The man was in his 40s and had lost his job for the first time in his life.
As he prayed with one of the small groups gathered during the National Day of Prayer service two years ago in Fort Wayne, tears streamed down his face.
“People just reached out and embraced him,” recalled the Rev. Peter Janzen, chairman of the local National Day of Prayer steering committee.
“This opens the door for people who don't have anywhere else that's 'safe,'” Janzen said of the annual Christian event, which takes place this year at noon Thursday in Ballroom A at the Grand Wayne Convention Center in downtown Fort Wayne.
“It is an opportunity for people, hopefully, to get closer to God,” said Janzen, pastor of First Mennonite Church on St. Marys Avenue. “Who knows, that may be the one time that person lets go of what is on their heart.”
The local prayer service will be one of hundreds of National Day of Prayer events taking place Thursday across the country, Janzen said.
The event here will focus around the theme “Pray for America,” and it will be based on the Bible verse Matthew 12:21 — “In his name the nations will put their hope.” The event will end at 1 p.m., but people are free to stay longer and pray, Janzen said.
Special music will be provided by Holly Parks, worship pastor at Broadway Christian Church.
During the service, people will be invited to break into small groups to pray for people in six focus areas — the family; the church and clergy; media; education and educators; government leaders and the judiciary; and first responders, including medical staff, police, firefighters and military personnel.
At the end of the service, the Matthew 12:21 verse also will be read in Burmese and Spanish, and it will be signed in American Sign Language for people with hearing impairments, Janzen said. Those readings of the Bible verse are designed to recognize Fort Wayne's cultural diversity.
Janzen said the National Day of Prayer service offers a great opportunity for Christians of all faiths to join together and focus on what they share in common.
“What keeps us one is the desire to have Jesus in the center of our lives,” he said.
In addition to praying, he believes people taking part in the prayer service also can be witnesses for the love and hope God provides.
“I believe there is a spiritual hunger out there,” he said, noting attendance at the service seems to be increasing.
He and event organizers chose the Grand Wayne Center as the event location because it is a “neutral” site.
“If a person has no church connection, the Grand Wayne Center is a safe place to pray,” he added.