MANATEE -- Prayers were answered Thursday when the National Day of Prayer events in Manatee County were spared a downpour of rain.
Organizers had back-up plans in case of a wet interruption. Regardless of how the weather behaved, there was going to be prayer for the community and nation.
"Thank you for everyone who prayed for the holding off the rain," Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant joked.
The Palmetto Historical Park audience of roughly 100 watched live performances by the WEE World Pre-K students -- all wearing red and white. A quartet of singers from Manatee School for the Arts and singers Nikki Wilson and Evan Gilbert performed as well.
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As they gathered on the paved brick roundabout under the old live oak tree in the park, community leaders prayed for the protection for the community and nation.
"I think it's critical, whenever people can get together and exercise their religious freedoms," Bryant said.
Another prayer day observance took place at 11:45 a.m. before another crowd of roughly 100 at the historic courthouse square in downtown Bradenton. Sheila Raye Charles was a crowd favorite.
Charles, daughter of the late iconic performer Ray Charles, sang a stirring rendition of "America the Beautiful," a song her father was famous for singing in his one-of-a-kind style. There were similarities to her father in the way she swayed from side to side and wore dark sunglasses while she performed.
Charles said she was honored to sing during the prayer event and stressed the importance of the power of prayer for the nation.
"One thing that's so important is that prayer changes things," she said. "If my people pray and turn from their wicked ways the land will be healed," said Charles, who quoted a verse from the book of John.
"I'm grateful to be a part of supporting unity in the world and the United States."
Prayers could be heard echoing off the downtown buildings. Even drivers coming down Manatee Avenue showed their respect for the observance of the day by driving through the street carefully not honking horns. Some drivers who waited at the red light rolled down their windows to hear the prayers and some even took pictures.
Not only was it a day of prayer but it was a day of unity. For that reason Moody and Janiell Johnson, who have been married for 42 years, held hands while they prayed in solidarity. The couple have a church in Palmetto, St. Andrews AME Church, 203 17th St. W.
"Prayer is essential for the whole world on any given day," said Moody.
"Let's not give up on prayer, it's an awesome tool to have," said Janiell.
Both events divided their prayers into seven categories and local clergy, community and business people prayed for the different sectors. There were prayers said for government, the military, business, church, education, family and media.