On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

Why is there a National Day of Prayer?

The Reagans welcome Billy Graham at the 1988 National Day of Prayer

“We have lost many of our freedoms in America because we have been asleep,” says Mrs. Shirley Dobson, chairman of the National Day of Prayer 2011. “I feel if we do not become involved and support the annual National Day of Prayer, we could end up forfeiting this freedom, too.”


President Bush during the 2006 event

Like Thanksgiving or Christmas, the day has become a national observance annually across the nation.

CLICK HERE to read “Is the National Day of Prayer for everybody?”


Last year, local, state and federal observances were held from sunrise in Maine to sunset in Hawaii, uniting Americans from all economic, political and ethnic backgrounds in prayer for our nation. It is estimated that over two million people attended more than 30,000 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 stopped their activities and gathered for prayer.

The first National Day of Prayer was declared in 1775 before America was even a nation. The Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation.

A 2007 observance in Hawaii



Similar calls to prayer have resounded throughout our history, including President Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in 1863 and George W. Bush’s appeal to all Americans to pray for America shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

A national day was informal for years until 1952. A joint resolution was approved by Congress, then signed by President Harry S. Truman, which declared an annual, national day of prayer.

2010 observance in front of the California State Capitol


In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May. Each year, the president signs a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day.

CLICK HERE to read about the federal court decision declaring the National Day of Prayer legal and constitutional

Last year, all 50 state governors plus the governors of several U.S. territories signed similar proclamations – defying a federal judge who had declared the event illegal. That ruling has since been overturned.


CLICK HERE to read Linda Howard’s message about the National Day of Prayer

“Fasting and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining them an act of discipline,” said Thomas Jefferson in 1808. “Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the time for these exercises.”

“The National Day of Prayer has great significance for us as a nation,” notes Mrs. Dobson. “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 to us to humbly come before God, seeking His guidance for our leaders and His grace upon us as a people.”


President Obama at the 2009 National Day of Prayer

Is it true that President Obama refused to sign this year’s presidential declaration of the National Day of Prayer? Such rumors have made the rounds on the Internet. Obama has scaled down the White House observance, however, on April 29, two weeks after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the National Day of Prayer, Obama proclaimed May 5 as the date for Americans to come together in a unified time of prayer for the nation.


CLICK HERE to read American Center for Law and Justice attorney Jay Sekulow’s thoughts

“Prayer has played an important role in the American story and in shaping our Nation’s leaders,” noted the President in his proclamation, recalling the words of his predecessor, Abraham Lincoln, who noted during the War Between the States that he had been driven “many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”

Obama recalled that “from the earliest years of our country’s history, Congress and Presidents have set aside days to recognize the role prayer has played in so many definitive moments in our history.”


He appealed to the American people to use this year’s observance in expressing their thankfulness to God “for the liberty that allows people of all faiths to worship or not worship according to the dictates of their conscience,” and for the “many other freedoms and blessings that we often take for granted.”

2009 National Day of Prayer in Texas


Noting the conflicts that have placed America’s military forces in harm’s way around the world, Obama asked the nation to “pray for the men and women of our Armed Forces and the many selfless sacrifices they and their families make on behalf of our Nation.” In addition, he counseled prayer “for the sustenance and guidance for all of us to meet the great challenges we face as a Nation.”

Observing the “uncertainty and unrest” that plague people all over the word, the President advised concerted prayer for “men and women everywhere who seek peace, human dignity, and the same rights we treasure here in America.”

Obama concluded his official proclamation by inviting “all citizens of our Nation, as their own faith or conscience directs them, to join me in giving thanks for the many blessings we enjoy [and] in asking God for guidance, mercy, and protection for our Nation.”


That there would even be a proclamation from the President this year was in doubt until April 14, when the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that the national observance was a violation of the First Amendment’s supposed separation of church and state.

The circuit court decision trumped the April 2010 verdict of U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, who had ruled that the National Day of Prayer amounted to an unconstitutional call for religious action on the part of the government. It should be noted that President Obama himself appealed that decision.

