Yesterday was the National Day of Prayer in the United States.
According to my good friend Wikipedia, the National Day of Prayer is an annual day of observance held on the first Thursday of May, designated by the United States Congress, when people are asked “to turn to God in prayer and meditation”. Each year, the president signs a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. The modern law formalizing its annual observance was enacted in 1952, although it has historical origins to a mandate by George Washington, the first president of the United States.
Below is this year’s proclamation issued by President Barack Obama:
NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER, 2012 BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION Prayer has always been a part of the American story, and today countless Americans rely on prayer for comfort, direction, and strength, praying not only for themselves, but for their communities, their country, and the world.
On this National Day of Prayer, we give thanks for our democracy that respects the beliefs and protects the religious freedom of all people to pray, worship, or abstain according to the dictates of their conscience. Let us pray for all the citizens of our great Nation, particularly those who are sick, mourning, or without hope, and ask God for the sustenance to meet the challenges we face as a Nation. May we embrace the responsibility we have to each other, and rely on the better angels of our nature in service to one another. Let us be humble in our convictions, and courageous in our virtue. Let us pray for those who are suffering around the world, and let us be open to opportunities to ease that suffering.
Let us also pay tribute to the men and women of our Armed Forces who have answered our country’s call to serve with honor in the pursuit of peace. Our grateful Nation is humbled by the sacrifices made to protect and defend our security and freedom. Let us pray for the continued strength and safety of our service members and their families. While we pause to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending liberty, let us remember and lend our voices to the principles for which they fought — unity, human dignity, and the pursuit of justice.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 3, 2012, as a National Day of Prayer. I invite all citizens of our Nation, as their own faith directs them, to join me in giving thanks for the many blessings we enjoy, and I call upon individuals of all faiths to pray for guidance, grace, and protection for our great Nation as we address the challenges of our time.
This is one of those things that I love about the United States. They really are not ashamed to talk about faith in public and let it be part of their national identity. Much as I would love to see something similar in this country, I can’t see it happening any time soon. Certainly with the state of our equal rights legislation, atheists would undoubtedly kick up a fuss complaining that they are being simultaneously excluded and offended as was the case with the council prayer fuss at Bideford Town Council earlier this year.
Anther reason for it being unlikely to happen is that I don’t see our political leaders having the stomach for it. Despite professing to be a Christian, David Cameron didn’t show much enthusiasm when responding to David Burrowes’ question asking him to support the Global Day of Prayer event at Wembley during Prime Minister’s Question Time last September:
It’s a massive shame if our Prime Minister doesn’t even feel able to acknowledge such a global Christian event publicly (however to his credit, he did offer his support afterwards in a letter).
Fortunately we have a monarch who is more than happy to make up for our political leaders’ reluctant to acknowledge the need to pray. I expect to see a lot of praying going on during the Jubilee celebrations and we should be very grateful that our Queen is so open about her Christian faith.
However, on the off-chance that David Cameron is reading this, please can I make this suggestion to you? I know you’re not Barack Obama and our country isn’t the United States, but when David Burrowes asks you in the House of Commons again this year if you will support the Global Day of Prayer, rather than waiting until later to write another letter, could you at least manage a “Yes”? Prayer really isn’t something to be ashamed of. Saying that you believe in prayer most definitely does not make you an unelectable freak.