“Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.” (Nehemiah 9:1-3)
The National Day of Prayer is annually observed on the first Thursday of May. It was designated by Congress as a day for Americans “to turn to God in prayer and meditation.” The law which formalized this annual observance was passed by Congress and signed by President Harry Truman in 1952.
Long before 1952, national days of prayer had long been called for by American leaders. In fact, before our country was even founded, the Continental Congress issued a proclamation requesting that “a day of public humiliation, fasting and prayer” be observed on July 20, 1775. Numbered among the American presidents who have called for a National Day of Prayer is John Adams and Abraham Lincoln, the latter designating April 30, 1863 as a day of “national humiliation, fasting and prayer.” In his proclamation, President Lincoln went on to say, “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.”
In today’s America, the National Day of Prayer has been ruled unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crab, whose ruling states that the statue establishing this annual observance is “an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function.” Furthermore, unlike his predecessors, President Obama has refused to hold any White House observance of the National Day of Prayer since taking office in 2009, this despite the fact that he has held a special White House dinner to mark the end of Ramadan—the Islamic month of fasting and prayer.
Adding insult to injury, Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of famous evangelist Billy Graham and a staunch evangelical Christian, was disinvited on this year’s National Day of Prayer from praying for our troops at the Pentagon. Although the official reason given was Graham’s description of Islam as an evil religion, the real reason was his refusal to say that “all religions are equal” and his insistence upon Jesus Christ being “the only way to God.”
If America’s only hope of survival is revival, and if all revival is born in prayer, what hope is there of revival in an America that has outlawed its national observance of prayer? Truly, our hope is not found in any public observance of prayer in the White House or at the Pentagon, but only in personal and private observances of prayer in our individual prayer closets.
Pray personally, privately and persistently for revival in America, remembering that your prayers are our nation’s only hope.