The Info List - National Day Of Prayer

The National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
(36 U.S.C. § 119)[1] is an annual day of observance held on the first Thursday of May, designated by the United States
United States
Congress, when people are asked "to turn to God in prayer and meditation". Each year since its inception, the president has signed a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day.[2] The modern law formalizing its annual observance was enacted in 1952, although earlier days of fasting and prayer had been established by the Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
from 1775 until 1783, and by President John Adams
John Adams
in 1798 and 1799.[3][4] Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
established a day of prayer and thanksgiving, but this occurred while he served as governor of Virginia.[5] The constitutionality of the National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
was unsuccessfully challenged in court by the Freedom From Religion Foundation
Freedom From Religion Foundation
after their first attempt was unanimously dismissed by a federal appellate court in April 2011.[6][7]


1 History 2 Observance 3 Legal challenge 4 See also 5 References 6 External links

History[edit] The National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
shares common roots with the celebration of Thanksgiving; both were national proclamations establishing a day of prayer, but in the New England Colonies
New England Colonies
under British rule, traditional observances in late fall called for prayer and thanksgiving, while observances in the spring or summer called for prayer and fasting.[8] The fall observance was established by President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
as the official Thanksgiving holiday in 1863. The spring observance was established by President Harry S. Truman in 1952 as the National Day of Prayer.

Residents of Kentwood, Louisiana, gather outside the Town Hall alongside LA 38 to observe 2015's National Day of Prayer.

Friction in 1768–1776 between the American colonists and England spurred some American cities and colonies to proclaim days of prayer. For instance, Boston
declared a day of fasting and prayer in September 1768, as a protest against a British plan to station troops in the city. The Colony of Virginia's House of Burgesses
House of Burgesses
established a day of fasting and prayer to take place on Wednesday, June 1, 1774, to protest the Boston
Port Act, such that the people of Virginia would assemble for prayer led by clergymen.[8] Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
wrote that "the effect of the day through the whole colony was like a shock of electricity," moving the Virginians to choose delegates to establish self-rule.[9] The Provinces of South Carolina, Maryland and Georgia all observed official days of fasting and prayer during 1774–1775.[8] The observance of a day of fasting and prayer was brought to all of the colonists by the Continental Congress in 1775.[8] Congress issued a proclamation recommending "a day of publick [sic] humiliation, fasting, and prayer" be observed by the "English Colonies" on Thursday, July 20, 1775, "and to bless our rightful sovereign, King George the Third..."[10] The text, written by John Witherspoon
John Witherspoon
and John Hancock, instructed the colonists to pray for a resumption of "the just rights and privileges of the Colonies" in "civil and religious" matters.[11] A proclamation to this end was sent to every town in the colonies. John Adams
John Adams
wrote that the popular response was gratifying, that the special day was more widely observed than the practice of going to church on Sunday.[12] After this success, Congress determined to call for a day of fasting and prayer each spring, and a day of thanksgiving and praise each fall.[8] In his role as Commander-in-Chief
of the Continental Army, General George Washington
George Washington
acknowledged a day of "fasting, humiliation and prayer" proclaimed by the Continental Congress to be held on Thursday, May 6, 1779. To enable his soldiers to observe the day, Washington ordered a one-day cessation of recreation and "unnecessary labor".[13] In March 1780, Congress announced a day of "fasting, humiliation and prayer" to be held on Wednesday, April 26, 1780.[14] The practice of calling for national days of fasting and prayer was abandoned from 1784 until 1789, even though thanksgiving days were observed each fall.[15] On October 3, 1789, President Washington called for a national day of prayer and thanksgiving to be observed on Thursday, November 26, 1789; this was an extension of the tradition of thanksgiving which was already customary in New England.[16][17] President Adams continued the practice of proclaiming national days of prayer in the spring and fall,[18] but President Jefferson did not, as he considered prayer to be a matter for personal rather than state involvement.[19][20] After James Madison, none of the next eleven presidents issued prayer proclamations. [21] Thus, there was a period of 47 years, from 1815 to 1862, with no presidential prayer proclamations. [22] In January–February 1952 during the Korean War, the desirability of a united national prayer was stated by Reverend Billy Graham, who said, "What a thrilling, glorious thing it would be to see the leaders of our country today kneeling before Almighty God in prayer. What a thrill would sweep this country. What renewed hope and courage would grip the Americans at this hour of peril." Representative Percy Priest from Tennessee
observed that Graham had issued a challenge for a national day of prayer.[23] Members of the House and Senate introduced a joint resolution for an annual National Day of Prayer, "on which the people of the United States
United States
may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals."[24] On April 17, 1952, President Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
signed a bill proclaiming a National Day of Prayer
must be declared by each subsequent president at an appropriate date of his choice.[16] In 1982 a conservative evangelical Christian organization called the "National Prayer
Committee" was formed to coordinate and implement a fixed annual day of prayer for the purpose of organizing evangelical Christian prayer events with local, state, and federal government entities.[25] The Thanks-Giving Foundation also collaborated in this effort.[26] In his 1983 declaration, 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."[27]

