By participating in the National Day of Prayer, I will join so many others across the country in affirming the right of Americans to pray according to their faith. Since 1952, U.S. presidents have issued a proclamation designating a National Day of Prayer and invited people of all faiths to pray for the nation. But it has recently come under attack. On April 15, a federal district court judge ruled that the statute establishing a National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional.
No matter what the court says, prayer is part of our nation’s heritage. In 1775, the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of “humiliation, fasting and prayer” in 1863 while the nation was divided in Civil War.
The National Day of Prayer was first established as a national event by President Harry Truman and, in 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a resolution to observe the National Day of Prayer each year on the first Thursday of May. Each president following has recognized it with a proclamation. President Obama has issued a proclamation for this year’s day of prayer, but like last year, he will not hold a public ceremony in the White House.
This is a time in our country when prayer is most needed — our nation is at war, the threats of terrorism continue, and many people are still out of work and trying to figure out how to provide for their families. And in our state, we have an urgent need for prayer as so much of Middle Tennessee was underwater after this weekend’s storms.
If we walk away from prayer, our country is heading in the wrong direction. The federal court ruling represents a minority movement to exclude faith and religion from the public square. That’s why I am a co-sponsor of two resolutions in the U.S. House of Representatives to call for an appeal of the court’s decision and to affirm the constitutionality and historical significance of the National Day of Prayer.