America has gone through times of crisis before throughout our history – from the Revolution to the Civil War, from World War I and the Great Depression, to the Second Word War, the Cold War, and the attacks of September 11, the people of this great nation have endured seasons of hardship and pain. Now we are facing the uncertainties and sorrow to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as our forefathers and mothers did, we must humble ourselves before God in this season and seek His aid, His wisdom, and His mercy.
As we observe our annual National Day of Prayer, it is well that we remind ourselves of this Biblical admonition:
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV).
The National Day of Prayer is a vital part of our heritage. Since the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation, the call to prayer has continued through our history, including President Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in 1863.
In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Truman, declared an annual national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May. The unanimous passage of the bill establishing the National Day of Prayer as an annual event, signifies that prayer is as important to our nation today as it was in the beginning.
This year is different for many reasons, but especially because we can’t gather in churches and town squares as is our custom. But we can still pray in our homes and with our families – or gather virtually with believers from across America.
One of the ways you can join together in prayer is by logging on to the daily Inspiration Ministries prayer gathering through our Facebook page at 9 a.m. Easter Standard Time. Go to facebook.com/InspirationMinistries/ and join with us in prayer on the National Day of Prayer – and every day at this same time.
You can also log on to the official National Day of Prayer webcast from 8 to 10 p.m. Eastern Standard time. This year’s theme, “Pray God’s Glory Across the Earth”, is based on Habakkuk 2:14, and reminds us that this promise, “for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”, is for us today. Watch this event live at NationalDayofPrayer.org
The First Thursday of May
The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. Because of the faith of many of our founding fathers and mothers, public prayer and national days of prayer have a long-standing and significant history in American tradition. The Supreme Court affirmed the right of state legislatures to open their sessions with prayer in Marsh vs. Chambers (1983).
Each year, the president signs a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. Last year, all 50 state governors plus the governors of several U.S. territories signed similar proclamations.
Significance of the National Day of Prayer
The National Day of Prayer has great significance for us as a nation as it enables us to recall and to teach the way in which our founding fathers sought the wisdom of God when faced with critical decisions. It stands as a call for us to humbly come before God, seeking His guidance for our leaders and His grace upon us as a people.
Like Thanksgiving or Christmas, this day has become a national observance placed on all Hallmark calendars and observed annually across the nation and in Washington, D.C. Every year, local, state, and federal observances were held from sunrise in Maine to sunset in Hawaii, uniting Americans from all socio-economic, political and ethnic backgrounds in prayer for our nation.
It is estimated that on average more than two million people attend more than 30,000 annual National Day of Prayer observances – organized by approximately 40,000 volunteers. At state capitols, county court houses, on the steps of city halls, and in schools, businesses, churches and homes, people pause their daily activities and gather for prayer on this important day.
Religious Freedom in Action
The National Day of Prayer belongs to all Americans. It is a day that transcends differences, bringing together citizens from all backgrounds. Mrs. Shirley Dobson, NDP chairman emeritus, reminds us: “We have lost many of our freedoms in America because we have been asleep. I feel if we do not become involved and support the annual National Day of Prayer, we could end up forfeiting this freedom, too.”
Go to facebook.com/InspirationMinistries and join with us in prayer on the National Day of Prayer at 9 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
You can also log on to the official National Day of Prayer webcast from 8 to 10 p.m. Eastern Standard time at NationalDayofPrayer.org.
Historical Landmarks in Prayer
- 1775 – The first Continental Congress called for a National Day of Prayer.
- 1863 – Abraham Lincoln called for such a day.
- 1952 – Congress established NDP as an annual event by a joint resolution, signed into law by President Truman.
- 1988 – The law was amended and signed by President Reagan, designating the NDP as the first Thursday in May.
Fun National Day of Prayer Facts
- There have been 146 national calls to prayer, humiliation, fasting and thanksgiving by the President of the United States (1789 – 2017).
- There have been 69 Presidential Proclamations for a National Day of Prayer (1952 – 2017). Gerald R. Ford (1976), George H. Bush (1989 – 91), Barack H. Obama (2012), and Donald J. Trump (2017) are the only U.S. Presidents to sign multiple National Day of Prayer Proclamations in the same year.
- Every President since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation.
- 35 of the 45 U.S. Presidents have signed proclamations for National Prayer. Two Presidents, not included in the count—William Howard Taft and Warren Gamaliel Harding, signed proclamations for Thanksgiving and Prayer.
- Records indicate there have been 1,526 state and federal calls for national prayer since 1775 and counting.
Learn more at NationalDayofPrayer.org
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Dr. Craig von Buseck is Editor of Inspiration.org.
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