The first Thursday in May is designated as America’s National Day of Prayer. It was created by Congress in 1952, during the Truman Administration and has been marked in various ways by all Presidents since.
President George W. Bush marked the occasion with multi-faith services in The White House itself, in which the Orthodox Union was honored to participate.
The new administration of President Barack Obama has decided to issue a presidential proclamation marking the day, but will not be holding a White House event.
While some will no doubt criticize the Obama White House for this decision, we think that is inappropriate – and, moreover, not in keeping with the purpose of the observance which is to unify Americans through a national moment of reflection and aspiration to higher purposes.
In February, President Obama participated in the National Prayer Breakfast. There, the new President said: “this is my prayer….that if we can talk to one another openly and honestly, and perhaps allow God’s grace to enter that space between us, then perhaps old rifts will start to mend and new partnerships will begin to emerge. In a world that grows smaller by the day, perhaps we can begin to crowd out the destructive forces of zealotry and make room for the healing power of understanding.”
We should each find our own prayers this Thursday, as the United States provides us the freedom to do. But for those seeking a president’s prayer to reflect upon, we suggest those remarks from February are just as timely in the spring warmth of May.