May 2, 2016 - May the 5th is a day of some historical significance for America. However, as important as it may be, it is not just because the first Thursday in May is now designated as the “National Day of Prayer.” This special day reflects the annual recognition of a decision of the Second Continental Congress as early as 1775 and later, the United States Congress to establish a day of “prayer, humiliation, and fasting.” So, almost without a break for well over two centuries, we as Americans are called on to pray for our country. By so doing, we practice beliefs that were similarly practiced by our ancestors over many generations.
In 1775 it took several years before our forefathers brought a favorable end to the American Revolution. After that, our presidents, with few exceptions, have signed proclamations encouraging all Americans to pray on designated days. Certain presidents made special efforts to keep the tradition alive. Notably, some were George Washington, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman, and Ronald Reagan.
Presidential proclamations have been issued annually since 1952, when President Harry S. Truman formalized the National Day of Prayer. All proclamations have been preserved for posterity, but perhaps the one issued in 1990 reflects most accurately what the event has meant over the years, 1775 to 2016. Excerpts of this 1990 proclamation by President George Bush is given below.
"More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of," wrote Lord Tennyson more than a century ago. Today, we are deeply mindful of the truth of his words. Our nation's history and the lives of millions of men and women around the world provide compelling evidence of the power of faith and the efficacy of prayer.
"The Bible tells us what we have often seen for ourselves: that God answers the prayers of those who place their trust in Him. In the Old Testament story of Hannah and Samuel and the New Testament parable of the Prodigal Son, we find a universal experience of parenthood: long hours spent in waiting for a child and in prayer for his well-being. What mother or father has not, in unspoken thought, asked the Almighty to protect his or her little ones and thanked Him for their safekeeping?
"Our ancestors believed that, in the lives of nations as well as individuals, the love of God is a great parental love like this. They saw history as the place where our Creator looks for His children, longing for them to come to Him and to do His will….
"So great was the faith of our Founding Fathers, and so firm was their belief in the need for God's blessing upon their bold experiment in self-government, that they frequently turned to Him in prayer both as individuals and as a community. Indeed, the first act of the Continental Congress, the same body that declared America's independence, was a prayer. Thomas Jefferson and other Founders believed that the God Who gives us life gives us liberty as well, and if the American people are to keep a truly free and democratic government, they must acknowledge their dependence on His mercy and guidance…When the framers of our Constitution heeded Ben Franklin's call for daily prayer at the Federal Convention in 1787, it is as if they were profoundly aware of the gentle admonition found in the 127th Psalm: "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."