TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn stood before the crowd of nearly 1,000 and proudly proclaimed his faith in God.
"Faith matters," he said, drawing a litany of amens during the brunch Thursday at the A La Carte Pavilion.
He was among numerous area leaders — political, social, and religious alike — and many thousands of believers who participated in National Day of Prayer events across the Tampa Bay area.
"You can send all the letters you want," Buckhorn said to naysayers who question whether elected officials should be advocates for the Day of Prayer. "I can tell you what file that's going in."
State legislators, county and school officials, and other local dignitaries peppered the audience at the sold-out brunch, as well as a prayer service held last night at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
At Steinbrenner, prayers went up for President Barack Obama, the military, the state, Hillsborough County and Tampa as 1,600 worshipers participated in the city's 61st annual observance of the National Day of Prayer.
State Sen. Ronda Storms was among the speakers featured during the two-hour program that was free and open to the public. Attendees clapped and sang to live music as Christian flags waved in the stands and more than a dozen speakers prayed for peace.
The brunch sermon by Anne Graham Lotz, the keynote speaker and the daughter of Billy Graham, served as a clarion call for local Christians to join together, overcoming divisions based on political beliefs and denominational differences.
"What time do you think it is?" she said, the rhetorical question her sermonic refrain. "It's time to pray."
Several brunch speakers noted that the Tampa Bay area will be in the spotlight during the upcoming Republican National Convention.
Buckhorn had a request regarding the convention: "I need you to hold us up," he told the crowd. "I need you to pray for us."