Pray for America.

That’s the theme of the 62nd National Day of Prayer observed nationwide and locally on Thursday.

With the nation still mourning over recent tragedies, the theme, based on Matthew 12:21: “In His name the nations will put their hope,” is current and timely.

Local pastors, led by Praise Fellowship pastor Dan Galanffy, began organizing National Day of Prayer events several weeks ago. About 20 events are scheduled in the Killeen-Fort Hood area, he said.

“The one idea behind it is for churches to plan and coordinate joint events where they would reach out to other groups in their area to have a combined event.”

The National Day of Prayer was enacted by Congress in 1952 and signed into law by President Harry Truman, Galanffy said. The day is observed nationwide every first Thursday of May.

More than 2 million people are expected to attend some 50,000 prayer events nationwide, and hundreds are expected to participate locally.

Killeen’s first National Day of Prayer event was in 1999 at the Killeen Community Center, Galanffy said.

“The event has since branched out,” he said. “We learned that it’s a challenge to get people together to spend a day in prayer, but it’s also a great opportunity to focus on prayer.”

Although people should take some time out every day to pray, Galanffy said, National Day of Prayer puts extra emphasis on the importance of praying for the nation and local communities.

Bridget Joseph, administrative assistant for Pershing Park Baptist Church, has participated in the prayer event for years. For her, the National Day of Prayer strengthens unity and fellowship.

“We invite people from other churches to come and pray for different things, like teachers and principals, the unsaved and victims of human trafficking,” she said.

Other church organizers are ready to welcome anyone who is willing to be part of the spiritual experience.

“The reality is people just don’t have time these days to stop and pray,” said Angel Valencia, pastor of Hillside Ministries in Copperas Cove. “Praying is not on their priority list and that is why we want them get involved with God.”

Valencia said he often spends the National Day of Prayer greeting all who drive by the church, offering them water and the opportunity to join him in prayer. He also prays with people while they are working.

“They really appreciate that,” he said.

Jesus Hope and Love Homeless Mission provides not just a prayer service on Thursday but free meals, too, said Pastor Steve Chae.

“This is not only for homeless people but for everybody,” he said. “We just try to provide for the community so they can come together.”

Galanffy would like to see people in the community pray from wherever they are Thursday to establish a connection with God.

“This is a day of prayer where we don’t have to be politically correct,” he said. “God loves this community, the community at West, the community at Boston, and we are saying, ‘Lord, how can we be involved in the restoration process and how do you want to use me?’”

A pre-national day of prayer kick off youth event is 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Greater Vision Community Church, 2000 E. Stan Schlueter Loop, Killeen.

“This gives the youth the opportunity to lead the praise and worship service, and pray for our nation and world leaders,” said David Reynolds, pastor of Greater Vision Community Church.

Prayer events will be held throughout Killeen on Thursday. National Day of Prayer will conclude with a regional event at 7 p.m. at the Bell County Expo Center on Loop 121 in Belton.

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