National Day of Prayer
A national day of prayer was called for by the first Continental Congress in 1775 and was first established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. In 1952, Congress unanimously voted to establish a National Day of Prayer. The day was made official when President Harry S. Truman signed it into law. In 1988, Congress and President Ronald Reagan amended the law to designate the first Thursday in May as National Day of Prayer. Most of the National Day of Prayer efforts are geared at praying for the nation, government leaders, the President, congressmen, and local officials. There are large gatherings on the Mall in Washington D.C. and in thousands of cities across America.
1775 The First Continental Congress called for a National Day of Prayer.
1863 Abraham Lincoln called for such a day.
WHEREAS, The Senate of the United States; devoutly recognizing the Supreme authority and just government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.
And Whereas, it is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
And, inasmuch as we know that by His Divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity.
We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown.
BUT WE HAVE FORGOTTEN GOD.
We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; And have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
IT BEHOOVES US, THEN, TO HUMBLE OURSELVES BEFORE THE OFFENDED POWER, TO CONFESS OUR NATIONAL SINS,
AND TO PRAY TO THE GOD THAT MADE US!
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of National Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer. And I do hereby request all the people to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope, authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less the pardon of our national sins, and restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington the 30th day of March, in the year of our Lord 1863.
Signed by Abraham Lincoln President of the U.S.A.
William H Seward,
Secretary of State
The Senate resolution requesting the president to proclaim a day for “national prayer and humiliation” was introduced by Senator James Harlan on March 1, and adopted on March 3, 1863.
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, to be the first Thursday in May.
WASHINGTON, DC – For the first time in U.S. history, a bill enacting a permanent national day of prayer passed both houses.
The Senate bill, S. 1378, was introduced by South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, while the House version was introducedby Ohio Democrat Tony Hall.
The measure amends a 1952 law which required the president to proclaim a day of his choosing each year. President Reagan signed the bill into law in the Oval Office on May 5th and read a prayer translated from Russian. The prayer was found on a young soldier, Alexander Zatzepa, who was killed in action in 1944.
The National Prayer Committee was started in 1982 to coordinate and implement the commemorated day of prayer. Sorensen said there has been a steady increase in the number of governors and mayors participating. “The only hindrance is the state not knowing about it. However, a lot of other groups hold observances that we are not even aware of.” The first day of prayer was declared by the Continental Congress in 1775. In Reagan’s 1987 proclamation, he stated, “On our National Day of Prayer, then, we join together as people of many faiths to petition God to show us His mercy and His love, to heal our weariness and uphold our hope, that we might live ever mindful of His justice and thankful for His blessing.”
Reagan further urged “…the citizens of this great nation to gather together on that day in homes and places of worship to pray, each after his or her own manner, for unity of hearts of all mankind.”