Throughout the history of the United States, national leaders have often called upon citizens to join in prayer for the country, largely in times of stress and anguish. The Continental Congress in 1775 sent word throughout the 13 colonies to pray for wisdom as leaders embarked on the arduous mission of building a nation. In 1863, amidst the turmoil of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for a day of “humiliation, fasting and prayer.”
An annual day of prayer was established in 1952 by a joint resolution of Congress and signed by President Harry Truman. That resolution was amended in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan and established the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer. Each year the president signs a proclamation encouraging Americans to mark the observance. In 2009, all 50 state governors and the governors of several U.S. territories also issued day of prayer proclamations.
Controversy has often surrounded the day of prayer as various groups that believe that federal, state or local governmental recognition of the observance violates the separation of church and state have lobbied leaders to refrain from issuing proclamations or supporting observances of the day of prayer.
Adding to annual controversy, on April 15, Judge Barbara Crabb of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin issued a ruling that stated that the federal statute that established the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional. The Justice Department announced April 22 that it would appeal Crabb’s ruling.
Despite the ruling, President Barack Obama issued the annual White House proclamation on Monday calling for the day of prayer.
The National Day of Prayer Task force has adopted the theme of “Prayer: For Such a Time as This” for the 2010 observance, based on the scripture reference found in the Old Testament book of Nahum, chapter 1 and verse 7: “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.”
Despite the legal ranglings in relation to the National Day of Prayer, in Gallia County at least two public observances of the occasion have been planned for Thursday.
The first is scheduled at noon on the steps of the Gallia County Courthouse. The Rev. Bob Fulton from First Church of the Nazarene and the Rev. John O’Brien from River City Fellowship will lead that service, which, according to Fulton, will include readings from scripture and inspirational literature and, of course, a time of prayer.
The second observance will be held at 7 p.m. at French City Baptist Church. The service will include music and a sermon by the Rev. Mark Williams, pastor of French City Baptist.