The National Day of Prayer is a vital 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 through our history, including President Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in 1863. In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Truman, declared an annual national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May. Each year, the president signs a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. Last year, all 50 state governors plus the governors of several U.S. territories signed similar proclamations.
The National Day of Prayer has great significance for us as a nation as it enables us to recall and to teach the way in which our founding fathers sought the wisdom of God when faced with critical decisions. It stands as a call for us to humbly come before God, seeking His guidance for our leaders and His grace upon us as a people. The unanimous passage of the bill establishing the National Day of Prayer as an annual event, signifies that prayer is as important to our nation today as it was in the beginning.
- There have been 144 national calls to prayer, humiliation, fasting and thanksgiving by the President of the United States (1789 – 2015).
- There have been 67 Presidential Proclamations for a National Day of Prayer (1952 – 2015). Gerald R. Ford (1976), George H. Bush (1989 – 91) and Barack H. Obama (2012) are the only U.S. Presidents to sign multiple National Day of Prayer Proclamations in the same year.
- Every President since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation.
- 34 of the 44 U.S. Presidents have signed proclamations for National Prayer. Three of the Presidents who did not sign a proclamation died while serving in office. Two Presidents, not included in the count—William Howard Taft and Warren Gamaliel Harding, signed proclamations for Thanksgiving and Prayer.
- Records indicate there have been 1,419 state and federal calls for national prayer since 1775 and counting.