Tomorrow’s National Day of Prayer is expected to draw more participants in light of Sept. 11 and growing concern over terrorism and unrest in various parts of the world.
“America United Under God” is the theme of this year’s event. The National Day of Prayer Task Force, a private group headed by Shirley Dobson, chose the theme and coordinates most of the day’s happenings.
After Sept. 11, the NDP Task Force asked U.S. Senate Chaplain Lloyd Ogilvie to write a prayer for the 2002 observance, according to Religion News Service.
Along with asking for blessings on President Bush, Congress and all leaders, Ogilvie wrote, “Since Sept. 11, in the battle against terrorism, we have discovered again that you truly are our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
The National Day of Prayer was created in 1952 by Congress and President Truman. President Reagan designated the first Thursday of May for the observance.
All over the country, people of faith will participate in prayer walks, Bible reading marathons and interdenominational prayer services.
“Participants in the day of prayer will say to a watching world that we can come together, despite theological and political differences, for the common purposes of seeking God’s guidance and blessing,” Marv Knox, Baptist Standard editor, wrote in his column. “As much as the words we offer, the testimony of our joint worship and combined prayers will say that our God is bigger and more binding than our differences.”
Knox wrote that the country needed this day of prayer to remind us that “all our days should be days of prayer.”
Critics of the government-sanctioned observance said it undermines the freedoms given in the First Amendment.
“It is wholly inconsistent with the principles of the First Amendment for the government to set aside a special ‘prayer day’ for the nation,” the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said in a press release on the group’s Web site. “Americans don’t need official instruction from politicians on when and how to pray.”
Lynn also expressed concern over Ogilvie’s prayer, saying that he should not presume to write official prayers for all Americans.
“Americans and their government are united,” Lynn said “but under the Constitution, not some kind of government-imposed religion.”
At its Web site (www.nationaldayofprayer.org), the NDP Task Force encourages people of all faiths to embrace this national observance. But it admits that “the efforts of the NDP Task Force are executed in alignment with its Christian beliefs.”
The NDP Task Force encourages participants to pray for America’s leaders and for its government.
“Because the Bible commands us to,” the site reads.
The 2002 National Day of Prayer will be observed on May 2.
For more information about its history or suggestions for how to participate, visit the NDP site!