People of all faiths are invited to pray for the nation each year on the first Thursday of May – the National Day of Prayer. A joint resolution of the United States Congress established the national prayer observance in 1952 and President Harry S. Truman signed the act into law.
“Prayer has always been a way of connecting to something deeper, something bigger than ourselves,” said 1st Lt. Matt Green, chaplain for 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). “In times of uncertainty and distress, men and women from all backgrounds and faiths have turned to prayer for solace, guidance, and strength.”
The National Day of Prayer is a time for all Americans to pray together, Green said.
“In an act of singularity and solidarity, we come together and [pray] for guidance, strength and peace,” he said. “In a unified manner, we seek blessings over ourselves, our Families and our nation.”
Public prayer has a longstanding and significant history in American tradition.
“Years ago, the Chaplain Corps used to have a saying ‘Strong Nation-Strong Army, Strong Army-Strong Soldier, Strong Soldier-Strong Family,’” said Maj. Steven Love, chaplain for 626th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd BCT. “Chaplains help our commanders by helping Soldiers in their relationships by learning to live with purpose and direction even in the midst of the chaos.”
The National Day of Prayer is a significant 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 throughout our history.
President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation, March 30, 1863, for a “day of humiliation, fasting and prayer and prayer.” In 1988, President Reagan signed the amended law, permanently setting the National Day of Prayer annually as the first Thursday of May. Each year, the president signs a proclamation encouraging all Americans to pray on this day.
“Just before the [stop movement], my religious affairs specialist and I were blessed with the opportunity to visit Soldiers in the [field] after a significant rainstorm. What was a complete arid barrenness the week before had become the most beautiful tapestry of orange and yellow flowers,” said Capt. Joshua Portwood, chaplain for 21st Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd BCT. “The National Day of Prayer symbolizes our daily need to ask [our maker] to do in our hearts what he did in the [field] – bring rain to our drought-stricken lives.”
For some, the day stands as a call for us to humbly come before a higher power, seeking guidance for our leaders and grace for the people of this nation.
“As we continue to endure a period in our country of great unpredictability and stress, there are different aspects of life that we rely on to continue living with hope and resilience,” said Maj. Drew Billingsley, chaplain for the 3rd BCT. “For many of us, our reliance and relationship with [a higher power] serves as the cornerstone for remaining healthy in all dimensions. The National Day of Prayer is an opportunity for us to recognize the importance of that spiritual dimension in our lives in enduring challenging times. I believe that this is as important now as ever.”