The annual observance is held the first Thursday of May with this year's theme being "For your Great Name's Sake! Hear us...Forgive us...Heal us.!" The National Day of Prayer's Washington D.C. observance will be held from 7:30-9 p.m. ET (6:30-8 p.m. CT) Thursday.
This year's chairperson is Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of evangelist Billy Graham and founder of AnGel Ministries. Lotz will deliver the keynote address at Thursday night's event.
The importance of prayer in the formation of the country was recognized as early as 1775, when the Continental Congress asked colonists to pray for wisdom in forming a new country. President Lincoln issued a proclamation in 1863 calling for a day of "humiliation, fasting and prayer."
The National Day of Prayer became an officially marked celebration on 1952 when it was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill officially naming the first Thursday in May as a "National Day of Prayer."
In all, 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.
Last year, all 50 state governors plus the governors of several U.S. territories signed similar proclamations.
Today, it is estimated as many as 2 million people attend more than 30,000 National Day of Prayer observances across the country, with commemorations in schools, businesses, churches and homes.
President Donald J. Trump Proclaims May 4, 2017, as a National Day of Prayer
NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER, 2017
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
We come together on our National Day of Prayer as one Nation, under God, to show gratitude for our many blessings, to give thanks for His providence, and to ask for His continued wisdom, strength, and protection as we chart a course for the future. We are united in prayer, each according to our own faith and tradition, and we believe that in America, people of all faiths, creeds, and religions must be free to exercise their natural right to worship according to their consciences.
We are also reminded and reaffirm that all human beings have the right, not only to pray and worship according to their consciences, but to practice their faith in their homes, schools, charities, and businesses in private and in the public square free from government coercion, discrimination, or persecution. Religion is not merely an intellectual exercise, but also a practical one that demands action in the world. Even the many prisoners around the world who are persecuted for their faith can pray privately in their cells. But our Constitution demands more: the freedom to practice one's faith publicly.
The religious liberty guaranteed by the Constitution is not a favor from the government, but a natural right bestowed by God. Our Constitution and our laws that protect religious freedom merely recognize the right that all people have by virtue of their humanity. As Thomas Jefferson wisely questioned: "can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?"
In 1789, President George Washington proclaimed a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, calling upon Americans to "unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations." In 1988, the Congress, by Public Law 100-307, called on the President to issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a "National Day of Prayer." On this National Day of Prayer, the right to pray freely and live according to one's faith is under threat around the world from coercive governments and terrorist organizations. We therefore pray especially for the many people around the world who are persecuted for their beliefs and deprived of their fundamental liberty to live according to their conscience. We pray for the triumph of freedom over oppression, and for God's love and mercy over evil.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 4, 2017, as a National Day of Prayer. I invite the citizens of our Nation to pray, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, in thanksgiving for the freedoms and blessings we have received, and for God's guidance and continued protection as we meet the challenges before us.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.
DONALD J. TRUMP