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With closed eyes, outstretched arms, lifted heads and hopeful hearts, Utah believers united with Americans across the country Thursday morning for the 62nd National Day of Prayer.

The Rev. Michael J. Imperiale, senior pastor of Salt Lake City's First Presbyterian Church, delivered a special message at Calvary Chapel of Salt Lake. The gathering included a breakfast and live-streaming of the national ceremony from Washington, D.C.

In a proclamation marking this year's event, President Barack Obama declared that prayer "brings communities together and can be a wellspring of strength and support" — especially in the wake of the Boston bombings, the Newtown, Conn., school shootings and the deadly explosion in West, Texas.

"In the aftermath of senseless acts of violence, the prayers of countless Americans signal to grieving families and a suffering community that they are not alone," Obama wrote. "Their pain is a shared pain, and their hope a shared hope. Regardless of religion or creed, Americans reflect on the sacredness of life and express their sympathy for the wounded, offering comfort and holding up a light in an hour of darkness."

The day of prayer began in 1775 when the Continental Congress asked Americans to pray for guidance as it was trying to birth a nation. President Abraham Lincoln called for a day of "humiliation, fasting and prayer" in 1863.

Nearly a century later, President Harry Truman made it an annual event, and, in 1988, President Ronald Reagan set aside the first Thursday in May so citizens could join in worship across all religious boundaries.