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Faithful fill downtown Gainesville square on National Day of Prayer
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Joshua Flannery, 12, bows his head as a prayer is being said during the National Day of Prayer event on the downtown square in Gainesville. There were seven different stations including church, military, family, government, media, education and business. - photo by Erin O. Smith

People of faith huddled at the downtown square and beseeched God’s mercy and grace on this nation, state and Gainesville community during the national Day of Prayer on Thursday.

In an act of brotherly love, strangers with umbrellas covered those in the rain. The elements, including gusty winds, held attendance down to about 150.

The rain and wind did little to deter fervent prayer. Small crowds gathered in seven different areas on the square where a particular theme was highlighted — pray for government leaders, men and women serving in the military, education, families, businesses, churches and even the media.

Prayer leaders presided at each station for approximately five minutes. When someone rang a bell, the leader wrapped up the prayer, and groups would move from one station to another until each group had a chance to pray in each of the specific areas of intervention.

One prayer leader felt moved to pray for the youth in the community.

“Young people are skeptical,” he said to a group interceding for families. “They would rather see a sermon than hear one any day … put a hedge of protection around our young people.”

Local resident Jim Chamblee said he wasn’t about to let a little rain keep him and his wife, Jo,  from joining the faithful in prayer. They’ve been attending the event for years.

“That’s what we’re told to do — pray,” Chamblee said.

Jim Syfan also was not about to pass up the opportunity to join fellow believers in prayer. The CEO of Syfan Logistics is convinced this nation is in need of prayer more than ever.

The Rev. Saul Reyes, pastor of the Assembly of God church Refugio de Salvacion, attended the prayer with members of his family and congregation. He said the group has attended the prayer gathering since the church was established 12 years ago.

“We come to this event because we are part of the community,” Reyes said. “Today we also prayed for our families and immigrants in these difficult times.”

Jeaneen Hammond of Free Chapel set the tone for the prayer service by singing “God of this City.” The theme of the day was inspired by Daniel 9:19: “Hear us, forgive us, heal us.”

Hall County School District Superintendent Will Schofield was one of the prayer leaders at the area dedicated to education. Although the National Day of Prayer began in 1952, Schofield said its roots go back to the early years of this nation in the 1770s when it would set aside a day of fasting and prayer.

“I am honored to live in a country in which I can choose to participate, or not participate, in an event like this,” Schofield said. “I left the square damp, a bit cold and thankful to be an American.”

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