The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance in our country inviting people of all faiths to pray for our nation, held on the first Thursday of May. A similar day of fasting and prayer was first enacted in 1775 by the Second Continental Congress, but the modern observance began in 1952.
Prayer, especially on a national day such as this, is significant because it enables us to recall and teach the way our founding fathers sought wisdom from God when facing challenges and decisions. The National Day of Prayer enables us to humbly come before God, seeking His guidance for our leaders and His grace upon us as a people.
This is a day which belongs to all Americans, transcending different religions to bring us together as citizens.
The Continental Congress first called for a national day of fasting and prayer back in 1775.
You may think the National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving have some commonalities, and you would be right. Traditionally in New England, observances in the fall called for prayer and thanksgiving, while observances in the spring called for prayer and fasting.
The practice of calling for a national day of fasting and prayer has been common among every president except for Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, both who believed prayer is a personal and not a governmental matter.
The modern observance was set in 1952 by President Harry S. Truman. He signed a bill binding future presidents to proclaim the National Day of Prayer at an appropriate date of their choice every year. A regular date was set in 1988 to be the third Thursday of May.
There have been 67 presidential proclamations for the National Day of Prayer since 1952. Presidents Gerald R. Ford, George H. Bush and Barack H. Obama are the only ones to sign multiple National Day of Prayer proclamations in the same year.