Discussing
Does It Matter If Your Country Has A National Day of Prayer?

Jerod Clark

Seth Caddell
May 6, 2010

I almost wonder if a National Day of Prayer actually hurts the topic of prayer more than encourages it. Does having a National Day of Pray simply endorse the idea that it's ok to simply pray once a year? Does it imply that nominal Christians are on good terms with God if they just participate in prayer once a year? <br><br>I think a better question to ask is, who does a national day of prayer help? Christians? Nominal Christians? Non-Christians?

Brent Logan
May 6, 2010

Why do the churches look to the government for leadership on declaring a national day of prayer. Couldn't churches declare the day?<br><br>After all, churches don't look to the government to schedule any other religious events.

Jamesggilmore
May 6, 2010

A national day of prayer, organized by religious groups and coordinated through religious networks? Sounds like a grand idea.<br><br>A National Day of Prayer, not only sanctioned but required annually by a legislative act passed by the government? No thanks.<br><br>American Christianity is already too infused with the ideologies of empire and with dreams of a theocratic church-state. Separation of church and state not only protects the state from the church, but also protects the church from the state. Christianity shouldn't be allying itself with the "principalities and powers"; it should be a religion for the powerless, the oppressed, the widow, the orphan, the foreigner.<br><br>Further, what does it say about the faith of American Christians that they would need their government to acknowledge a national day of prayer? Are American Christians so weak that they can't conceive of a faith that isn't the sanctioned and approved religion of the state?

Sara
May 6, 2010

Teenagers at school (see you at the pole) do not need encouragement form the govermnent to show their faith. Why do grown people need that apporval?

Rickd
May 6, 2010

Madison and Jefferson "Recommended" a national day of prayer. President John Adams declared May 9, 1798 as "a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer". President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation designating April 30, 1863 as a day of "national humiliation, fasting and prayer". Harry Truman, a Democrat, made a proclamation that every president should set aside one day for prayer for America. When members of the House and Senate introduced a joint resolution for an annual National Day of Prayer,it was one of the few times when we really had bi-partisan support for a bill. <br><br>Whether one believes in the constitutionality of the Day of Prayer, I respect any national leaders who acknowledge their dependence on God and urge people to pray for the fate of the nation. Churches are not looking to the Government to declare a day of prayer, its the other way around...the government is requesting prayer on its behalf. And no, of course it doesn't imply that Christians only have to pray once a year. No one would take the resolution that way. <br><br>Millions of Christians all over the country are fasting today and entreating God's mercy on their nation. Our church will be open for an hour at noon for people who feel so moved to gather and pray.

solid4JC
May 7, 2010

We have had National calls to prayer here in New Zealand, but organised &amp; called by the Church. Our Governments here don't have to be- or pretend to be- Christian, so our church denominational leaders have to get together ( a good exercise) and call their congregations to prayer. Do the prayers of the unsaved get heard? Maybe only the prayer of repentance &amp; Faith in Jesus Christ?

Kittyguest
May 7, 2010

Good post Brent, and I agree wholeheartedly that this should come from believers...but -<br>I think that the Bible teaches that a nation can forget God, and it is good that we remember Him. What a blessing it is for our nation to remember that we aren't responsible for the good things we have, that our blessings - whether food or liberty - come from God.<br>I also think that a National Day of Prayer can promote unity and understanding. It will be a "You offended me-fest" this year, but it could have been different...<br>Finally I think a National Day of Prayer is good because...the U.S.A. needs prayer.

Jcarpenter
May 7, 2010

I appreciate rickd's comment that the government is asking for prayer on its behalf, from all sectors of belief; would that this interpretation be understood by all. It seems rather that the day has become a hill of contention in the U.S. cultural war; faith becomes politicized and politics become sacred.

Jamesggilmore
May 7, 2010

<i>I also think that a National Day of Prayer can promote unity and understanding.</i><br><br>Unless, of course, you're talking about the 10%+ of Americans who, according to recent polls, don't believe in a god. Or, for that matter, people whose religious practices don't include praying to a god or the gods.<br><br>Not to mention that the NDP organizations have been run by the right wing for a long time now; just last year, the organizers of the official NDP event, the Dobsons (and just who got the authority to appoint reactionary theocrats like the Dobsons to be the organizers of the official event anyway?) <a href="http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2009/05/07/dobson_disappointed_obama_skip.html" rel="nofollow">rejected Obama administration representatives</a> who didn't favor the criminalization of abortion. So apparently also those who don't hew to the reactionary theocratic heresy of the Christian Right aren't included in that "unity and understanding."<br><br>If they wanted the NDP to promote "unity and understanding," they wouldn't have appointed political figures like the Dobsons to any kind of official role in their organization. <br><br>Why not form a panel of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders from Roman Catholic, mainline, and evangelical churches and have them run a strictly nonsectarian and strictly apolitical National Day of Prayer without the government's sanction or help? It's not like they don't have resources to marshal for this.