Sailors bow their heads in prayer during the National Day of Prayer. May 3, 2007.

In 1988, the law was amended so that the National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
would be held on the first Thursday of May. Two stated intentions of the National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
were that it would be a day when adherents of all great religions could unite in prayer and that it may one day bring renewed respect for God to all the peoples of the world.[27] Republican Ronald Reagan administration
Ronald Reagan administration
and George H. W. Bush administration (1981–1993) each hosted special National Day of Prayer
events held at the White House
White House
only once during their administrations. Democrat Bill Clinton administration
Bill Clinton administration
(1993–2001) did not hold any such events during his time in office, though he issued proclamations annually. Republican George W. Bush administration
George W. Bush administration
(2001–2009) made his first presidential act be the announcement of a National Day of Prayer,[28] and he held events at the White House
White House
in each year of his presidency. Democrat Barack Obama administration
Barack Obama administration
(2009–2017) did not hold any public events at the White House,[29] though he issued presidential proclamations regularly each year.[30][31] Republican President Donald Trump
Donald Trump
and First Lady Melania Trump attended church services in observation of a special National Day of Prayer, which Trump previously declared, in support of the victims of Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey
dwelling in the state of Texas, to "uplift one another and assist those suffering from the consequences of this terrible storm."[32][33] Observance[edit] The National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
is celebrated by Americans of many religions, including Christians
of many denominations, including Protestants
and Catholics, as well as Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, and Jews,[34][35] reflecting the demographics of the United States.[36] On the National Day of Prayer, many Americans assemble in prayer in front of courthouses, as well as in houses of worship, such as churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples.[37] Luncheons, picnics, and music performances revolving around praying for the nation are also popular observances.[38] Traditionally, the President of the United States issues an official National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
proclamation each year as well.[39] Legal challenge[edit] The Freedom From Religion Foundation
Freedom From Religion Foundation
(FFRF) sued to challenge the designation of a National Day of Prayer. On October 3, 2008, the Wisconsin-based organization filed suit in a federal court in Madison, naming as defendants President George W. Bush; White House
White House
press secretary Dana Perino; Wisconsin
governor Jim Doyle; and evangelist James Dobson's wife, Shirley Dobson, in her capacity as chair of the National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
Task Force.[40] The Alliance Defense Fund
Alliance Defense Fund
(ADF) provided defense for Shirley Dobson while government lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb to dismiss the case, arguing principally that the group has no legal standing to sue.[41] On March 1, 2010 U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb stated that FFRF's lawsuit could proceed because the plaintiffs had shown that they suffered "concrete injury" that can potentially be remedied by judicial action. Judge Crabb stated about those supporting the federal law designating the National Day of Prayer, "adopting [the] defendants' view of standing would allow the government to have unrestrained authority to demean members of any religious group without legal consequence. The federal government could declare the 'National Day of Anti-Semitism' or even declare Christianity the official religion of the United States, but no one would have standing to sue because no one would have to 'pass by' those declarations."[42] On April 15, 2010, Judge Crabb ruled that the statute establishing the National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
was unconstitutional as it is "an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function."[43][44] However, Crabb stayed her ruling pending the completion of appeals.[45] The U.S. Department of Justice filed a notice to appeal the ruling on April 22, 2010,[46] and on April 14, 2011 a three judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned Crabb's decision. The panel ruled that FFRF did not have standing to sue because the National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
had not caused them harm and stated that "a feeling of alienation cannot suffice as injury." The court further stated that "the President is free to make appeals to the public based on many kinds of grounds, including political and religious, and that such requests do not obligate citizens to comply and do not encroach on citizens' rights." The federal appeals court also cited Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address, which referenced God seven times and prayer three times.[47] See also[edit]

