SOME HISTORY: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the signing of the National Day of Prayer into law. A joint resolution approved on April 17, 1952, provided that the President of the United States “shall set aside and proclaim a suitable day each year, other than Sunday, as a National Day of Prayer, on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation.”
That year, President Harry Truman proclaimed Friday, July 4, 1952, as a National Day of Prayer, “on which all of us, in our churches, in our homes, and in our hearts, may beseech God to grant us wisdom to know the course which we should follow, and strength and patience to pursue that course steadfastly. May we also give thanks to Him for His constant watchfulness over us in every hour of national prosperity and national peril.”
President Truman had previously called for a National Day of Prayer on August 19, 1945, as World War II came to an end. There is a long history of US presidents calling for a National Day of Prayer. In 1775 the observance of a day of fasting and prayer was brought to all the colonists by the Continental Congress. General George Washington acknowledged a day of “fasting, humiliation and prayer” proclaimed by the Continental Congress to be held on Thursday, May 6, 1779.
In 1982, the National Prayer Committee was formed to coordinate and implement a fixed annual day of prayer for the purpose of organizing Christian prayer events with local, state, and national entities. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan said, “From General Washington’s struggle at Valley Forge to the present, this nation has fervently sought and received divine guidance as it pursued the course of history. This occasion provides our nation with an opportunity to further recognize the source of our blessings, and to seek His help for the challenges we face today and in the future.”
In 1988, the law calling for the president to designate an annual day of prayer was amended to state that the National Day of Prayer would be the first Thursday of May each year. Presidents are required by law to issue a proclamation for this day of prayer.
THE CALL TO PRAYER: That there is a need for extraordinary prayer in our day is obvious. We are a nation that is extremely polarized politically. Racial tensions have escalated over that past year. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only created confusion and division nationally, but it has also had a negative impact on the Church.
We cannot discuss our way to unity. We cannot legislate our way to racial reconciliation, and we cannot reason our way to a solution to COVID-19. We are in desperate need of Divine intervention. Until hearts are changed, we will remain divided; racial unrest will persist; and COVID-19 will continue to be a political issue.
For the past several years, the National Day of Prayer has recognized seven centers of influence:
- Media — news, entertainment, etc.
- Military and first responders
- Churches — pastors and other leaders
- Educational institutions
There is a need for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in each of these arenas. The 2021 National Day of Prayer theme is “LORD, pour out Your LOVE, LIFE, and LIBERTY.” Once again we’ll be praying and proclaiming a promise of God in the theme verse, 2 Corinthians 3:17: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
“It is our prayer today and throughout 2021 that the Spirit of the Lord pour out, pour through us across America, to fill our lives, families, churches, workplace, education, military, government, arts, entertainment and media, with Biblical, not cultural, not worldly, but Spirit-empowered, Spirit-filled LOVE, LIFE and LIBERTY as designed and defined by our Creator and Savior.
- Seek the Lord for how to engage your church and community in prayer.
- Go to nationaldayofprayer.org/ for resources and to find events near you.
- Call your church to prayer and fasting on May 6.
- Join other churches in your community to pray for the nation and for each other.
- Pray at your local school, government building, fire/police stations.
- Where possible pray with school leaders, government leaders, and first responders.
- Encourage families to prayer walk their neighborhood — praying for families.
What might the Lord do in our nation if we were a nation seeking Him in prayer and fasting?