A Historical Look at the National Day of Prayer

George Washington planted the seeds for what would become the National Day of Prayer in 1775:

“The Honorable the Congress having recommended it to the United States to set apart Thursday the 6th of May next to be observed as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, to acknowledge the gracious interpositions of Providence; to deprecate [to pray or entreat that a present evil may be removed] deserved punishment for our Sins and Ingratitiude, to unitedly implore the Protection of Heaven; Success to our Arms and the Arms of our Ally: The Commander in Chief enjoins a religious observance of said day and directs the Chaplains to prepare discourses proper for the occasion; strictly forbidding all recreations and unnecessary labor.”

Since that time, national conflicts have often encouraged presidents to request a day for prayer and fasting. John Adams called on Americans to pray at the beginning of the Quasi-War with France. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln encouraged prayer for a war-torn republic saying:

“It is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own 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.”

On April 17, 1952, President Harry Truman signed a bill proclaiming the National Day of Prayer into law:

“Now, Therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Friday, July 4, 1952, as a National Day of Prayer, on which all of us, in our churches, in our homes, and in our hearts, may beseech God to grant us wisdom to know the course which we should follow, and strength and patience to pursue that course steadfastly. May we also give thanks to Him for His constant watchfulness over us in every hour of national prosperity and national peril.”

In 1988, President Reagan amended the law, designating the first Thursday in May as the a day to focus on prayer.

Thursday, May 3, is this year’s National Day of Prayer. Vyrso Voice will focus on prayer week by suggesting helpful literature to enrich your prayer time.

All week long, you can pick up Vice Chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force and Executive Member of the National Prayer Committee John Bornschein’s new ebook The Front Line: A Prayer Warrior’s Guide to Spiritual Battle from Vyrso for just $4.25. Bornschein explores prayer’s basic elements, obstacles, and import in this critical offering. If you only download one ebook on prayer this week, make it The Front Line. 

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