Holidays portal United States
United States

Day of Prayer National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
Task Force National Day of Reason National Prayer
Breakfast See You at the Pole


^ "36 U.S.C. § 119 : US Code – Section 119: National Day of Prayer".  ^ "History of the National Day of Prayer". Nationaldayofprayer.org. Archived from the original on April 13, 2012. Retrieved May 3, 2012.  ^ Adams, John (March 6, 1799). "Proclamation – Recommending a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer". The American Presidency Project. University of California, Santa Barbara. Retrieved July 11, 2014.  ^ Adams, John (March 31, 1798). "By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation". The Weekly Magazine. 1 (9): 287.  John Adams' signed the proclamation on March 3, 1798, with the day of prayer to take place on May 9, 1798. ^ "Proclamation Appointing a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer, 11 November 1779", Virginia Gazette, website=Founders Online, 20 November 1779. Retrieved on 9 May 2016. ^ Legal challenge to National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
thrown out, The Christian Science Monitor ^ Court Dismisses Challenge to National Day of Prayer, USA Today ^ a b c d e Davis, Derek H. (2000). Religion and the Continental Congress, 1774–1789: Contributions to Original Intent. Oxford University Press. pp. 83–84. ISBN 9780195350883.  ^ Jefferson, Thomas (1970). Jefferson Himself: The Personal Narrative of a Many-Sided American. University of Virginia Press. p. 50. ISBN 9780813903101.  Jefferson is quoted by Derek H. Davis in Religion and the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, page 84. ^ Bouton, Nathaniel (June 12, 1775). Provincial and State Papers. p. 545.  "Proclamation for a day of Fasting
and Prayer" ^ Davis 2000, p. 85. ^ Davis 2000, p. 86. ^ The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799. 14. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1779. p. 369.  ^ Pennsylvania Archives. Google Books. 1853. p. 131. Retrieved May 3, 2012.  ^ Davis 2000, pp. 88–89. ^ a b Davis 2000, p. 90. ^ Grizzard, Frank E. (2002). George Washington: A Biographical Companion. ABC-CLIO. p. 385. ISBN 9781576070826.  "Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation". ^ Butler, Jon; Wacker, Grant; Balmer, Randall (September 8, 2011). Religion in American Life: A Short History. Oxford University Press. p. 161. ISBN 9780199913299. President George Washington, for example, set aside November 26, 1789, as a national day of prayer, repentance, and thanksgiving to God. John Adams, the second president, continued Washington's prayer day tradition.  ^ James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
(May 6, 2010). "Jefferson, Madison and Jesus on the National Day of Prayer". San Francisco Chronicle.  ^ "National Prayer
for Peace". The Jefferson Monticello. 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2014.  ^ "Presidential Proclamations". www.presidency.ucsb.edu. Retrieved August 12, 2017.  ^ "Thanksgiving Day Proclamations 1789–Present". www.whatsoproudlywehail.org. Retrieved August 12, 2017.  ^ Allmond, Joy (May 3, 2010). "A Legacy of Revival in the Nation's Capital". Billy Graham
Billy Graham
Evangelistic Association. Retrieved July 12, 2014.  ^ "The Pluralism Project at Harvard University :America's National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
(2006)". Pluralism.org. Retrieved May 3, 2012.  ^ "National Prayer
Committee website – Mission, Values, Call and Covenant". Nationalprayer.org. Retrieved May 3, 2012.  ^ "About the Foundation". Retrieved August 12, 2017.  ^ a b "Proclamation 5017 – National Day of Prayer, 1983". Reagan.utexas.edu. Retrieved May 3, 2012.  ^ Sandoz, Ellis (2013). Republicanism, Religion, and the Soul of America. University of Missouri Press. p. 108. ISBN 9780826265623.  ^ National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
Task Force Knocks Obama White House, U.S. News & World Report, April 15, 2010, Dan Gilgof ^ "National Day of Prayer". Snopes. March 18, 2012. Retrieved July 11, 2014.  ^ Obama, Barack (May 7, 2009). "Presidential Proclamation National Day of Prayer". The White House. Retrieved July 11, 2014.  ^ "Trump attends church service on National Day of Prayer". PBS Newshour. September 3, 2017.  ^ Linge, Mary K. "Trump declares national day of player". New York Post. Retrieved September 2, 2017.  ^ Blackwell, Mark (2014-04-30). "National Day Of Prayer". CBS. Retrieved July 11, 2014. Today is the National Day of Prayer. It has been around longer than we’ve been a country. It’s celebrated on the first Thursday of May every year by Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Sikhs.  ^ "National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
opportunity for Americans to seek God". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 2012-05-29.  ^ "National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
Grows In Popularity". The Huffington Post. May 3, 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-29.  ^ "National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
Observed by Interfaith Roundtable of Kauai". Himalayan Academy. Retrieved 2012-05-29.  ^ "National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
events set in Augusta". The Augusta Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-05-29.  ^ "Presidential Proclamation—National Day of Prayer". White House. Retrieved 2012-05-29.  ^ "Atheist group sues Bush over national prayer day". USA Today. October 6, 2008. Retrieved May 3, 2012.  ^ "FFRF National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
Case Proceeds – Freedom From Religion Foundation". Retrieved August 12, 2017.  ^ "Decision of FFRF v. President Obama and Shirley Dobson" (PDF). Retrieved May 3, 2012.  ^ "Opinion and Order" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 2, 2010.  ^ Gilgoff, Dan (April 16, 2010). "Federal judge strikes down National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
statute". CNN. Retrieved April 16, 2010.  ^ Richey, Warren (April 15, 2010). "Federal judge: National Day of Prayer
is unconstitutional". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved April 17, 2010.  ^ "CNN.com: U.S. appeals ruling striking down National Day of Prayer". Politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com. April 22, 2010. Retrieved May 3, 2012.  ^ "Court dismisses suit over National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
– CBS News". April 16, 2011. Archived from the original on April 16, 2011. Retrieved August 12, 2017. CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

