On May 4, 2017, people of all faiths in America will join in a day of national prayer for our country. Originally created in 1952 and signed into law by President Harry Truman, the National Day of Prayer enables the American people to recall the teachings and ways in which our founding fathers sought the wisdom of God, while also praying for our future as a nation. The theme for this year’s National Day of Prayer is, “For Your Great Name’s Sake! Hear Us…Forgive Us…Heal Us!” taken from Daniel 19:9.
In 1968, Strom Thurmond introduced a bill to the Senate Judicial Committee calling for the designation of a specific day for the holiday. The bill was co-signed by thirteen senators and ninety Congressmen, and was endorsed by two prominent Rabbis, Rabbi Haberman and Rabbi Tanenbaum. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Since then, the first Thursday of May is annually observed as the National Day of Prayer. Every year, the president signs a proclamation encouraging all Americans to pray on this day.
National days of prayer can be traced throughout American history. The first recorded call to prayer was in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation. Just as notable was when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” amid the, “awful calamity of civil war,” in 1863. In total, there have been 144 national calls to prayer, humiliation, fasting, and thanksgiving by the Presidents of the US from 1789 to 2015. In addition, there have also been sixty-seven Presidential Proclamations for a National Day of Prayer from 1952 to 2015, including multiple proclamations within the same year made by Presidents Gerald Ford, George Bush, and Barack Obama.
To become involved, citizens can join in with the estimated two million people who attend more than 30,000 observances organized nationwide. The National Day of Prayer Task Force recommends three ways to be involved: 1) become a person of prayer, 2) mobilize prayer, and 3) become a legacy of prayer partner.
Today, as citizens in all fifty states observe the National Day of Prayer, the significance of this annual holiday can be seen in its power to unite Americans from all socio-economic, political, and ethnic backgrounds in prayer for our nation. At Grieboski Global Strategies (GGS), we are strong proponents of ensuring religious freedom and developing interfaith dialogue. We strongly encourage Americans of all faiths today to come together in their devotion to prayer.