Gov. Nathan Deal concluded a long day of stops in Augusta with the proclamation that May 5 was the National Day of Prayer in Georgia.
Deal, flanked by area Republican politicians, south Augusta pastors and Mayor Deke Copenhaver at Sacred Heart Cultural Center, remarked that the United States was founded by individuals who valued religious freedom.
Copenhaver, who has hosted prayer breakfasts nearly every month of his tenure and sponsored Thursday's event with the South Augusta Pastors' Alliance, said the city's "coming together, praying together, working together," was "not by my will; it's his will."
The patriotic ceremony with performances by Alleluia Community choirs followed with community members leading prayers for the military, justice, the poor, local government, public safety, business and churches.
"Remind us to lean not to our own understanding, but in all ways to you," offered Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta, in a prayer for state and local governments.
Local businessman David Penix attended the ceremony and frequently attends the mayor's prayer breakfasts, which he said "have Augusta going in the right direction."
Archbishop Gregory Francisco of the Diocese of Katakwa and the U.S. Armed Forces, who served as master of ceremonies, challenged those present "not just to pray, because prayer is proactive.
"I challenge you to be a living prayer," he said.
-- Susan McCord, staff writer
Across the country, and throughout Augusta, North Augusta and Aiken observances on the National Day of Prayer were bound by a common verse, Psalm 91:2, the theme of 2011, which states: "I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God, in him will I trust."
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH
In the dim, early morning light, members of First Baptist Church and the community gathered for silent prayer on the 60th anniversary of the National Day of Prayer.
Prayer guides were used to direct the quiet vigil, a 12-hour observance on a day set aside to seek the favor of God.
Janice Williams, a member of First Baptist, attended her first National Day of Prayer service there early Thursday morning.
"I know the power of prayer. God teaches us to pray," she said. "It increases our relationship with him and gives us strength to face the issues of the day."
On the National Day of Prayer, organizers request prayer for seven of the country's "pillars of influence," including the government, church, military, family, education, media and business.
"While we also pray in private, it is important sometimes to come together in God's sanctuary and show reverence for the occasion," Williams said.
-- Kelly Jasper, staff writer
WHOLE LIFE MINISTRIES
More than 100 people gathered Thursday night at Whole Life Ministries to pray for worldwide issues and problems close to home.
The Prayer and Praise Rally at the Washington Road church has been held for 16 years, longer than many other churches in the city, Senior Pastor Sandra Kennedy said as she took the pulpit.
She viewed Thursday's daylong prayer vigil across Augusta as an answer to prayer.
"There's never been a more important time in our nation to pray," she said.
The service at Whole Life Ministries started at the macro level, with prayers for global issues ranging from Japan's recovery from tsunami damage to oil prices. Praise was given for the recent death of terrorist Osama bin Laden, with a request for God's intervention to stop future terrorist attacks worldwide.
The focus then shifted to national issues, prayer requests in the Augusta area and finally for the home life of church members.
Kennedy said the prayers of only a few still make an impact.
"It's not how many people you have, but how you use them," she said.
-- Kyle Martin, staff writer
BEULAH GROVE BAPTIST CHURCH
A diverse congregation celebrated the Day of Prayer at Beulah Grove Baptist Church with a series of prayers and Scripture passages shared by leaders from eight churches.
Guest speaker Dr. C. Gregory Deloach, senior pastor of Augusta's First Baptist Church, used the opportunity of National Day of Prayer to reflect on another national proclamation in the name of God, the pledge of allegiance phrase "one nation, under God."
The U.S. has not always acted as one nation, nor acted as if it is under God, he said. Also, it's doubtful nations can become godly just because of an act of legislation.
"I still believe in that pledge, though," he said. "It's not a claim or pledge that the nation can make for itself. But it's a claim that we can make."
He reminded people to live up to that pledge by, each one individually, acting as a person under God.
"These words can be true. But, not without you and not without me," he said. "Our God doesn't need our pledge, he needs our passion."
-- Carole Hawkins, staff writer