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Citizens gather at courthouse to observe National Day of Prayer
Participants in Thursday's National Day of Prayer observance on the Effingham County Courthouse grounds in Springfield join hands while singing "Amazing Grace" at the end of the ceremony. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD — About 50 people from various denominations gathered at the Effingham County Courthouse on Thursday to cry out to God in a unified voice.
The event was one of thousands of National Day of Prayer observances just like it around the country.
The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.
Every U.S. president since Truman has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation.
Nationally, it is estimated that more than two million people attended more than 30,000 observances at courthouses, city halls, churches and businesses Thursday. They were organized by approximately 40,000 volunteers.
This year's theme was "Pray for America — UNITY," based upon Ephesians 4:3, which challenges believers to mobilize unified public prayer for America.
First Baptist Church of Rincon Pastor Dr. Gary Lewis welcomed the local group and furnished instructions before turning the program over to Pastor Reginald Peggins of Mount Carmel Deliverance Center. Peggins offered a general prayer before the focus turned to each topic — the church, family and marriages, education, business, government, media and arts, society (race relations, sensitivity to the marginalized) and the environment.
In addition to Lewis and Peggins, prayer leaders included Lon Harden, Andy Lamon, Matt Hines, Susan Thisell, Billy Whitaker, Leroy Lloyd, David Rose and Chance Ward.
Ward urged the participants to pray with expectations for a joint prayer to not just be a one-day event
"As we go from this place, may we be reminded that in spirit we are one," he said.
The event closed with participants joining hands and singing "Amazing Grace."