J. Jones
May 7, 2010

How many of the prayers involved will acctually be "in Jesus' Name?"<br><br>It's to much of an opportunity to reinforce civil religion that does not truly exhault Christ. <br><br><br>I say: NO!

Kittyguest
May 7, 2010

James, thank you so much for your post. I would like to respond to just a couple of points.<br><br>First about unity and understanding - I think that rather than bowing out of national discourses, whether they be on prayer or other political issues, that unity and understanding can be had not just by the religious folk of our nation, but by the non-religious folk. To put it another way, if you don't want to celebrate Thanksgiving or a pray on a National Day of Prayer, don't. My understanding is that one has that right. But those who disagree with me can certainly understand that I have the right TO pray - even nationally. I agree with you very much that this praying should not be forced upon or mandated to anyone in this nation who does not want to join in.<br> <br>I also agree with you that too many churches have a politcal bent which culminates in a kind of "If you aren't of our church leadership's particular political persuasion, you can't really be a Christian" attitude. I have had no small amount of experience dealing with this kind of creepy, alienating attitude. I figured out something quick: one side may justify sexual immorality, another side has a definite lock on racism. Both are sins, right? Let's pray about them. Because our leaders need wisdom, no matter what their political persuasion.<br><br>As for James Dobson, I have nothing to say; I have been helped by his minsitry, but he is not infallible, as a spiritual leader, or as a political leader. He can shout from the rooftops what he believes and I have the choice to agree or disagree, whether he offends me or not. And I guess this is just where the rub comes in for so many - they want to eliminate religious expression (freedom FROM religion is the twist they put on our Bill of Rights, not freedom OF religion) because they think they have the right not to ever be offended...

Jamesggilmore
May 7, 2010

Sure... you have the right to pray wherever and whenever you want. If clergy want to put together a National Day of Prayer, then more power to them.<br><br>But in a constitutional republic whose First Amendment very clearly states that the government will not be in the business of establishing religion, a National Day of Prayer backed by government power - whether or not the government makes the prayer voluntary - isn't compatible with the law.<br><br>In a very real sense, the First Amendment <i>does</i> set out freedom from religion - in the sense that it sets out the idea that government cannot use its power to favor one religion over another, or one set of beliefs over another, or even religiosity over irreligiosity. <br><br>It isn't about "the right not to ever be offended" - it's about the right of those who don't believe in a god to live under a government that takes no sides on the question of religion. It's about eliminating religious expression <i>by the government</i> - which in this Christian's eyes is a wholly appropriate thing to eliminate.<br><br>Quite frankly, I think the church has already been too compromised by its willingness to wed with the American Empire (and imperial thinking as a whole going back to Constantine). The church needs to be speaking <i>against</i> neocolonialist domination, <i>against</i> militarism, <i>against</i> economic oppression - and when the church is wedded to the ideologies of the state, it is less able to do so. The separation of church and state doesn't just protect the church's security from state intervention; it also should protect the church's ideologies from the poisonous and Satanic ideologies of empire, domination, greed, and control.

Rickd
May 7, 2010

President Obama, a Constitutional law professor who taught at the University of Chicago, made this declaration this week:<br><br>On this day, let us give thanks for the many blessings God has bestowed upon our Nation. Let us rejoice for the blessing of freedom both to believe and to live our beliefs, and for the many other freedoms and opportunities that bring us together as one Nation. Let us ask for wisdom, compassion, and discernment of justice as we address the great challenges of our time.<br><br> We are blessed to live in a Nation that counts freedom of conscience and free exercise of religion among its most fundamental principles, thereby ensuring that all people of goodwill may hold and practice their beliefs according to the dictates of their consciences. Prayer has been a sustaining way for many Americans of diverse faiths to express their most cherished beliefs, and thus we have long deemed it fitting and proper to publicly recognize the importance of prayer on this day across the Nation.<br><br>NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 6, 2010, as a National Day of Prayer. I call upon the citizens of our Nation to pray, or otherwise 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, grace, and protection as we meet the challenges before us.

