WASHINGTON — Americans
gathered May 5 in tens of thousands of locations in observance of the National
Day of Prayer for the first time since a federal appeals court upheld the
Only three weeks before, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago
had unanimously reversed a 2010 opinion that invalidated the National Day of
Prayer. Federal Judge Barbara Crabb of Wisconsin
had ruled in April 2010 that a law establishing a day for the observance
violated the First Amendment, but she permitted the event to proceed while her
decision was appealed.
Crabb’s ruling, which was overturned April 14 this year, had threatened a
tradition as old as the American republic and a specific observance that was
recognized for the 60th time this year. Congress passed a resolution in 1952
calling on the president to establish the National Day of Prayer as an annual
event. President Truman initiated the observance the same year, and presidents
since have recognized it with proclamations. In 1988, Congress amended the law
to set the first Thursday of May for its observance.
President Obama issued a National Day of Prayer proclamation April 29, inviting
Americans, “as their own faith or conscience directs them, to join me in giving
thanks for the many blessings we enjoy, and I ask all people of faith to join
me in asking God for guidance, mercy, and protection for our Nation.”
In his proclamation, the president encouraged Americans to express gratitude
for their freedom and to pray for the members of the U.S. military and their
families, as well as for law enforcement and emergency response personnel, and
people in this country and overseas impacted recently by natural disasters.
The White House issued Obama’s proclamation a day after he gave the order for a
secret mission that was completed early May 2 in Pakistan when an elite
military unit found and killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
The National Day of Prayer was observed in about 40,000 locations in 2010,
according to the National Day of Prayer (NDP) Task Force. As in many other
years, the lead observance was in a House of Representatives office
building in Washington, D.C.
This year’s theme, as established by the NDP Task Force, was “A Mighty Fortress
Is Our God,” which was based on Psalm 91:2: “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge
and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Joni Eareckson Tada, a well-known evangelical Christian whose books have
inspired many since a diving accident in 1967 left her a quadriplegic, served
as honorary chairman for the NDP Task Force. She gave the keynote speech at the
Capitol Hill service.
In a national prayer she wrote for this year’s observance, Eareckson Tada said:
“Almighty God, you are our Mighty Fortress, our refuge and the God in whom we
place our trust. As our nation faces great distress and uncertainty, we ask
your Holy Spirit to fall afresh upon your people — convict us of sin and
inflame within us a passion to pray for our land and its people. Grant the
leaders of our country an awareness of their desperate need of wisdom and
salvation in You until sin becomes a reproach to all and righteousness exalts
“Protect and defend us against our enemies and may the cause of Christ always
prevail in our schools, courts, homes, and churches. Lord God, send a spirit of
revival and may it begin in our own hearts.
we pray. Remember the foundations on which this country was built. Remember the
prayers of our nation’s fathers and mothers, and do not forget us in our time
“In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.”
The NDP Task Force is a privately funded organization that says it encourages
participation in the observance by people of all faiths but the events it
organizes represent “a Judeo-Christian expression.”
Obama’s National Day of Prayer proclamation may be accessed online here.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington
bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
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