Christians went to their local churches to pray for Hurricane Katrina's victims and relief efforts on Wednesday, the day Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco had designated as a statewide day of prayer after ordering complete evacuation of New Orleans.
As flood waters continue to rise in New Orleans after a levee broke, hundreds are feared to be dead while thousands more are homeless and in need of immediate medical attention, according to reports.
"As we face the devastation wrought by Katrina, as we search for those in need, as we comfort those in pain and as we begin the long task of rebuilding, we turn to God for strength, hope and comfort," Blanco said in a statement.
First United Methodist Church in Shreveport, a city in Louisianas northern region, opened its doors Wednesday so that people could come in to pray.
"Prayer is vital for restoration, for hope," Jody Thurmon, the church's prayer ministry leader, told The Shreveport Times. "That's the only thing that can help these people right now."
Jamie Joyce, one of those who came to First United Methodist to pray, expressed similar sentiments.
"The tsunami and the hurricane are difficult for me because there's no one to blame," she wrote in an e-mail. "So I prayed for the victims to know that God is in control, even in this chaos. And I prayed that they would see that through the help and love of others."
Blanco had asked all of Louisiana to pray for the safety of victims and rescuers and for patience for those anxiously waiting to hear from family members or to get word about their homes."
"Please pray that God give us all the physical and spiritual strength to work through this crisis and rebuild," she said.
She added, "I know, by praying together on Wednesday, that we can pull together and draw strength we need - strength that only God can give us. In my prayers, I will also thank God for the strong and resilient people of this state and how they are working to meet this challenge."
Rev. Stanley Bennett of Liberty Baptist in west Shreveport said he expected more people than usual to be praying in churches and at home, reported the Shreveport Times.
"Prayer is something that's always in order," said Bennett, whose church usually meets midweek. "But at times like these, it makes us recognize who's really in charge."
The devastation left by the hurricane has led many to turn to God for answers.
It is only natural for questions like "Where is God?" to arise when people go into crisis mode, said David S. Dockery, president of the Southern Baptist-affiliated Union University in Jackson, Tenn., in a Religion New Service article.
"In times like these many of our answers to these questions seem hollow, shallow and narrow," he said. "The only answer that doesn't sound that way is the one that God himself offers. Instead of reasons, God offers Himself. Somehow in the midst of our struggle and despair, God's comfort hovers over us."
Helen Thomas, financial secretary of Shady Grove Baptist Church in south Bossier City, said, "I hope (the devastation of Hurricane Katrina) will cause people to go to the Lord."
Church leaders from around the country have followed Blanco's suit and called for a national day of prayer and fasting Sunday, Sept. 4.
Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius has proclaimed Sunday as a day of "prayer, compassion and hope" for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
"The people of Kansas mourn the loss of thousands of their fellow Americans in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama as a result of Hurricane Katrina," Sebelius told the Wichita Eagle. "Kansans are citizens of uncommon compassion, committed to help those in needwhether in their own neighborhoods, or halfway across the country."
Due to the flooding of New Orleans, relief groups have found it difficult to deliver much needed aid and necessities such as food and water to hurricane victims although some have succeeded in reaching surrounding areas.
In addition to prayer, people are also supporting hurricane relief efforts by sending financial donations to disaster relief groups such as The Salvation Army, Operation Blessing, and American Red Cross.