2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)

"if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

The National Day of Prayer

The National Day of Prayer is a vital part of our American 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.

The Importance of National Prayer

With the challenges that face our lives and nation, as we begin this National Day of Prayer event, it may be well to remember the words of Benjamin Franklin spoken before the Constitutional Convention on June 28, 1786:

“Have we now forgotten that powerful Friend?  Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance?  I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth--that God governs in the affairs of men.  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?  We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House they labor in vain that builds it.’  I firmly believe this:  and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel.”

History of the NDP

1952: On April 17 a bill initiated by Mr. Conrad Hilton of Hilton Hotels and Senator Frank Carlson of Kansas was passed (Public Law 82-324, Sec. 119) that:

The President shall set aside and proclaim a suitable day each year, other than a Sunday, as a National Day of Prayer, on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.

1974: The National Prayer Committee begins as a subcommittee on prayer at the International Congress on World Evangelization held in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974. Out of the Lausanne gathering came the U.S. Lausanne Committee, now Mission America, and America’s National Prayer Committee.  Mrs. Vonette Bright was appointed to the Prayer Advisory Group.

1976: The first members are selected for the Prayer Advisory Group: Dr. Dick Eastman, Mr. Frank Insen (World Vision), Millie Dienert, Evelyn Christenson and Vonette Bright. Dr. Harold Lindsell of Christianity Today also met regularly with the group at the Christian Embassy in Washington D.C.

1979: The National Prayer Committee is officially formed. Today there are 18 members on the NPC Executive Board. Federal EIN: 75-1914068, Exempt 501 C3

1981: Businessman Joe Mays (Religious Heritage of America), David Bryant and the NPC group meet to cast the first vision for the National Day of Prayer. Contacts were made with the Public Liaison office of the White House to begin planning efforts.

1983: The first National Day of Prayer observance, organized by the NPC, takes place at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. with featured speakers Vice President George Bush and Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie.

1986:  Vonette Bright and the National Prayer Committee contact Senator Strom Thurmond (R) for guidance on writing a bill that would designate a day for the National Day of Prayer

1987: Senator Thurmond writes the bill then introduces it to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It became bill S.1378, which would amend public law 82-324

In total, 13 Senators and 90 Congressmen signed giving their endorsements.

The following individuals sponsored the bill:

  • Congressman Tony Hall (D-Ohio)
  • Congressman Carlos Moorhead (R-California)
  • Senator Howard Heflin (D-Alabama)
  • Senator Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina)
  • Senator Bill Armstrong (R-Colorado)
  • Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia)
  • Congressman Bob Garcia (D-New York)

1988: Rabbi Haberman and Rabbi Tanenbaum express their support of the bill.

The amendment passed in the Senate on 4-22-88 and it was sent to the House on 4-25-88. It passed in the House on 5-2-88, signed in the Senate on 5-3-88, Presented to President Reagan by Senate on 5/4/88, and signed into law by President Reagan on 5/5/88. Became Public Law No: 100-307.

1988: On April 22 - The bill is passed in the Senate

  • On April 25 - It is sent to the House of Representatives
  • On May 2 - The bill is passed in the House
  • On May 3 - It is signed in the Senate
  • On May 4 - The Senate presents the legislation to President Reagan
  • On May 5 – Ronald Reagan signs into law Public Law 100-307 the designation of the first Thursday in May as the annual observance for the National Day of Prayer.

Public Law 100-307, May 5, 1988

The President shall set aside and proclaim the First Thursday in May in each year, as a National Day of Prayer, on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.

Those present at the signing:
  • President Ronald Reagan
  • Vonette Bright
  • Pat Boone (then Co-Chair of the NPC)
  • Susan Sorensen (National Coordinator)
  • Tony Hall (D-Ohio)
  • Frank Wolf (R-Virginia)
  • Dr. Richard Halverson (Senate Chaplain)
  • William Ford (House Chaplain)
  • Senator Howard Heflin (D)
  • Rabbi Joshua Haberman
  • Father John O’Connor
  • Dr. Jerry C. Nims (National Advisor)
  • Gladys Harrington (Year of the Bible)

1991: Shirley Dobson accepts the role as Chairman of the NDP Task Force.

1998: President Bill Clinton signs into law - Pub. L. 105-225, August 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1258, The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.

2016: Millions will observe the 65th Anniversary of the National Day of Prayer Shirley Dobson's 25th year as Chairman

2016: Shirley Dobson passes the baton, and Anne Graham Lotz accepts the role as Chairman of the NDP Task Force

2017: Dr. Ronnie Floyd is appointed as the President of the NDP Task Force phasing out the position of Chairman

2019: Kathy Branzell is appointed as the president of the NDP Task force, succeeding Dr. Ronnie Floyd.


Prayer for America by Kathy Branzell, president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force

Let us pray:

We come with fervent hearts to praise You, Lord. You are the Word, the Way, Truth and Life. You are the Alpha and Omega, Lion of Judah, and Almighty God, who was, and is, and is to come. You clothed Yourself in flesh and dwelt among us, to remove our sin and clothe us in Your righteousness, that we might dwell with You forever and ever.

With broken, humbled hearts we repent of our sins. Confessing to You our faithlessness, prayerlessness, and disobedience. Forgive us for our doubt, our prideful and quarrelsome words that reveal our unclean hearts. Cleanse us and renew a right and steadfast spirit within us, we pray.

With grateful hearts we thank You fervently for the blessings in our life and throughout America; they are more than we are able to count. We will remember Your grace and testify to Your goodness in all generations. Help us to refrain from complaining, but instead be prompted to pray faithfully in every circumstance. Teach us to have a content heart, knowing You are always enough for our every need.

As the church, we commit to pray and love our neighbor and nation as You loved us, that our reputation in this world would be rooted in Your love. Holy Spirit, work and overflow through us in every prayer, thought, word, and deed. May our character, conversations, and conduct reflect the righteousness in which You clothed us and commanded us to live.

With an obedient heart we put on the full armor of God; Your breastplate of righteousness guards our heart from which flows the springs of life. We pray fervently for our communities and country; the people who are in the church, family, education, business and workplace, military, government, arts, entertainment and media. Every person is Your workmanship, fearfully and wonderfully created and loved.

With hopeful hearts we pray that all would choose to receive Your love and follow You. We pray that America would confess, “Jesus is Lord,” and reflect Your righteousness in every sphere of influence and every aspect of our lives. We ask that heavenly hope would flood our hearts, silence hate, and that You will heal our land. Believing You –– all You are, all You said, and all You have promised –– we pray fervently in the righteousness that avails much.

In Jesus’s name we pray, Amen!