Kathy Antoniotti

Millions of Americans are expected to answer the call to prayer during the county’s 61st annual observance of National Day of Prayer May 3 that will focus on the need to pray for America, its leaders and citizens.


A prayer vigil and Bible reading marathon kicked off the local observance Sunday afternoon at Cascade Plaza on Main Street in downtown Akron.


Hank Richard, a member of the Summit County National Day of Prayer Task Force and a parishioner at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, said he expects more than 2,000 people to participate in the local event throughout the week.


“At a time like this, we need to pray and I think everybody knows it,” said Richard, who has been involved in the event for 13 years.


The five-day observance will culminate with a program at noon Thursday on the steps of the Summit County Courthouse, 209 S. High St., Akron.


Richard, along with several members of Kingdom Builders ministry, was preparing the site Sunday for 360 residents who will read the Bible aloud for 90 hours, starting with Genesis and ending with the Book of Revelation. Nearby, as many as 900 people will conduct a nonstop prayer session at the same time.


Both events will end just before the courthouse program.


Evalee Pointer of Atwater Township in Portage County was one of the first to begin the Bible reading marathon shortly after 4 p.m. on Sunday.


Pointer, 79, who is a member of Living Waters Ministries in Akron, said it was a privilege to be able to participate in the Bible marathon for the past 11 years.


“I realize that in so many countries in the world, we would never be able to do this. So we should do it as long as we can,” she said.


The National Day of Prayer dates to 1775, when the Continental Congress encouraged prayer from the colonists.


President Harry Truman made it official when he signed it into law in 1952. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan established that the day would be celebrated on the first Thursday of May.


This year’s theme is One Nation Under God. The observance has no government funding and organization is left to private groups.


Several other observances will be held throughout the week and include:


•?A concert of prayer and praise for teens from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Akron Bible Church, 783 Brown St., Akron For information, call 330-715-6813 or 330-620-2304.


•?Prayer service and breakfast, 7:15 a.m. Thursday at Queen of Heaven Parish Life Center, 1800 Steese Road, Green, sponsored by the Green Clergy Association. The guest speaker will be the Rev. Norman Douglas, co-founder and executive director of Heart to Heart Communications. Free. For reservations, call 330-896-2345.


•?Community Prayer Breakfast, 7 a.m. Thursday, Grace Brethren Church, 3970 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road, Norton, sponsored by the Norton Kiwanis Club. Tickets are $10 and must be purchased in advance. For information, call 330-825-7676.


•?Prayer gatherings at noon Thursday at Manchester United Methodist Church, 5625 Manchester Road, New Franklin and 6 p.m. at the flagpole at Apostolic Church of Akron, 2545 Newton St., Akron.


Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or kantoniotti@thebeaconjournal.com.