A three-member panel of the circuit court determined that a presidential prayer proclamation imposes no requirement on anyone other than the President to do anything — and that he was not a complainant in the lawsuit. The court rules no one is injured by what amounts to an invitation. Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote in the unanimous ruling: “The Judicial Branch does not censor a President’s speech. Those who do not agree with a President’s statement may speak in opposition to it; they are not entitled to silence the speech of which they disapprove.”

While the President was applauded for his prayer proclamation, just days earlier he had received severe criticism for not issuing a traditional presidential Easter proclamation, while he did release a statement in honor of Earth Day, observed this year on the Saturday before Easter.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment kenneth

    It’s a game of cheesy false public piety that’s used as a sort of gamesmanship among politicians to test who is “Christian enough.” People like Dobson with their contrived sense of grievance and hysteria, are not encouraging prayers to God: they are demanding that presidents prostrate themselves before them as self-appointed spokesmen of God, and to swear fealty to their sectarian agendas.

    The whole affair is sleazy and cynical at its core and I refuse to approach my gods on that day in such a way. It’s not about a heartfelt wish to pray to each of our own gods in our own ways, it’s a demand that public officials be SEEN to engage in prayer OR ELSE. I didn’t hire Obama to serve as our nation’s pastor, nor is such a duty enumerated anywhere at all in the Constitution. Nor is it his job to ask “how high?” when Christian Wahabbists like Dobson give the command to jump…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Bruce Lanning

    What demand? The choice is up to the people, including the President. No one is saying you have to participate. People do it because they wish to, not because they have to. It’s a reflection of the principles upon which this country was founded.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Annie

    Its a great idea! I don’t think it is something that should be forced on anyone but a day for Christians to call on God’s name ignoring sects and divisions is just awesome. I love the picture of the lady lifting her hands.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Regina

    The World…needs healing!, The World …needs a Revival. There is so much going on in The World. There are Earthquakes in Divers Places and tornadoes spinning out of control. There is Global Warming. There is Famine in the land, There are Wars and Rumors of Wars in The Land; there is Hatred in The Land and there is No Peace in The Land. I like it–to be on One Accord. To be in One Spirit! “Heaven Knows”

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Daniel

    If anybody has ANY questions about the history of the National Day of Prayer, just check with It has not been declared unconstitutional at ALL.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Keith


    Extremely well said! I agree with every word you wrote. Yes, I pray… alot! And I don’t need a special day for it. But I am so sick of politicians and self appointed “Warriors of Christ” trying to put everyone through some kind of self serving litmus test to see who is the MOST religious. Sillyness.

  • http://PSCTCI Jonathan N Gardiner

    God encourage us to pray always.And he spoke a parable unto them to this end,that men ought always to pray,and not to faint,(Luke.18:1).
    If we have one billion people praying with iniquities in there heart God will not hear them;However if you have one to three people pray with a pure heart God will hear and answer them.
    Keep praying America and other God fearing Nations.
    God hears and answer prayers.
    Call unto me,and I will answer thee,and show thee great and mighty things,which thou knowest not.(Jeremiah.33:3).

    God Bless a praying and believing people.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Dianne

    The courts/governments may TRY and stop NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER, but like it has been since the beginning of time, IT HAS NOT WORKED. GOD is more powerful and will always protect HIS PEOPLE, as long as we keep him with us, even it has to be in a secret place.NDOP is not just for us Christian’s. In my city we get together in the evening after working hours so everyone has a chance to prayer together. Among our group our Christians from different churches around the area. Pentecostals, Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Lutherns, Presbyterians and yes, Jewish. We even welcome the Muslims. One of the many prayers we all prayer for,is to bring our men and women home from the wars over in the middle east, to stop the volience over there and here and to give our President wisdom and guidiance to make the right decisions for our country and others.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Wye

    I think that National Day of Prayer is everyday to those who know God’s Word.
    Idols and God’s Word is total different, the two have no comparison. Christians know the differences between gods and God. 2 Chronicles 7:14 tells the christian what to do. Lets not get side- track about what day to pray but lets practice praying daily. Jesus tells us to pray corporate in Matthew 18:19, therefore we all need prayer daily with our Lord.
    Happy Thursday.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Kelli

    The idea of a day for prayer is great….BUT prayer shouldn’t be limited to just one day out of the year. It should be a daily thing.

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