On Wednesday morning, Ron Harmon of Laurel woke up and did what he always does – read his Bible for an hour.
About five hours later, he was standing inside a rental truck behind a lectern, reading – this time out loud – that very same passage, from the book of Ezekiel.
Harmon, 72, who attends Freedom Church in Billings, is participating in the Bible Reading Marathon, moved this year for safety reasons from the Rims overlook to a parking lot south of the airport on Overlook Drive.
The 72-hour public reading began Monday with Mayor Tom Hanel reading aloud from Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Reading the Bible aloud takes about 70 hours, 40 minutes, so there’s very little wiggle room completing the task in the allotted 72 hours.
The marathon concluded at 6 a.m. Thursday, the National Day of Prayer.
In 1952, President Harry Truman declared an annual national day of prayer and in 1988 the law was amended permanently designating the first Thursday in May as a national day of prayer.
Ronda Kiesser, connections pastor at New Life Church in Billings, said she and a small group of volunteers were “powered by heaters and really strong coffee” during their three-hour portion of the Billings marathon Wednesday morning.
“There is power in the spoken word of God,” she said standing outside the truck while Harmon completed his
15-minute portion of the marathon reading from inside the rig. “It gets God’s people mindful when we read and pray together. It can only be good for the community.”
People are constantly praying as one person takes a turn reading from the Bible, she said.
“When we read the Bible out loud, we hear God’s heart, we hear his promises and we hear about God’s character,” she said. “We can apply those promises to our lives. That’s the power of what we’re doing.”
The Bible is read from a vantage point over the city of Billings for the same reason that Jesus wept over Jerusalem, she said: A concern for the spiritual welfare going on in a beloved city.
“When we pray, 100,000 (Billings residents) don’t hear it, but God absolutely does,” she said. “We are demonstrating unity in the body of Christ.”
Harmon said the portion he read twice Wednesday reflects Ezekiel’s warning to God’s people about “the coming day of wrath.”
“It’s what our nation is facing today,” he said. “We need judges, legislators and our president to read the word of God. God’s word will not go out and return void,” Harmon said, quoting the prophet Isaiah. “It will have an imprint on Billings.”
Event organizers were offered two other city sites to hold the marathon, City Administrator Tina Volek said Wednesday. Those sites were the shelter at Swords Park and another at Veterans Park. City officials were concerned about holding the event too close to the rocks overlooking the Rims, she said.