Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thank God gas prices are coming down, says Rocky Twyman, after leading a series of prayer vigils at pumps nationwide to appeal for some divine intervention.

Mr. Twyman, a Rockville choir director and public relations consultant, recently gathered about a dozen people at a Shell station in the District as they joined in prayer and thanked God for prices now ebbing from highs of about $4 a gallon early in the summer.

“He’s got the whole world in His hands,” they sang, improvising an extra line as they clapped in unison: “He’s got lower gas prices in His hands.”

Mr. Twyman believes the vigils, which he started after seeing the stinging effects of high gas prices on an area soup kitchen, are working.

God “owns everything; He owns the gas,” exclaimed Mr. Twyman, a Seventh-day Adventist. “All we have to do is ask, and we shall receive.”

He has led similar vigils in recent months in Detroit; Huntsville, Ala.; San Francisco; St. Louis; and Toledo, Ohio.

His “Pray at the Pump” movement began in April with a spontaneous vigil at a gas station a few blocks from the First Church of Seventh-day Adventists in Northwest, where he does charity work.

Mr. Twyman said high gas prices prompted some soup-kitchen volunteers who commute from the suburbs to think of quitting. He also said recent economic troubles meant reduced donations to an area food bank on which the soup kitchen depends for provisions.

“These gas prices were really killing a lot of them,” he said of the elderly.

The pastor at the church, Mark McCleary, credits Mr. Twyman with drawing attention to community efforts that might otherwise go overlooked.

“We’ve embraced him,” said Mr. McCleary, who has participated in the movement.

Mr. Twyman isn’t new to the limelight. He has led drives to encourage minorities to donate bone marrow, raised money for disaster victims, and last year organized a gospel concert at an Atlanta church to pray for rain during a Southeast drought.

“I just follow whatever God tells me to do,” said Mr. Twyman, wearing a bright African dashiki he calls his “prayer-warrior shirt.”

During the vigil in the District, he called on Saudi Arabia to increase oil production to help lower prices and for people to walk and carpool more. The prayer vigil drew stares from motorists waiting to fill up as some attendants shooed participants onto a sidewalk after complaining they blocked access to the station.

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