MANATEE -- Residents and religious and public officials in Manatee County joined millions Thursday in celebrating the National Day of Prayer.
"As you join us today here, as well as millions across this great nation, in prayer, I would ask each and every one of you to remain vigilant in prayer for our continued freedom to gather, the freedom to worship and the freedom to pray," said Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant during an event at the Palmetto Historical Park. "Attend observances held in public venues to pray for the nation and all governing officials, asking God to help them govern with integrity, wisdom and justice."
Groover Bryant and clergy told the 100 gathered at the Palmetto Historical Park to pray for guidance for all elected officials, including President Barack Obama and Gov. Rick Scott. Groover Bryant also told the audience to continue praying for persecuted Christians across the globe.
The theme of the 2015 National Day of Prayer was, "Lord, hear our cry."
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Another celebration occurred at noon at the Manatee County Courthouse with Pastor Gary Eldred from
the Faith United Methodist Church leading the ceremony.
"What's important about today is that people come together from different churches and backgrounds and pray together as one body of Christ," said Eldred.
Church leaders from various Christian denominations and locations representing Manatee County's diverse culture spread the word of God with prayers for America, wisdom and individual awareness.
Frank McGraff, from C.I.T.I Ministries, prayed that God grants individual grace to all so that everyone "understands what it means to have life, liberty and happiness," and to "give wisdom for those in search of the truth."
Other speakers represented their companies in coming to give praise to Jesus Christ. Gary Crawford of B-IT Consulting prayed that Bradenton's "Friendly City" status would be elevated to the, "City known as a friend to God."
About 50 people attended the courthouse ceremony with hands raised to Jesus, heads bowed and some driven by the Holy Spirit to their knees in prayer. Larry and Shaari Massey said the event used to be better-attended.
"Today represents the one we serve and the one is God," said Larry Massey. "We honor Him and this country and pray for the country to be reunited in faith. That's why I'm here. It doesn't matter how many people are here. The Holy Spirit is here."
Shaari Massey became emotional in trying to explain why she felt it was important to attend. Through tears of joy for the Lord, she could only say, "God is the only answer."
The National Day of Prayer began in 1775, became an annual holiday in 1952, and claimed its current date as the first Thursday in May in 1988.