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Heads bow, hands clasp downtown for National Day of Prayer
During Thursday’s gathering for the National Day of Prayer on the square in downtown Gainesville, Leo Mulligan leads the group in the song “God Bless America” at the opening of the event.

They came from all walks of life to stand shoulder to shoulder in the downtown square, with heads bowed.

Nurses, law enforcement officers, landscapers and business people spent their lunch break standing beside retirees and school-age children.

Although they all came from different backgrounds, they gathered in the square with a unifying goal: To pray.

About 100 people gathered in the square for a program organized by The Fisherman, a group of "Hall County Christian businessmen," during the National Day of Prayer.

"We have had a private day of prayer breakfast for about the past 10 years, but this year we thought it was time that a public ceremony was held to honor the day," said group member Jeff Charlton said afterward.

"No one else was stepping up to the plate, so we decided to do it. If 20 people would’ve shown up, we would have been happy, but we are very pleased to see so many people here."

The National Day of Prayer was created in 1952 by the U.S. Congress as an annual observance on the first Thursday of May. The goal of the day is to encourage people of all religious backgrounds to "celebrate their faith through prayer."

During Thursday’s event in downtown Gainesville, The Fisherman invited various community members to share a special prayer for various entities including the military, church and education.

Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic offered a prayer for the government. Ann Gainey, executive director of the Gainesville Care Center, said a prayer for families.

"We know that unless God builds the house, its builder labors in vain," Gainey said to the crowd. "Today, I pray for faithfulness in marriages. I pray for those who are considering divorce that the Lord stays their hand and shows them that their is no problem too big for the great physician to fix."

Another prayer leader, Angelo Velis, encouraged business people to focus less on material possessions and more on spiritual wellness.

"We call ourselves Christians, but we live like devils," said Velis, who led a prayer for businesses.

"We need to turn back to the ways of the Lord. (The Lord) wants us to be dependent on him, not on 401Ks and the stock market."

Although the National Day of Prayer is just one day out of the year, event organizers hope that observance encourages more people to add daily prayer to their routines.