audience of about 250 gathered for the event Thursday morning at Dixie State University, Miller related several anecdotes from her own life.

Miller is well-known figure in Utah as a longtime owner of the Utah Jazz professional basketball franchise. She and her late husband Larry started the family business with a single Toyota dealership in 1979 that later expanded into a conglomerate that now has thousands of employees. Larry H. Miller died in 2009, but Gail Miller and her children have continued to operate the group of companies that bears his name, along with educational and charitable foundations. Gail Miller is now married to retired lawyer Kim Wilson, who also attended Thursday’s breakfast event.

During her keynote speech, Miller said she was taught to memorize and recite prayers during her early childhood, including “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” and the Lord’s Prayer found in the Bible’s 23rd Psalm.

“That simple ritual … is part of a foundation that has guided me throughout my life,” Miller said.

Attendees stand and applaud after keynote speaker Gail Miller’s remarks at the St. George Interfaith Council’s annual National Day of Prayer Breakfast on the Dixie State University campus, St. George, Utah, May 10, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

“I was not only taught to pray, but I learned for a surety that there is a God in heaven. He is the eternal Father and the architect of my life. He certainly has provided me with blessings beyond measure, with opportunities to grow and knowledge and understanding to go forward,” she said.

Miller said for several years in her early adulthood, she and her husband Larry were not religiously active, forgoing church in favor of working or attending softball tournaments

Miller said she received a “wake-up call” one day, when her oldest son, Greg, then about four years old, asked her, “Mommy, where does God live?”

“Until that moment, I had not given one thought about teaching him things that I learned as a child. I guess I just assumed that they were passed on … and he would absorb them without any effort.

Approximately 250 people attended the St. George Interfaith Council’s annual National Day of Prayer Breakfast on the Dixie State University campus, St. George, Utah, May 10, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

“I was stricken when I heard that question. I immediately realized that I had neglected one of the most sacred responsibilities of parenthood. I needed to teach my children their divine nature and about the blessings that were in store for them as they developed their spirituality.”

Since then, Miller said, she has made prayer a guiding force in her life. She cited several other instances where prayer helped provide her and her family members with healing, comfort and blessings.

“Prayer is about talking to God and listening to him,” she said.

In closing, Miller quoted Native American author Sarah Sunshine Manning, who wrote of the strong connection that living have to their forebears.

“Look at your hands, your face, your cheekbones, your eyes, and hair – you are a part of them, both flesh and spirit. The mere fact that we are all here today is evidence of their love and resilience. You are the prayers of ancestors,” Miller said, reading Manning’s words.

“I love that,” Miller said. “We have family that prays for us every day. We have cause to rejoice because we are united and we have the blessings of a universe that guide us and direct us and help us through those times where we may feel alone, but know that we’re not.”

Rabbi Helene Ainbinder speaks during the St. George Interfaith Council’s annual National Day of Prayer Breakfast on the Dixie State University campus, St. George, Utah, May 10, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Pastor Joe Doherty of New Promise Lutheran Church, who is also president of the St. George Interfaith Council, said that representatives of 19 churches and faiths were in attendance.

The Rev. Dr. Ralph Clingan of the Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church prayed for continued blessings upon government officials, members of the military and other public servants.

“We pray, for the great and wondrous gifts that you continue to shower upon us, and the great bounty we continue to receive … this opportunity to open our hearts and lives to one another,” Clingan said during his prayer.

Rabbi Helene Ainbinder of Beit Chaverim Jewish community also gave short remarks, during which she explained the history of the National Day of Prayer, noting that it was first proclaimed by President Harry S. Truman in 1952. Since 1988, it has typically been observed on the first Thursday in May, but the St. George Interfaith Council chose to hold its event a week later this year due to scheduling issues.

Attendees line up at the St. George Interfaith Council’s annual National Day of Prayer Breakfast on the Dixie State University campus, St. George, Utah, May 10, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Ainbender, who is also vice president of the Interfaith Council, said the power of prayer has physical benefits for worshipers.

“Studies have shown that people that attend houses of worship and prayer … lower their blood pressure and reduce their stress levels,” she said.

Presidents and other government officials also believe in the power of prayer, she added, citing a recent example when Gov. Gary Herbert asked Utahns to pray for more rain and snow earlier this year, a plea she says was answered.

Ainbender noted that President Donald Trump signed a new White House Faith Initiative last week, which she said will “further help with protection for religious liberty,” and help ensure that faith-based organizations will “have equal access to government funding and the meaningful right to exercise their deeply held beliefs.”

During Thursday’s hour-long event, an interfaith choir also sang “Hallelujah” and “May the Lord Bless You and Keep You.” Lt. Saul Smoat of the Salvation Army led the Pledge of Allegiance, with the presentation of the flag being performed by the Dixie High School Air Force Junior ROTC. Carole Drake of St. George Catholic Church gave the closing prayer.

Email: jrichards@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • SSTEED May 10, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    I pray for the families of those who died on, and as a result of 9-11; and for those killed and displaced by fifteen years of needless war. I pray for those who still watch TV and have no idea what they are supporting. I pray for all who put a church between themselves and God. Can I get an Amen?

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