SiarlysJenkins
May 7, 2010

I need a proclamation from the president in order to pray?<br><br>I wouldn't remember unless the president reminded me?<br><br>The whole thing is a bit silly.<br><br>On the other hand, it doesn't really hurt anything.<br><br>If it is a NATIONAL day of prayer, it doesn't matter how many are in Jesus's name.<br><br>Hindus pray as Hindus pray, Jews pray as Jews pray, RCs pray as RCs pray, Protestants pray in dozens of different ways, etc.<br><br>During the 1848 cholera epidemic, the president called for a national day of prayer. RCs, Protestants, and Jews repaired to their respective places of worship. The other half of the population took the opportunity to repair to taverns, racetracks and theaters. Prayer doesn't happen because a decree goes forth.

Kittyguest
May 8, 2010

The founders of our country went over every word of the Bill of Rights very carefully before they signed it, and they chose the words "freedom OF religion" not "FROM" religion. I think they realized that freedom of religion and the right to worship or not to worship, would hold within itself a certain check and balance and keep Americans safe. My religiosity may offend someone, but that's okay because their lack of respect for my God may offend me - but I cannot compel them to believe my way and vice versa. This is called tolerance, and it is what freedom of religion promotes. Freedom FROM religion means that if my religion offends you, then my expression of religion must cease everytime it offends you. And if someone's atheism offends me, too bad for me - I have to deal with it because it's freedom "from" religion, right? Do you see the difference? Because there is a difference.<br><br>Because of our great freedom of religion, if some of our national leaders want to lead a day of prayer for our country because they have a reverence for God, so long as the day is not compulsory for all Americans, I think a National Day of Prayer is a good idea.<br>

Heather
May 8, 2010

Actually, it is written in the bible that we should not engage in political ideals of any kind. <br><br>We should not engage in politics - as Christians it actually is considered a hindrance to a relationship with Jesus - Jesus/God should always come first and foremost in all things. Politics, among other things often and too easily becomes something else - even with the best of intentions. The bible urges Christians to stay out of politics. <br><br>Prayer is important daily and always. Every Christian should know that and spreading the word of God is not something that can be forced upon non-believers. It has to be something people are attracted to. Live and be the word of God, be the example. People are more drawn to that.<br><br>It's more effective.

Ademolaadebayo
May 10, 2010

A day of prayer is good, if the participants are bible believing born again Christians. We need to understand that the bible clearly states that God will not hear the prayers of any non Christian. So such prayer meeting should not be defiled by allowing the Apostate Roman Catholic or liberals to be participants.

Jamesggilmore
May 10, 2010

Freedom from governmental imposition of religion isn't found in the Free Exercise Clause; it's found in the Establishment Clause. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." You have the right to live in a state that doesn't favor one religion over another, or favor religiosity over irreligiosity; you have the right to expect that government will remain neutral on matters of religion.<br><br>That's what you don't seem to be understanding here... it's not the idea of a day set aside for the religious of the nation to pray that I have a problem with, nor is it the idea that someone might be offended by another's expression of religiosity. I'm offended every time someone uses the name of Christ to justify war, torture, unbridled capitalism, the plundering of the earth, sexism, hatred against our LGBT brothers and sisters, and other forms of oppression and domination, but I'm not calling for those expressions to be limited by government fiat.<br><br>My problem here is that there's a National Day of Prayer <i>that's established by governmental statute</i>. It's the governmental sanction of the Day of Prayer, and thus the government's implicit favoring of religion over irreligion and theistic religion over nontheistic religion, that's problematic.<br><br>I'm a Christian, and I neither need nor want government to make any proclamations about God or prayer one way or the other. I believe in the complete separation of church and state, because such a separation protects both church and state, and preserves the church as a site of resistance to the ideology of empire and the greed and selfishness of contemporary consumer capitalism.

Jamesggilmore
May 10, 2010

And I disagree with him on this point. He's free to call on the nation to pray and issue a proclamation to that effect, but the Constitution vests no power in him to proclaim any day a day of prayer; in fact, it says exactly the opposite, that religion <i>cannot</i> be established by the United States Government.

Bethanykj
May 10, 2010

Heather, do you have a scripture citation for that idea? I'm not sure what you're referencing and I'd like to see what it says exactly.

Skepacabra
May 3, 2012

The Bible expressly condemns public prayer (Matt. 6:5), but what do I know? I'm just an atheist who actually bothered to read the book. Personally, I think politicians should do less praying and more doing since intercessory prayer has been scientifically demonstrated to not work.

Add your comment to join the discussion!