Praying for America and Her Leaders
Americans will observe a National Day of Prayer on May 1, 2014. The annual observance invites people of all faiths to pray for their nation and leaders.
A National Observance
Every spring, millions of Americans observe a National Day of Prayer. Held on the first Thursday in May, the national observance invites people of all faiths to pray for their nation and leaders.
The prayer day task force encourages personal and corporate prayer in seven key areas: government, military, media, education, business, church, and family.
In a recent proclamation, President Barack Obama recognized the significance of prayer in American heritage. He noted examples in two notable leaders: President Abraham Lincoln and civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr.
Obama urged Americans to "ask God for the sustenance to meet the challenges we face as a nation." He also paid tribute to the nation's Armed Forces "who have answered our country's call to serve with honor in the pursuit of peace."
A Tradition of Prayer
Each year, Congress calls on the President declare a national prayer day. The tradition began even before the nation's founding, with a proclamation by the Continental Congress in 1775.
A joint congressional resolution created the first official National Day of Prayer in 1952. President Harry Truman signed it into law.
In 1988, an amended version signed by President Ronald Reagan established the observance as the first Thursday in May. All 50 governors issue similar proclamations for their individual states.
The 2014 National Day of Prayer marks the 63rd annual observance. This year's theme is "One Voice United in Prayer," and the Scripture verse is Romans 15:6.
Shirley Dobson, the wife of Family Life founder Dr. James Dobson, chairs the National Day of Prayer. Anne Graham Lotz -- called "the best preacher in the family" by her father, Billy Graham -- serves as the honorary chairman.
A Right and Responsibility
The earliest American settlers prayed they would "rejoice together, mourn together, labor, and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work."
Today, the National Day of Prayer belongs to all Americans. According to Shirley Dobson, the observance "transcends differences, bringing together citizens of all backgrounds."
The National Day of Prayer represents a Judeo-Christian expression of prayer, based on an understanding that America was forged in reverence for the God of the Bible. "The concepts and values of Judaism and Christianity are considered a basis for Western legal code and moral values," said the task force.
The national observance calls for Americans to humble themselves before God as they seek his grace and guidance. People are encouraged to pray for their national and local leaders, whether or not they agree with their politics.
Americans observe the National Day of Prayer in various ways. Some are strong "prayer warriors" during an election year. Election years are important times to pray, but prayer should extend beyond politics and annual observances.
The Bible says God blesses nations that keep his standards of righteousness and justice. Americans have a right and responsibility to pray for those who lead their nation.
Encouragement from Scripture
Just as prayer changes lives, it transforms nations. The National Day of Prayer encourages Americans to pray for their leaders, whether or not they agree with their politics.
To highlight the theme of "One Voice United in Prayer," the National Day of Prayer Task Force chose Romans 15:6 as the Scripture verse of the year: "So that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The following Bible verses can also help Americans pray for the President, other government leaders, and members of the Armed Forces. They are taken from the New International Version (NIV) translation.
- Psalm 33:12 -- "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance."
- 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 -- "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
- 1 Timothy 2:1-2 -- "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people -- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."
- Psalm 91:2 -- "I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."
National Prayer Resources
- A Presidential Proclamation from the White House declared a National Day of Prayer on May 2, 2013. This marked the 62nd observance of a national day to pray for America and her leaders.
- The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday in May. While it represents a Judeo-Christian expression of prayer, it encourages Americans of all faiths to pray for their nation.
- The Presidential Prayer Team encourages Americans to pray for their government and military leaders. The ministry is based on a belief that "God rules over the affairs of men, and moves in response to [their prayers]."
- In Touch Ministries is the Bible-teaching ministry of Dr. Charles Stanley, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. His book encourages Americans to pray for their nation and make a godly impact on the culture. Turning the Tide: Real Hope, Real Change
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- National Day of Prayer. (2014) "About the National Day of Prayer." National Day of Prayer Task Force. Retrieved April 25, 2014.
- White House. (April 29, 2011) "Presidential Proclamation: National Day of Prayer." The White House. Retrieved April 25, 2014.
- Wikipedia contributors. (April 23, 2014). "National Day of Prayer." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 25, 2014.
© 2011 Annette R. Smith