By Denise DuBois
In 1952, a joint resolution of the United States Congress signed into law by President Harry Truman established an annual Day of Prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Ronald Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May. The president signs a proclamation each year, and last year, all 50 state governors plus the governors of several U.S. territories signed similar proclamations encouraging Americans to pray.
The event invites all faiths to pray for the nation. This year, Epworth United Methodist Church will host the area’s National Day of Prayer May 2 at noon.
Epworth Pastor Grant Parker said while the event is hosted by the church, it’s open to everyone.
“We want to cross cultural, racial, and denominational lines,” he said. “We’re more concerned about the national need for prayer and want to try to make this a community effort. The greatest need we have is prayer.”
This year’s theme is Love One Another and is based on John 13:34, which states, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
“To me, this theme addresses two of the greatest needs in this country: the first is prayer and the second is unity. I think it’s a wonderful and timely theme,” Parker said.
Mayors of Phenix City and Smiths Station will take part in the hour-long program. Scripture will be read and someone will lead in a prayer in seven different areas, some of which include: the country, the military, education, and the family.
Parker also reminds everyone that you don’t have to be Methodist to attend.
“We want anyone who has a heart for prayer and our nation to come out. We invite you,” he said.
Epworth United Methodist Church is located on Highway 280/431 North across from Lakeview Cemetery. The address 12 Price Road, Phenix City, will send you to the church’s back entrance.
History of National Day of Prayer
1952: On April 17 a bill initiated by Mr. Conrad Hilton of Hilton Hotels and Senator Frank Carlson of Kansas was passed (Public Law 82-324) that the President of the United States was to set aside an appropriate day each year, other than Sunday, as a National Day of Prayer.
1974: The National Prayer Committee begins as a subcommittee on prayer at the International Congress on World Evangelization held in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974. Out of the Lausanne gathering came the U.S. Lausanne Committee, now Mission America, and America’s National Prayer Committee. Mrs. Vonette Bright was appointed to the Prayer Advisory Group.
1976: The first members are selected for the Prayer Advisory Group: Dr. Dick Eastman, Mr. Frank Insen (World Vision), Millie Dienert, Evelyn Christenson and Vonette Bright. Dr. Harold Lindsell of Christianity Today also met regularly with the group at the Christian Embassy in Washington D.C.
1979: The National Prayer Committee is officially formed. Today there are 18 members on the NPC Executive Board. Federal EIN: 75-1914068, Exempt 501 C3
1981: Businessman Joe Mays (Religious Heritage of America), David Bryant and the NPC group meet to cast the first vision for the National Day of Prayer. Contacts were made with the Public Liaison office of the White House to begin planning efforts.
1983: The first National Day of Prayer observance, organized by the NPC, takes place at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. with featured speakers Vice President George Bush and Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie.
1986: Vonette Bright and the National Prayer Committee contact Senator Strom Thurmond (R) for guidance on writing a bill that would designate a day for the National Day of Prayer
1987: Senator Thurmond writes the bill then introduces it to the Senate Judicial Committee. It became bill S.1378, which would amend public law 82-324
1988: Thursday, May 8 – Ronald Reagan signs into law Public Law 100-307 the designation of the first Thursday in May as the annual observance for the National Day of Prayer
1998: Bill Clinton signs into law – Pub. L. 105-225, August 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1258: The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.
2016: Millions will observe the 65th Anniversary of the National Day of Prayer Shirley Dobson’s 25th year as Chairman
2016: Shirley Dobson passes the baton, and Anne Graham Lotz accepts the role as Chairman of the NDP Task Force
2017: Dr. Ronnie Floyd is appointed as the President of the NDP Task Force phasing out the position of Chairman