National Day of Prayer

The National Day of Prayer (NDP) is Tomorrow, Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

The theme of this year's NDP is Unity. The church must unite in prayer for unity among the American people. With men it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible! (Mk 10:27)

Enacted by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Truman in 1952, the annual National Day of Prayer is now a part of the law of the land in recognition of God's vital role in establishing and sustaining America.

The first settlers prayed when they set foot on our shores, thanking God for and dedicating it to him. Colonial American governors and mayors issued prayer day proclamations from the early 17th century. During its first days in 1774, the First Continental Congress held an extended prayer meeting with the delegates on their knees, seeking God's grace and guidance in their deliberations and for his help in dealing with many challenges Americans faced as a people with the specter of war looming on the horizon. In June of 1775, the Second Continental Congress issued an authoritative proclamation to the people of all the colonies, charging them to refrain from labor to observe a day of "humiliation, prayer and fasting" that July. The first shots of the War for Independence had been fired just weeks earlier and war with the most powerful army in the world was underway. One year later, the same Congress signed the Declaration of Independence.

While not all Americans of the Colonial and Revolutionary eras were born-again believers, they were far more biblically literate than believers today, and they held, by and large, to a biblical world view. They believed God was sovereign and that he would bless or curse our nation based upon our obedience or disobedience to his commandments (Dt 28: all). Many if not most feared God. They believed that if Americans honored God, God would honor America (1 Sam 2:30).

Stirred by the Lord in the mid-1980s, Mrs. Vonette Bright (cofounder of Campus Crusade for Christ, with her husband, Dr. Bill Bright) together with the National Prayer Committee set about to lobby Congress to permanentize the National Day of Prayer on a specific day each year so that believers could plan for and grow the observance. In 1988, Congress voted to designate the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer. President Reagan signed the measure into law. Up until then, the annual NDP proclamation had no fixed date, so believers and leaders had great difficulty planning and promoting the observance. The new, fixed day each year changed all that. The National Prayer Committee launched the National Day of Prayer Task Force, which has labored year-round ever since to organize and promote the National Day of Prayer. Growing each year, there are now up to 50,000 or more observances around the country. Presidents and governors of the states make annual proclamations recognizing the day. Thus began a fresh effort to preserve this powerful component of our amazing American spiritual heritage: civil officials joining with spiritual leaders across our nation to call the American people to seek the Lord in united prayer on behalf of our nation.

The practice of such days of prayer goes all the way back to the kings and leaders of ancient Israel, who, at the behest of God, often through his prophets, called for days of repentance and solemn assembly. From the beginnings of America, perhaps thousands of prayer proclamations, following the biblical practice, have been made by civil authorities, sometimes in the aftermath of disasters and war. The coming together of God's people for such public prayer has arguably contributed to the healing, survival, and success of America. God answers the humble pleas of his people (Ps 50:15). Such times of public prayer have helped us to prevail in war, see the end of devastating droughts and depressions, survive hurricanes, storms, fires, and floods, and other natural and unnatural disasters of many kinds. God has often heard and answered our corporate prayers.

Benjamin Franklin, in his famous appeal to the delegates of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, when they could not find unity, spoke of the effect of their prayers during the War for Independence and urged them to return to daily prayer before they proceeded to business. While they adjourned without action on Franklin's appeal due to a lack of funds, the delegates observed July 4th at church. The Massachusetts Centinel on August 15, 1787 reports: "On the 4th ult. the anniversary of American Independence was celebrated at Philadelphia, in the Reformed Calvinist Church, by the Pennsylvania Society of Cincinnati, in presence of the Federal Convention." Rev. William Rogers, a former Baptist pastor and military chaplain, opened the observance with a lengthy prayer, asking God to "favour them from day to day with thy immediate presence; be thou their wisdom and their strength! Enable them to devise such measures as may prove happily instrumental for healing all divisions, and promoting the good of the great WHOLE." Afterward, the delegates found the unity they sought and our matchless Constitution was birthed.

Yet this was not a single instance. Our history is replete with example after example (visit The Founding Fathers on Prayer and The Proclamations Library -- follow the links and view scores of proclamations). Even a casual reader can tell by the language and spirit of the numerous prayer proclamations that the writers were believers who were addressing God-fearing Americans. We must rebuild the broken-down walls of this heritage in our day.

America's only hope is in God-sent revival and awakening. History records that extraordinary prayer by individuals and groups, small and large, preceded previous revivals and awakenings. Many in the growing prayer movement, of which the National Day of Prayer is a part, believe we may be on the verge of the greatest Awakening our nation has ever known. And the leaders and supporters of the National Day of Prayer effort are determined not to rest until every city, town, and county in America has at least one public observance of the National Day of Prayer every year.

Are you observing the National Day of Prayer tomorrow? If not, don't hesitate. Find one in your area. If there is not one, call a few praying friends and have your own observance. Even if just a few of you gather together, Jesus said he will be in your midst (Mt 18:20). If you do, please remember to post your gathering on the National Day of Prayer website so that your observance can be counted and prayed over. The goal of the National Day of Prayer is the healing of America and the glory of God.