Everyone can pray in 61st National Day of Prayer

THURSDAY, MAY 3: An American tradition continues today, as the National Day of Prayer unfolds across America for the 61st time. And remember: Of course, everyone is welcome to pray today, whever they are and however they pray—despite controversial limitations at some official National Day of Prayer events.

Once more, the National Day of Prayer is proclaimed by the U.S. President. Although Barack Obama has not held any official events at the White House during his presidency, he has issued the annual proclamations. The long-running controversy over the holiday stems from the leadership of the official sponsoring organization, which tries to limit leadership of these events to evangelical Christians.

Looking for some diverse resources? Check out Praying for Our World and Praying for Peace, both courtesy of ReadTheSpirit online magazine. Some national groups have taken novel approaches to countering the dominant organization behind today’s observance. The National Day of Reason, for example, was created in 2003 by the American Humanist Association and the Washington Area Secular Humanists as an alternative to the National Day of Prayer; participants often hold food and blood drives on this day. (Wikipedia has details.)


If you are contemplating the National Day of Prayer with anxiety over the way this annual observance is expressed, think about places in the world where prayer desperately is needed.

Some of the most moving stories about prayer come from U.S. military chaplains.
Today’s photo comes from a U.S. Air Force base in Iraq, where chaplains operate a 24/7 “religious support team” to pray with doctors and patients. These chaplains see some horrific injuries and their office is equipped with Catholic and Protestant versions of the Bible, the Quran, a Book of Mormon and other world scriptures. According to Chaplain Major Wendell Rome, no one stops to draw boundaries across these life-and-death circles of prayer. “We help people repair themselves. It encourages them and helps get them through injury and recovery.”

Even many peace activists who openly oppose the war are also advocates for the needs of U.S. veterans, thousands of whom are returning home with injuries and disabilities. Here’s a story by one peace activist about that dire need.

So, this year during the National Day of Prayer? Perhaps stop and think about all those places in our world where praying matters so much—that political and religious divisions fade.

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