Today is the National Day of Prayer. We are the only nation to have such a law on the books.
Yes, a law.
The National Day of Prayer is a federal statute, Public Law 82-324, passed in 1952 at the direct suggestion of Rev. Billy Graham. Its purpose, as explained by Graham, was to help bring “the Lord Jesus Christ” to the nation. “What a thrilling, glorious thing it would be to see the leaders of our country 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,” Graham said.
U.S. Sen. Absalom Robertson, father of Rev. Pat Robertson, introduced the bill in the Senate, saying it was a measure against “the corrosive forces of communism which seek simultaneously to destroy our democratic way of life and the faith in an Almighty God on which it is based.”
The Senate report further claimed:
“Prayer has indeed been a vital force in the growth and development of this Nation. It would certainly be appropriate if, pursuant to this resolution, and the proclamation it urges, the people of this country were to unite in a day of prayer each year, each in accordance with his own religious faith, thus reaffirming in a dramatic manner the deep religious conviction which has prevailed throughout the history of the United States.”
The National Day of Prayer is a vital part of our heritage. Since the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation, the call to prayer has continued through our history, including President Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in 1863. In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Truman, declared an annual national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May.