Each year, the National Day of Prayer is commemorated on the first Thursday of May — a day in which people are asked to turn toward God in a spirit of meditation and prayer.

It seems that now, in times of dissent and division, a spirit of prayer is more necessary in our country — and our community — than ever. 

Although earlier days of prayer and fasting were instituted by the Second Continental Congress in the early days of the American Republic, it wasn’t until 1952 that President Harry Truman signed a bill formally proclaiming that a National Day of Prayer must be declared every year by each subsequent president. 

Meant to be an ecumenical tradition, Protestants, Catholics, Sikhs, Muslims, Jews and Hindus alike celebrate the day at various courthouses and places of worship throughout the country. 

Here in Kerrville, Baptist Child and Family Services hosted a National Day of Prayer breakfast Wednesday morning, where people of many faith traditions had the opportunity to come together, and local leaders in the community led those assembled in prayer — prayer for the city of Kerrville, for the state of Texas and for the United States of America, as well as specifically for the military and for educators. 

Today at noon, dozens of Kerrville residents will gather on the Kerr County Courthouse lawn to celebrate and pray for local and national leaders.

It was perhaps Mayor Bill Blackburn who offered the week’s most poignant reflection at Wednesday’s prayer breakfast, when he prayed for unity for the city of Kerrville. 

“Help me to stay strong in what I understand to be right,” Blackburn said, “but also to listen to those who disagree.”

It is a prayer we would all do well to utter more often. 

In the wake of deadly Easter Sunday attacks on Christians in Sri Lanka, coupled with the anti-Semitism fueling Sunday’s synagogue shooting near San Diego — not to mention Tuesday’s shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte — hatred, violence and division seem to reign in an uncertain world. 

In these times of increasing political division on both the national and local stage, it’s important to remember the intrinsic human worth and dignity of our brothers and sisters — even those with whom we most strongly disagree.

“I can really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least,” Dorothy Day, a 20th-century journalist and activist en route to canonization in the Catholic Church, once said.

And so, as we approach a contentious city council election this weekend, it’s timely to remember that what binds us together is more essential than what drives us apart.

As a community, then, we must pray: for unity, for charity, for kindness, for mutual respect and above all, for the peace that surpasses understanding. 

As Presbyterian missionary and writer A.T. Pierson once said, “There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.”

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