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Community members join in prayer and song at annual event

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WAKE FOREST — Dozens gathered outside Wake Forest Town Hall on Thursday to recognize National Day of Prayer, appealing to God to bless America, its governments, citizens, military members and businesses. 

The two-hour event, held at Centennial Plaza, featured a variety of local pastors leading the audience in prayer. The crowd also joined in song. 

Across the country, groups organized National Day of Prayer celebrations this year themed around John 13:34, a Bible verse in which Jesus commands his followers to love each other just as he has loved them.

Wake Forest's ceremony was organized by Scott Graham, a Wake Forest police officer. 

"We are going to rejoice today," Graham said in opening the event. 

Throughout the program, Michael Liter, the music and dramatic arts pastor at Faith Baptist Church in Youngsville, led the audience in songs. 

There was also a performance from the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Kingdom Choir. 

Steven Wade, lead pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Youngsville, led prayer for the government and local leaders. 

U.S. Army veteran Jim Dyer offered a prayer to America's service members. 

Teresa Wadford, with Moms in Prayer, prayed for family values. Later, Dr. John Hammett, an Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary faculty member, led another prayer for parents and families. 

Brian Merritt of Richland Creek Community Church focused his prayer on the sanctity of life, a topic he said touched on debates regarding abortion, the death penalty, assisted suicide and other controversial topics. 

Ryan Siegers of Crossroads Fellowship Church began a prayer for local businesses and entrepreneurs. 

Rev. Mark S. Vasconcellos of Victory International prayed for mission trips and those abroad. 

Rev. Ken Steigler closed out with a prayer discussing Christian faith. 

The ceremony also featured a prayer for local first responders, led by Graham, as well as a moment of silence in memory of Ian Lewis and Paige Merical, two Wake Forest High School students who died last month after they were caught in a rip current.