Prayers Abound as Rescuers Search for W. Va. Miners

As four miners remain missing after a deadly explosion in Montcoal, W.Va., churches across the state began prayer vigils in support of affected families and in hopes of a miracle.

"We pray for the safety of those miners who are yet unaccounted for in this mishap. Place your arms of protection around them and the members of the rescue teams that have been deployed to the scene," said Resident Bishop Ernest Lyght of the West Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, in a recent prayer.

At least 25 people died in Monday's explosion, which was the worst blast in decades. Rescuers drilled into the coal mine on Wednesday to vent poisonous gas so searchers could enter to look for the four missing people.

They banged on a drill pipe that they lowered into a drilled hole to contact any survivors underground, but there was no response.

Kevin Stricklin of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said the four miners could only survive if they made it to one of the rescue chambers, which are stocked with food and water.

Meanwhile, residents are clinging to hope.

"'My grace is sufficient for you.' We are praying!" says a sign in front of First Baptist Church in Whitesville.

Pastor Jeffrey Perdue of Stepping Stone Community Church in Surveyor told ABC News that the area – Raleigh County – is strong in Christ and prayers abound.

"We trust in the Lord, we're praying all the time," he told ABC.

Seven bodies were pulled out from the Upper Big Branch South Mine and two were hospitalized. Eighteen remain underground. The rescue team said it is focused on finding survivors.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday sent his "deepest condolences" and prayers to the families of the workers who lost their lives. He asked Christian leaders who met with him for a prayer breakfast to pray for the safe return of the missing, for the rescuers and for the souls of those who have been lost in the tragic accident.

The cause of the blast is still unclear and under investigation. The Mine Safety and Health Administration on Wednesday appointed a team of investigators to look into the explosion.

Monday's explosion is the deadliest since 1984 when 27 people died at Emery Mining Corp.'s mine in Orangeville, Utah.