Today is the National Day of Prayer. It is a vital part of our American heritage. The first call to prayer happened before the American Revolution. In 1775, the Continental Congress called on the colonists to pray for wisdom as they considered how they would respond to the King of England.
Perhaps one of the most powerful calls to prayer came from President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. In 1863, he issued a proclamation for a day of “humiliation, fasting and prayer.” Here is some of that proclamation:
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand, which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”
In 1952, Congress passed and President Harry Truman signed a resolution that declared an annual, national day of prayer. In 1988, President Reagan signed into law a bill that designated the first Thursday of May as the time for the National Day of Prayer.
It is estimated that there have been more than 130 national calls to prayer, humiliation, fasting, and thanksgiving by presidents of the United States. There have been 60 Presidential Proclamations for a National Day of Prayer because every president has signed these proclamations.