The day began with the Cobb County Prayer Breakfast, conducted at 6:30 a.m. Thursday in the Cobb Galleria Centre. More than 900 people gathered to socialize, enjoy breakfast and hear former Oklahoma congressman and star football player J.C. Watts speak.
Watts, an ordained Baptist minister, told the audience to consider their ministers as "coaches, guiding you along the way" and encouraged them to pray for the country's elected officials.
"Pray that they find wisdom beyond their years as they make decisions, so that this place you and I call home and the rest call America will remain a pretty special place," Watts said at the conclusion of his speech, before receiving a standing ovation.
In Acworth, Mayor Tommy Allegood hosted the city's 10th annual National Day of Prayer ceremony at noon. More than 100 residents sat in front of City Hall to hear prayers given by local ministers and politicians, music by local entertainers and a walking parade of McCall Elementary School students, called the "Carnival of Hope."
In Marietta, Eastside Baptist Church on Lower Roswell Road also held a National Day of Prayer service at noon featuring religious, political and community leaders. Eastside Christian School students, dressed in school uniforms, sang songs in front of the primarily Eastside audience, before prayers were offered up for schools, the community, the church, military and the nation.
The program featured prayers by Eastside pastor Dr. David Chauncey, Rabbi Aaron Evans of Congregation Mishkan David, Dr. Robert Ndonga Marietta's Fountain of Life Church, Dr. Al Whittinghill of Ambassadors for Christ International, state Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb), and Eastside Head of School Judith Cripps.
The nation is in special need of prayer these days, Evans said.
Ndonga, a native of Kenya, told the audience the story of a young man he knew who took his own life a month ago as a result of ongoing problems. He said the man's house had been foreclosed, his car reposed and his wife had left him, along with his 7-month-old child.
"In times of crisis, looking for direction, looking for guidance, the citizens of this great nation have always found their strength on their knees," Ndonga said.
Without the public's prayers, Hill said he cannot effectively lead.
"In America, too man people take it for granted that we can he assemble today and everyday to pray," he said. "These freedoms, and all those who advocate preserving these freedoms, are under attack."
On April 15, U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb declared the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional, citing a contradiction between the First Amendment's stance against government endorsement of religion and an annual presidential proclamation calling on Americans to prayer. The ruling was the result of a lawsuit filed by a Madison, Wis.-based group of atheists and agnostics called The Freedom From Religion Foundation.
In her ruling, Crabb wrote: "(National Day of Prayer) goes beyond mere 'acknowledgement' of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context."
The U.S. Justice Department appealed the ruling on behalf of the White House. The case will now go before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The lawsuit didn't stop President Barack Obama from signing the annual proclamation for the National Day of Prayer on April 30.
Allegood said the day is important to his city and the country as residents offer up prayer for leaders to make the best decisions possible for everyone.
"City Hall is the heartbeat of our community, and this day should be held where the heart is so that we can celebrate all of the blessings Jesus Christ has given us. It allows people to gather, to come together as one to offer up prayers for those who need them most," Allegood said.
Acworth resident Red Walker, 75, is a member of the First Baptist Church of Acworth and said he came to the ceremony to pray for the sick and to show his support for the nationally recognized day.
"It is an important day, and is even more important now as people try to take prayer away from our lives," Walker said.