This past Thursday was the National Day of Prayer. Within the City of Crestview, plans included two different times and locations for prayer, one for noon at City Hall, and the second at 6 p.m. at the Okaloosa County Courthouse.

Different leaders from various denominations were asked to lead the groups in prayer for our government leaders, church leaders, and our nation.

Each year, the Crestview Area Ministerial Association hosts each event. Prayers are lifted by local pastors and participants, asking God to help our nation repent of ways God’s Word has been ignored, to help bring about a sense of humility, and to bless and guide our national, state, and local leaders.

It is the intent of this day to collectively ask God’s guidance and direction for those of us who live and work in this great nation.

The United States Congress established this observance in 1952 as a day to turn to God in prayer and meditation. In recent years, this action came under fire by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. But, in 2011 the foundation lost its bid to declare this action unconstitutional, so the tradition continues.

It is important to remember our prayers do not draw God’s attention to particular situations or desires. God already knows what is going on.

When we pray, we are adding our voices to the prayers that are already ongoing. This strengthens our collective voices and petitions to God.

Sometimes people wonder if prayer works. They wonder if it is worth the time, energy, and effort to pray to God. The answer is “Yes!”

Does God hear? Absolutely! Does God answer our prayers the way we desire? Not always. Can God’s positive answers to our prayers become distorted? And how!

Evil is alive and, unfortunately, very well on planet Earth. For every positive act put into place, there is someone who will try to undermine or destroy the good that is done. And what happens is, people blame God for not answering their prayers. Non-believers point their fingers and laugh at us, wondering where our God is now.

Being people of faith, we never cease our praying. We never give up hope for a better world, a better nation, a better city.

Even though the National Day of Prayer has passed, our prayers continue. Lift yours to God. If you want a better government, pray for the one you have. If you want better leaders, pray for those you have. God hears and God answers.

The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.