External links[edit]

Presidential Proclamation – National Day of Prayer Religious Tolerance.org's section of the National Day of Prayer Text of the United States
United States
Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit, April 14, 2011 Text of Judge Crabb's Opinion and Order, April 15, 2010

v t e

Holidays, observances, and celebrations in the United States


New Year's Day
New Year's Day
(federal) Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Confederate Heroes Day (TX) Fred Korematsu Day
Fred Korematsu Day
(CA, FL, HI, VA) Idaho Human Rights Day (ID) Inauguration Day (federal quadrennial, DC area) Kansas Day (KS) Lee–Jackson Day
Lee–Jackson Day
(formerly Lee–Jackson–King Day) (VA) Robert E. Lee Day
Robert E. Lee Day
(FL) Stephen Foster Memorial Day (36) The Eighth (LA, former federal)


Super Bowl Sunday

February American Heart Month Black History Month

Washington's Birthday/Presidents' Day (federal) Valentine's Day

Georgia Day (GA) Groundhog Day Lincoln's Birthday
Lincoln's Birthday
(CA, CT, IL, IN, MO, NJ, NY, WV) National Girls and Women in Sports Day National Freedom Day (36) Primary Election Day (WI) Ronald Reagan Day
Ronald Reagan Day
(CA) Rosa Parks Day
Rosa Parks Day
(CA, MO) Susan B. Anthony Day
Susan B. Anthony Day
(CA, FL, NY, WI, WV, proposed federal)


Mardi Gras

Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday
(religious) Courir de Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras
(religious) Super Tuesday

March Irish-American Heritage Month National Colon Cancer Awareness Month Women's History Month

St. Patrick's Day (religious) Spring break
Spring break

Casimir Pulaski Day
Casimir Pulaski Day
(IL) Cesar Chavez Day
Cesar Chavez Day
(CA, CO, TX, proposed federal) Evacuation Day (Suffolk County, MA) Harriet Tubman Day
Harriet Tubman Day
(NY) Holi
(NY, religious) Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras
(AL (in two counties), LA) Maryland Day
Maryland Day
(MD) National Poison Prevention Week
National Poison Prevention Week
(week) Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole Day (HI) Saint Joseph's Day
Saint Joseph's Day
(religious) Seward's Day (AK) Texas Independence Day
Texas Independence Day
(TX) Town Meeting Day (VT)



Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday
(religious) Passover
(religious) Good Friday
Good Friday
(CT, NC, PR, religious) Easter
Monday (religious)

April Confederate History Month

420 Day April Fools' Day Arbor Day Confederate Memorial Day
Confederate Memorial Day
(AL, MS) Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust
Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust
(week) Earth Day Emancipation Day
Emancipation Day
(DC) Thomas Jefferson's Birthday
Jefferson's Birthday
(AL) Pascua Florida (FL) Patriots' Day
Patriots' Day
(MA, ME) San Jacinto Day
San Jacinto Day
(TX) Siblings Day Walpurgis Night
Walpurgis Night

May Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Jewish American Heritage Month

Memorial Day
Memorial Day
(federal) Mother's Day (36) Cinco de Mayo

Harvey Milk Day
Harvey Milk Day
(CA) Law Day (36) Loyalty Day (36) Malcolm X Day
Malcolm X Day
(CA, IL, proposed federal) May Day Military Spouse Day National Day of Prayer
Day of Prayer
(36) National Defense Transportation Day (36) National Maritime Day (36) Peace Officers Memorial Day
Memorial Day
(36) Truman Day
Truman Day

June Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month

Father's Day (36)

Bunker Hill Day
Bunker Hill Day
(Suffolk County, MA) Carolina Day
Carolina Day
(SC) Emancipation Day
Emancipation Day
In Texas / Juneteenth
(TX) Flag Day (36, proposed federal) Helen Keller Day
Helen Keller Day
(PA) Honor America Days (3 weeks) Jefferson Davis Day
Jefferson Davis Day
(AL, FL) Kamehameha Day
Kamehameha Day
(HI) Odunde Festival
Odunde Festival
(Philadelphia, PA) Senior Week (week) West Virginia Day
West Virginia Day


Independence Day (federal)

Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea (HI, unofficial) Parents' Day
Parents' Day
(36) Pioneer Day (UT)


Summer vacation


American Family Day (AZ) Barack Obama Day
Barack Obama Day
(IL) Bennington Battle Day (VT) Hawaii Admission Day / Statehood Day (HI) Lyndon Baines Johnson Day
Lyndon Baines Johnson Day
(TX) National Aviation Day
National Aviation Day
(36) Service Reduction Day (MD) Victory over Japan Day (RI, former federal) Women's Equality Day
Women's Equality Day

September Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

Labor Day
Labor Day

California Admission Day
California Admission Day
(CA) Carl Garner Federal Lands Cleanup Day (36) Constitution Day (36) Constitution Week (week) Defenders Day
Defenders Day
(MD) Gold Star Mother's Day
Gold Star Mother's Day
(36) National Grandparents Day
National Grandparents Day
(36) National Payroll Week (week) Native American Day (CA, TN, proposed federal) Patriot Day
Patriot Day

September–October Hispanic Heritage Month


Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah
(religious) Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur

October Breast Cancer Awareness Month Disability Employment Awareness Month Filipino American History Month LGBT History Month

Columbus Day
Columbus Day
(federal) Halloween

Alaska Day (AK) Child Health Day (36) General Pulaski Memorial Day German-American Day Indigenous Peoples' Day
Indigenous Peoples' Day
(VT) International Day of Non-Violence Leif Erikson Day
Leif Erikson Day
(36) Missouri Day (MO) National School Lunch Week Native American Day (SD) Nevada Day
Nevada Day
(NV) Sweetest Day White Cane Safety Day
White Cane Safety Day



November Native American Indian Heritage Month

Veterans Day
Veterans Day
(federal) Thanksgiving (federal)

Day after Thanksgiving (24) Election Day (CA, DE, HI, KY, MT, NJ, NY, OH, PR, WV, proposed federal) Family Day (NV) Hanukkah
(religious) Lā Kūʻokoʻa (HI, unofficial) Native American Heritage Day (MD, WA) Obama Day
Obama Day
(Perry County, AL)


(religious, federal)

Alabama Day (AL) Christmas
Eve (KY, NC, SC) Day after Christmas
(KY, NC, SC, TX) Festivus Hanukkah
(religious, week) Indiana Day
Indiana Day
(IN) Kwanzaa
(religious, week) National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
(36) New Year's Eve Pan American Aviation Day (36) Rosa Parks Day
Rosa Parks Day
(OH, OR) Wright Brothers Day (36)

Varies (year round)

Eid al-Adha
Eid al-Adha
(religious) Eid al-Fitr
Eid al-Fitr
(religious) Ramadan
(religious, month)

Legend: (federal) = federal holidays, (state) = state holidays, (religious) = religious holidays, (week) = weeklong holidays, (month) = monthlong holidays, (36) = Title 36 Observances and Ceremonies Bold indicates major holidays commonly celebrated in the United States, which often represent the major celebrations of the month. See also: Lists of holidays, Hallmark holidays, public holidays in the United States, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the United States Vir