By Larry Judkins
Glenn County Observer
For the first time since the more or less pre-pandemic year of 2019, the National Day of Prayer was observed publicly in Orland on May 5.
Ten people gathered in front of the steps of the Carnegie Center at noon on Thursday, May 5, to offer prayers for a variety of people and issues. In 1988, during the Reagan Administration, the U.S. Congress passed a law declaring the first Thursday in May to be a day for prayer in the United States.
Most if not all of the people in attendance for the Orland event seemed to be conservative, evangelical Christians. Many if not all of them were pastors and their spouses.
There were apparently no Roman Catholics, Mormons, or Jehovah’s Witnesses present.
In 1952, during the Cold War involving Christian capitalists vs. atheist communists, a joint resolution of Congress was passed that set aside a particular day each year – not necessarily the first Thursday in May – as an official prayer day. Prior to this, many U.S. Presidents had proclaimed days of prayer, but the specific day or days were chosen by the president.
As mentioned above, at the end of the Cold War, in 1988, Congress and President Reagan officially established the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer.
Neither in 1952 nor in 1988 did the members of Congress think twice about violating the U.S. Constitution that they had sworn to uphold. Despite the fact that the First Amendment states in relevant part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” government officials were more than happy to accommodate and promote religion by making laws to create an official prayer day.
Conservative evangelical Christian participation in the National Day of Prayer is largely, on the national level, led by the National Day of Prayer Task Force. It is a private, non-profit subsidiary of the National Prayer Committee, founded in 1979 by Vonette Bright, wife of Bill Bright and cofounder of the Campus Crusade for Christ International.
The National Day of Prayer Task Force came into being in 1983. Not every president since 1988 has coordinated their observances with the task force, and even those who did get involved with the task force did not do so every year of their presidency.
From 1991 to 2016, the task force was led by Shirley Dobson, wife of James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Currently, the organization is led by Kathy Branzell, an author who earned her master’s degree in Biblical Studies at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.
The task force’s theme this year was “a call to praise in prayer.” President Biden, a Roman Catholic, doesn’t seem to have used the Protestant task force’s guidance in writing his prayer proclamation this year. The presidential proclamation reads:
Throughout our history, prayer has been an anchor for countless Americans searching for strength and wisdom in times of struggle and sharing hope and gratitude in seasons of joy. In public reflections on life’s many blessings and in quiet moments during life’s most difficult trials, Americans of nearly every background and faith have turned to prayer for comfort and inspiration. Prayer is a sacred right protected by free speech and religious liberty enshrined in our Constitution, and it continues to lift our spirits as we navigate the challenges of our time.
On this day, we recognize the healing power of prayer, especially as we recover from the trauma and loss of the COVID‑19 pandemic. Today we find ourselves in a moment of renewal – of lives saved, of new jobs created, and of new hope for rebuilding America. Today is also a moment of reflection when we are called to address some of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – saving our planet from the existential threat of climate change; responding to attacks on democracy at home and abroad; and living up to our Nation’s promise of liberty, justice, and equality for all.
As the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “There is a need we all have in these days and times for some help which comes from outside ourselves.” Across our diverse and cherished beliefs, on this National Day of Prayer, no matter how or whether we pray, we are all called to look outside ourselves. Let us find in our hearts and prayers the determination to put aside our differences, come together, and truly see one another as fellow Americans.
The Congress, by Public Law 100-307, as amended, has called on the President to issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a “National Day of Prayer.”
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 5, 2022, as a National Day of Prayer. I call upon the citizens of our Nation to give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and I invite all people of faith to join me in asking for God’s continued guidance, mercy, and protection.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-sixth.
JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.
It should be noted what the Bible represents Jesus as saying about praying in public. According to Matthew 6:5-6, Jesus told his followers, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. Truly I tell you, they already have their full reward. But when you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Among many other things, the people gathered at the Carnegie Center in Library Park on Thursday prayed for our political leaders (both local and national), more water, fewer wildfires, protection for firefighters, and the saving of America. They ended by singing “God Bless America” – twice, the second time as a prayer, ending it with, “amen.”
Ironically, this was done in front of a building built by and named after Andrew Carnegie, an atheist.