The sounds of music and prayer rang from the steps of City Hall for at least an hour on Thursday, when hundreds of faith leaders and residents gathered to celebrate the National Day of Prayer.

The day, which takes place on the first Thursday of May, was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman in 1952 through a joint resolution of Congress, and aimed to encourage people of all different faiths to pray for the nation. The theme of this year’s 65th Annual National Day of Prayer was “Wake Up America,” putting an emphasis on those around the country to return to faith as a source of life guidance.

“It’s our privilege today to come and literally obey the law, we’re here because we’ve been invited to (be here) by our government,” said Suzanne Dollar, who has coordinated the National Day of Prayer with her husband, Soapy, for more than 30 years. “We are here to … realize the need for prayer in our country, the desperate need for prayer and the desperate need for us not to just ask God for what we want, but for us to come humbly before Him and confess where we’ve failed and where we’ve sinned and ask for healing in our nation.”

After Mayor Ivy Taylor read the National Day of Prayer City proclamation and prayer to the crowd, a host of speakers – including religious leaders, military officials, and pastors – lead prayers that inspired many in attendance to raise their hands and scream “Amen!” throughout the afternoon. Each one used the Hebrew name for God – Jehovah – followed by other Hebrew names to highlight the different aspects of “healing” that each person was asking God to provide to the nation. The event was open to all faith groups, but attendees predominantly represented the Christian faith.

“Lord God, there’s nothing that your hand cannot touch and not redeem,” said Gilbert Hernandez, CEO San Antonio Youth for Christ. “So, we turn to the God of the universe, we turn to the God who only can make what this nation has become, and we humble ourselves before you.”

Group songs led by the Community Bible Church choir punctuated the occasion, their voices heard from blocks away, and students from 13 different Christian and Catholic elementary, middle, and high schools in the city read sacred verses of scripture from the Bible.

Toward the end of the afternoon, small prayer circles were formed throughout the crowd, where strangers stood hand-in-hand and shared out loud their prayers for the community, many asking for guidance for city and national leaders, a righteous future President, and an end to the widespread suffering occurring around the world.

“I believe in the power of prayer. I believe that God is waiting and ready to heal this land, this city, this nation,” said Cherie Mixon, one of the many Christian woman who gathered at the celebration. “There’s something that’s amazing and supernatural when people come together and pray.”

Top Image: Maria Evangelina Martinez points her finger upward as she sings to a faith based song. Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Camille Garcia is a journalist born and raised in San Antonio. She formerly worked at the San Antonio Report as assistant editor and reporter. Her email is