Despite controversy, National Day of Prayer

The 2010 National Day of Prayer (NDP), despite generating more controversy than in recent years, went off mostly without a hitch on May 6.

Even with a controversial court ruling the previous week, Americans turned out in droves to pray for their leaders and to ask for God’s blessing.

The annual observance of the National Day of Prayer on Capitol Hill had become almost routine until this year, when a federal judge ruled the law creating the day is unconstitutional. Ironically, that ruling may have energized Christians participating in the event. “I think it is waking people up across this land,” said evangelist Franklin Graham, the honorary chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, who was disinvited from Pentagon observances because of his remarks about Islam.

Organizers said more than 40,000 events were scheduled to be held at parks, churches and on courthouse steps–more than any other year and an increase of more than 15 percent from last year.

President Obama issued a proclamation commemorating the event. “Prayer has been a sustaining way for many Americans of diverse faiths to express their most cherished beliefs,” he wrote, “and thus we long deemed it fitting and proper to publicly recognize the importance of prayer on this day.”

At the national celebration in Washington, D.C., author and speaker Max Lucado said our nation “is proof of God’s unmerited favor.” 

“Generations have said, ‘God, shed your grace on us,’ and consequently He has heard those prayers,” Lucado said. “What country has known more privileges than we, yet what country risks being attacked by the sin of pride more than we do?”

In a videotaped message, Shirley Dobson, chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, said prayer is essential to keep our nation strong. “As we face challenges at home and abroad that seem insurmountable and beyond our human ability to solve,” she said, “it’s absolutely critical that we turn to our Creator and ask for His wisdom and truth to reign in our land. Only as His power is unleashed through a posture of humility, repentance and prayer will we find our way in these dangerous and perilous times.”

National Day of Prayer officials asked those praying to focus on five areas of our culture:  family, church, education, government and media. At thousands of gatherings around the country, the faithful bowed their heads and asked God to bless each area.

But the event did something for those attending, as well. “It was very uplifting,” Dee Thomas of Ozark, Mo., told News-Leader.com. “I left my house feeling very hurried and thinking of everything of the day. This just kind of brought things back to what’s really important.” 

That was a sentiment expressed at many of the events. Pastor Marcus Johnson of New Harvest Ministries spoke outside City Hall in Baltimore. “I have been called to pray,” he said. “If I am standing in line at the supermarket or the bank, I can pray. Prayer is who I am and what I do. It is my Christian duty. It is not just for Sundays within the walls of a church.”

Mike Calhoun, director of strategic communications for the National Day of Prayer Task Force, said they’re already working on NDP 2011. “I encourage everyone,” he said, “to mark their calendars for Thursday, May 5th, 2011. It will be the 60th anniversary of the National Day of Prayer.

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