God and Country: Our 'Day of Prayer' Has Deep Roots


Today is a National Day of Prayer for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, by proclamation of President Donald Trump.

It’s a tradition as old as America itself – one that was first called for by George Washington and carried on in extraordinary, and even annual, circumstances since that time.

 “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States,” Washington said in his first inaugural address.

The very first Congress passed a resolution Sept. 25, 1789, calling upon Washington to proclaim a National Day of Prayer. The president responded, saying that the following Nov. 26 would be a day to “offer our prayers and supplications to the Great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions.”

“It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful to his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor,” Washington proclaimed. He went on to encourages Americans to pray in their churches and homes on Nov. 26.

John Adams proclaimed a day in 1798 to “be observed throughout the United States as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer.” He did it again in 1799.

James Madison asked for a national days of prayer four times.

Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a Day of National Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer in 1863.

“Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord,” Lincoln wrote, “… I do hereby request all the people to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite at their several places of public worship and their respective homes in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.”

In 1952, Congress enacted a statute askingthe president to proclaim a National Day of Prayer once per year.

In 1988, Ronald Reagan made the first Thursday of each May the National Day of Prayer.

George W. Bush proclaimed an extra National Day of Prayer after 9/11.

Here is part of President Trump’s proclamation for today:

“Now, therefore, I, Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 3, 2017, as a National Day of Prayer for the Victims of Hurricane Harvey and for our National Response and Recovery Efforts. We give thanks for the generosity and goodness of all those who have responded to the needs of their fellow Americans.

“I urge Americans of all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds to offer prayers today for all those harmed by Hurricane Harvey, including people who have lost family members or been injured, those who have lost homes or other property, and our first responders, law enforcement officers, military personnel, and medical professionals leading the response and recovery efforts. Each of us, in our own way, may call upon our God for strength and comfort during this difficult time.

“I call on all Americans and houses of worship throughout the Nation to join in one voice of prayer, as we seek to uplift one another and assist those suffering from the consequences of this terrible storm.”


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