The state and the nation need prayer now more than ever, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said while addressing a gathering Thursday in the Capitol Rotunda for National Prayer Day.
In February, Parson had signed a proclamation designating May 2 as a Day of Prayer in Missouri to coincide with the event.
"America was founded by those who believe in God (and prayer)," Parson said. "Our forefathers called upon the colonies to pray for wisdom. Being a nation of prayer was at the center of our survival."
About 100 listeners responded with applause as he recognized service men and women for the sacrifices they make every day.
"We need to remember — all of us do — that they do the things none of us want to do," said Parson, a U.S. Army veteran.
Sometimes, in life, we make things difficult, he said. Prayer has a way of helping people find their way through difficulties; prayer helps us focus, he said.
Parson asked listeners to pray with him and for him as he conducts the business of Missouri.
He said listeners should focus on three issues and they would be "just fine."
"Put Christian values first," he said. "Then moral values. And if you love this state and you love this country, they're going to be just fine."
After Parson completed his remarks, Jill Noble, the Missouri director for the National Day of Prayer, recognized World War II veteran Sidney Walton. As listeners cheered for Walton, Parson stepped off the dais and shook the veteran's hand.
Parson then reached up and removed his own governor's lapel pin and pinned it on Walton.
The event's keynote speaker, U.S. Army Col. David Bowlus, a chaplain from Fort Leonard Wood, talked about the power of prayer.
"We often forget the awesome power of prayer," Bowlus said.
In 2004, as a captain, he served with a battalion in Afghanistan.
He regularly gathered soldiers together to pray. They prayed for the mission's success. They prayed for the soldiers' safety. And they prayed for spiritual growth, he said.
Then, one day, they heard "the telltale sound" of incoming rockets. One landed to the camp's left, one to the right, one in front of the camp and one behind.
The soldiers realized that the enemy had then bracketed in on their location. So, they ran to bunkers, but unfortunately, the camp was expanding and there weren't yet enough bunkers for all the rangers.
Some got in the bunkers, and some didn't.
"I don't know how the chaplain got in the bunker, but I was in the bunker," Bowlus said. "Everybody was quiet — and I looked to my left and I looked to my right — and I noticed everyone was looking at me as the chaplain."
It was as if their eyes said, "'Now would be a good time to do something religious,'" he said. "So, I took an offering."
No, he said. He prayed. The camp had been covered in prayer, he said. About 10 seconds after he finished a prayer in the bunker, the rangers heard another rocket coming in.
That one landed in the middle of the camp with a thud.
"It was a dud," Bowlus said.
The enemy, they learned, had several more rockets. But, right after the dud was fired, the battery that powered the launches went dead.
"God protected us," Bowlus said. "Sometimes, you forget the awesome power of prayer until you see it up close."