COLUMBIA — About 170 people gathered to pray for the health of the nation on Thursday outside the Boone County Courthouse.
“The battle for America is not flesh and blood. It’s a spiritual battle,” said Jeffrey Huffman, director of marketing and public affairs for Family Worship Center in Columbia and coordinator for a rally that drew people to pray and worship over the lunch hour during the annual National Day of Prayer.
For Huffman and many others at the event, the day of prayer was a chance to strengthen religious moral foundations in the United States and for Christians to play a greater part in shaping the future of the country.
National Christian recording artist Caleb Rowden led worship from 11:30 a.m. to noon. Several pastors and community leaders then led those assembled in prayers for the community and the nation. Prayers were offered for medical science, education, troops, missions, public servants and elected officials. A special focus of prayer this year was on the upcoming elections.
According to the official Web site of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, the National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May. Although people of all faiths are invited to pray for the nation, the event is coordinated by a group of evangelical Christians.
The National Day of Prayer was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. Every year, people all over the country hold prayer-related events during the daylong celebration.
Roy and Jeannine Eichelberger attended their first National Day of Prayer events in the 1950s while living in California and have attended various Columbia events over the past few years.
Jeannine Eichelberger said that group prayer shows strength.
Columbia resident Philip Gill attended with his family, and his daughter sang with her Christian Fellowship School Elementary Choir group at the event.
“Not very many countries have a day of prayer like this. It may be the success of this nation,” Gill said.
Physician Tracy Strout, who attended the event with three of her six children, said “the foundations of our nation are on religious freedom.” One of Strout’s children helped lead the Pledge of Allegiance during the rally.
Debbie Hemmer is new to Columbia, and she welcomed the chance to join the others gathered to pray.
“I’m grateful to have this opportunity to put God before my job, to praise and worship, and pray for our leaders and our country and our men and women in the armed services,” Hemmer said. “We have so much to be thankful for, and I’m proud to be an American, and I’m proud to be a child of God.”
Weather for the rally was windy, but warm and dry.
“We’re blessed every year. Last year it rained a little, and this year we lost some balloons, but that’s OK,” said Randy Spotswood, a volunteer at the event.
Huffman said the rally was meant to start “not just a day of prayer but a season of prayer.” To that end, six prayer meetings, called “concerts of prayer,” are scheduled to meet at six different churches between June and November in preparation for the upcoming presidential elections.
“There’s no political agenda, although the upcoming election is important to everyone, because it’s a critical time for our leaders to make right decisions, regardless of your political affiliation,” Huffman said.
The event officially ended shortly after 1 p.m., but Huffman told those gathered that worship music would continue to play and they were welcome to linger.
“We’re going to continue raging on as we fight for America,” Huffman said.