The National Day of Prayer is May 5, 2011. Beliefnet interviewed Michael Calhoun, Director of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, on the significance of this year’s event.

How will this event be different from years past?

These prayer events are very personal to the community and the folks who plan it all across the country. There’s a wide variety of events and it changes from year to year. On a national level, it’s fairly consistent. The biggest thing this year is that we received great news that a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a ruling that previously had found the law requiring that the President proclaim a National Day of Prayer each year as unconstitutional. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which is based in Chicago, ruled 3-0 that the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which is an atheist group that brought the lawsuit originally, does not have standing to continue its challenge of the 1952 Congressional Act that declares an annual National Day of Prayer. That’s great news, not only for our organization and the work we’re doing to call America to prayer, but for America. This is a victory for the free exercise of religion that our Founding Fathers sought to ensure. More than anything else, it’s going to be something that’s going to encourage millions of Americans to join the efforts that our task force puts forth in calling people to prayer. I can’t think of a time in recent memory when it’s been more important for us to pray for wisdom and direction for our country and its leaders.

What type of focus do you want to have this year?

There’s so much to pray for, and prayer can be so personal. Every community is different. Every home is different as far as the challenges they may be facing. Rather than telling folks what to pray for we just encourage people to focus on a couple of different areas. If you look around the world, there’s plenty to pray for, whether it be our Armed Forces, the national debt battle, unemployment, the turmoil in the Middle East or even Japan, the tragedy that they’ve had to deal with in recent months. There are 7 things we give as starting point to help spur prayer and those are areas of influence in our culture: government, military, media, business, education, church and family. Those are just some good areas folks may want to lift in prayer for good leadership and wisdom. On behalf of our country, looking ahead, it’s important that we call upon Almighty God for His wisdom because there aren’t simple solutions to the problems we face.

Who is your key note speaker?

Joni Eareckson Tada is our honorary chairman. She will be the key note speaker at the national observance that we host in Washington, D.C. that we host on Capitol Hill. She has a keen understanding of the Bible and is a wonderful speaker and best selling author.

What can people do on a local level?

The first thing I would encourage people to do is visit our Web site: Nationaldayofprayer.org. We have a searchable event listing that will allow folks to find an event in their area. If they’re hosting an event in their church, home, the public square or a school, there’s an opportunity to post their event and let other people in their community know that that’s going on. Find an event. Turn out, show your support and take an opportunity to unite with your neighbors and pray for your country.
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